At the age of eighteen, having reached her majority, Queen Christina begins to show her true character. The protection which she accords to the Arts, causes her to be compared to Minerva. She is referred to as “The Pallas of the North”. Now, however, other important obligations need her attention.
First of all, she must have children. But, from the moment that Christina mounts the throne, she realises that she absolutely does not want to get married.
Her habit of wearing masculine clothes, and the way she treats members of her own sex, have given her an unmerited androgynous reputation. It must be remembered that, at her birth, a servant showed her sex to Gustave-Adolphe, to prove to him that the new-born was a girl. Her refusal to marry has therefore nothing to do with any sort of malformation.
Christina is unable to bear the idea of belonging to anyone. She does not want “a man to use her like a peasant uses his field”. It is clear that Christina is worried, even disgusted, by the thought of procreation, indissociable with marriage. Her aversion for pregnant women is an example of this.
Her excentricities have given her a reputation for libertinage. She had lovers, but she is not a nymphomaniac. Her sexual life tends to incline more toward chastity than to debauchery, even though it is true that she prefers to be surrounded by men, and treats them familiarly.
This form of love which she finds so repulsive, will oblige her to make numerous sacrifices. Some of them emotional, like when she distances herself from Count Magnus, whom she loves. Others political, like when she abdicates because she has provided no heir to the throne.
It has been said that her refusal of marriage shows Christina’s determination to rule alone. She certainly has a passion for power which procures her undeniable pleasure. However, Queen Christina is also perfectly conscious of her duties, not the least of which is maintaining the monarchy. For this reason, she prefers to abdicate rather than govern the country alone.
This political act, stemming from an aversion to maternity, can be explained by the unusual, not to say absurd, education which she received. Her father treats her like a boy, and the example of her mother, with her morbid adoration for her dead husband, can only discourage her from wanting to be a woman, a wife and a mother.
Diverse circumstances in her fairly adventurous life, lead us to believe that she was constantly in search of sensations which she knew she would not be able to find within a marriage and with a husband.
Her extremely neglected appearance is connected to this incapacity to assume herself as a woman, the object of men’s desire. She does absolutely nothing to make herself attractive. More than once, she is seen with ink stains and tears in her lingerie. It is also noticed that she only combs her hair once a week.
At the same time, she makes no effort to be agreeable to members of her own sex. Generally speaking, she feels only great disdain for them. The only ones to find grace in her eyes are a few very pretty ones, like Mme de Bregy.
Bad diet and too much intellectual and physical activity rapidly exhaust Christina. She studies enormously, undertakes long rides in the forest or goes sleigh racing, sleeps little, and feels neither cold nor heat. She eats food that is too rich, and drinks daily “half a glass of brandy, with well-ground pepper at the bottom”.
In spite of her great vitality, her health deteriorates. In 1651, she faints at her mother’s place, and thinks she is dying. She recovers, but realizes that her body is very weak. She calls to the court Pierre Michon, known as Bourdelot, the Prince of Conde’s doctor.
Barber, barber’s son, charlatan canonised by fortune, great valet of apothecary and of all Arabian bragging, liar, cheat and trickster. These are a few of the lesser epithets with which Guy Patin, doctor and contemporary writer, charges Bourdelot. Saumaise, one of the Queen’s inner circle, obtains the post for him.
Bourdelot’s epigrams, his small talent, his knowledge of perfume, of cuisine even, help him win the young sovereign’s favour. It must be said to his credit, that he looked after her with both intelligence and success.
The doctor treats the Queen differently from the Stockholm doctors. He prescribes for her chicken broths, veal cutlets, and other lighter foods. In spite of her allergy to water, he makes her bathe every day, and administers refreshments to her.
The court doctors and the aristocracy believe the Queen to be in danger of death when they see her take such remedies. However, after a month, dizzy spells, fits of anger and insomnia disappear.
Fourth part tomorrow.