Dressed as a man, the Swedish Queen’s appearance is remarkable by her negligent attire and her physical imperfections, but also by the glow of her eyes.  According to Christina, her sunken shoulder is due to a female servant who threw her down a flight of stairs, by order of an enemy sovereign who wanted to take her throne.

In a letter kept at the Harley Library, Christina’s physionomy appears deformed to the point of caricature.

“Her body is completely irregular:  she is hunched, she has a hip outside architecture, she limps, she has a nose longer than her foot, her eyes are fairly beautiful, but her sight is not good;  she laughs with such bad grace that her face wrinkles like a piece of parchment that is put on hot coals;  she has one tit lower than the other by half a foot and so buried in her shoulder that it seems that half of her chest is absolutely flat.  She stinks so honestly as to oblige those who approach her to take precautions and protect themselves with one hand.

“The way that she is dressed is no less extraordinary than her person, for, to distinguish herself from her sex, she wears very short skirts, with a jerkin, a hat, a man’s collar or a handkerchief which she ties like a cavalier going to a party;  and when she wears a cravate like the ladies, it doesn’t stop her closing her shirt to the chin and wearing a small man’s collar with cuffs like the ones that we wear, so that, seeing her walking with her black wig, her short skirt, her closed breast and her raised shoulder, she looks like a disguised face.”

In 1654, she puts on men’s clothes so as to travel more easily throughout Europe.  In Rome, she surprises everyone by mounting a white horse like a man.  In Paris, she is also on horseback, still astride.  In Venice, she mounts in pants, and in Vienna, she appears with Turkish trousers.

Star attraction for the court and the people of France, Christina is awaited with a certain amount of impatience.  Her reputation has preceded her, and everyone wants to see her and speak to her.

Mme de Motteville describes her arrival at Compiegne with her “straight wig, her man’s shirt, her slightly hunchbacked body, her quite well-made hands, but so dirty that it was impossible to notice any beauty”.  The lady’s remarks are indulgent compared to the reports of Brienne and particularly la Palatine.

During the first days of September 1656,  Christina arrives at Fontainebleau.  En route, she is greeted by Mlle de Montpensier, daughter of Gaston d’Orleans, brother of Louis XIII.  La Grande Mademoiselle was on her way to Essonne to see a ballet.

She says that she had heard so much about the way that Christina dressed that she was worried that she would die of laughter on seeing her.  Suddenly she hears:  “Get out of the way!”  and the crowd is invited to let the Queen’s carriage through.  That’s when the King’s niece is able to examine the noble foreigner and describe her silhouette.

“She had a grey skirt, with gold and silver lace, a street merchant’s jerkin, the colour of fire, with lace the same as the skirt;  at the neck, a point de Genes handkerchief, tied with a fire-coloured ribbon, a blond wig and round at the back, like women wear, and a hat with black feathers which she was holding… ”

With her usual perspicacity, Christina could not avoid noticing the ascendant exercised by Mazarin over the Queen.  But she remained persuaded that, “in the friendship of these two people, there is nothing criminal…  gossip has wronged the virtue of this princess”  the most virtuous in the world, of an exemplary piety and incapable of disobeying the rules of honour.

It is at Compiegne that she speaks to the Prime Minister about her projects.  She asks France to help her become Queen of Naples and promises to take a son of the French royal line as her successor.  Mazarin’s answer is evasive enough for her to not insist further.

This will be the constant attitude of Mazarin toward Christina.  As diplomacy demands, he will never reproach her with anything, but will carefully avoid her whenever he can, and when her scrapes become too compromising.

She gets on better with the young King who, although very timid, talks to her freely and not without some enjoyment.  As for the Queen, she is unable to hide her surprise when she sees Christina.  Although she had been warned about her originality, she is still astonished by her.

This woman dressed as a man, who looks like a man dressed as a woman, possesses a gift which has always conquered the French, the gift of seduction.  But her nature rapidly takes over and, as in Rome, her impertinence, after having amused, shocks.

Eighth part tomorrow.

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