“It has been said that she is not part of conscious, reasonable humanity. Her deviated body houses a twisted soul, undiscerning of good and evil… Christina, who was almost a genius, was a moral monster.” This is the rather unflattering portrait of Queen Christina of Sweden, painted at the end of the XIXth Century.
Throughout History, there have always been characters who inevitably draw the attention of psychologists. The daughter of Gustave-Adolphe, the “Hero of the North”, as Schiller calls him, has been the object of avid curiosity over many years. This is because she offers a unique blend of the most brilliant intelligence, coupled with strangeness and extravagance, which have given rise to doubt about her mental balance.
Her literary and scientific knowledge, her love of literature and philosophy, the scholars with whom she surrounded herself, made her an eminently learned person. However, this woman swings between gentle calm and moments of great effervescence when her mood becomes very black and she displays inexplicable violence.
Christina’s character puzzled psychiatrists at the end of the XIXth Century because of its complexity which, at first glance, seems to defy all of the definitions, all of the schemas of contemporary psychological analysis. Can we find a cause, or at least an explanation, for her wild comportment, among her ancestors?
We have already said that her father was Gustave-Adolphe, the hero of Lutzen, “a vast and powerful genius, with pronounced aesthetic tendencies, having a taste for action and domination, to a high degree.” He is considered one of the greatest captains of his time. A haughty spirit, but not arrogant, proud and generous toward his enemies, just and severe toward his allies, his instinctive piety gives a tint of religious exaltation to his courage. This often makes him think that his cause is the same as that of Heaven and pushes him to see himself as an instrument of divine vengeance.
No sign of instability is visible in his character and no act of turpitude or cold cruelty is to be seen in his life. Christina can therefore have only inherited from her father, that slightly mystic exaltation, that love of splendour, as well as a high opinion of herself and of her responsibilities.
Gustave-Adolphe, in virtue of court usage, which never lets the heart inspire any decision, has to take a wife from one of the reigning families. Marie-Eleanore, daughter of the Elector of Brandebourg, John Sigismond, will be chosen. Beautiful, but not stunning, whimsical and vain, she has a higher than average intelligence, and practically no willpower. It has been said of her that she was only capable of inspiring her husband with a love which never rose above the sexual level. She shared his bed without really sharing his life.
After the death of Gustave-Adolphe, she shows, according to Christina, “such excessive signs of love and pain, that they must be pardoned rather than justified”. The illustrious warrior had been mortally wounded at the Battle of Lutzen, in Saxony. Marie-Eleanore wants to send the crowns of the Kings and of the Kingdom to Germany, to be put on his coffin, so as to increase the brilliance of his funeral.
So far, nothing abnormal. However, when the procession enters Stockholm, Marie-Eleanore demands that the body be placed somewhere in the church, so that she can visit it any time she feels like it. She keeps the dead king’s heart close to her. It is locked up in a gold box suspended on the bed, which she visits constantly, lamenting loudly. It is only after having resisted for a long time, that she finally gives in to the Senate and the Clergy who beg her, for her own good, to allow them to lock the box up inside the coffin.
Immediately afterwards, she creates an Order, which she distributes to her family members and to the first ladies of the court. On one side of this cord-like medal, a coffin is engraved with the letters G.A.R.S. (Gustave-Adolphe, Roi de Suede [King of Sweden]). Around it, is the inscription: Post mortem triumpho. Morte mea vici. Multis despectus, Magnalia feci. (“I triumph after death. I have vanquished by my death. Despised by many, I have [however] done great things.”) On the back is written, in Swedish, what can be translated as: “I showed by my death the constance of my heart. You other Heroes, all of you, venge it unreservedly on my enemies.”
Marie-Eleanore’s daughter, whom she couldn’t stand until then, suddenly becomes the object of passionate tenderness because she physically resembles her father. So, to share her pain with her child, she locks her up with her in the apartment draped in black, where she mourns the dead king. She also has black draperies placed over the windows, and the room is plunged into complete darkness. In this funereal decor, mother and daughter lament, in front of their entourage, including the dwarves and buffoons usually called upon for a different role.
For three years, Christina has to bear this nightmare, and it is easy to guess the influence that such an atmosphere must have had on an already nervous temperament. At last, it is decided to send this weeping queen to some faraway castle, and “this old, cumbersome, nuisance of a doll” is never heard of again, until her death.
Second part tomorow.