Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Summer 2005

Christina, Queen of Sweden: The Restless Life of a European Eccentric, by Veronica Buckley

reviewed by David Williams

Gay men and lesbians have long admired Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-89) as one of our own. A woman of her own mind who never married, did as she pleased, and loved to decorate: what’s not to love? Now, there’s a biography by Veronica Buckley that delves into Christina’s life and long-forgotten world.

Initially it appeared to me that Buckley was trying to devalue Christina’s lesbian leanings, and I had to ask myself: what more proof do you need? Aren’t her love letters, strong evidence of her same-sex affairs and all that juicy gossip enough? Fortunately, Buckley does end up admitting – though grudgingly, I thought – that Christina had a few lesbian flings. Whew! And here I thought I was going to have to endure another heterosexual whitewash.

Of course, Buckley tells us she also fell in love with men as well, but what can you say? She was definitely Continental.

The saddest part of Christina’s story is the way she squandered her gifts and her fortune. Strangely attracted to rogues, liars and buffoons, she often risked penury and did things without much forethought to their consequences. Exasperatingly spontaneous, she often found herself in dire straits until later in life. Most European courts shunned her because she was unpredictable, not very wise in her decisions and often outspoken. That Christina was definitely a wild card.

That’s why we might think twice before canonising her as a lesbian saint. She wasn’t a very good ruler, nor was she much of a friend to most. After she abdicated the throne, converted to Roman Catholicism and ran off to Rome, she spent the remainder of her life restlessly, even aimlessly. She never seems to have had much purpose to her life. We’re left to ponder what she might have accomplished if she’d been a little more intelligent and much less spoiled.

Buckley provides us with a well-rounded portrait of this fascinating but complicated woman that should stand up well for years to come.

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Created : Sunday, 2005-08-14 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
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