On leaving Paris, Christina stops at Lagny to visit the famous Ninon de Lenclos, “locked up, by order of the King, in a monastery, because of a few kindnesses of her profession”. Queen Christina is so pleased with their interview that she writes to His Majesty asking him to release such a kind and friendly person, doted with so many other qualities.
Unfortunately, she did not limit herself to this innocent request. She seems to have taken it upon herself to challenge public opinion, or at least to disconcert it, by her indiscretions.
At court, the Duke de Guise having pointed out Mlle Mancini to Christina, she makes her a great bow and leans down very low on her chair, to continue the civilities. She always puts herself between the King and the lady, and tells them both that they should get married, and that she wants to be their confidante. Addressing herself more particularly to the King, she urges him to only marry a woman whom he loves. All of these speeches, are not to the Dowager Queen’s taste, nor the Cardinal’s.
Madame, the Duchess d’Orleans, mother of the Regent, who had heard about the Queen of Sweden from “the late King” (Louis XIV) has left us a curious portrait of her.
“Christina never wore a nightcap, but wound a serviette around her head. Once, when she couldn’t sleep, she had music played near her bed. As the concert was to her taste, she suddenly stuck her head out between her curtains and exclaimed: “Devil’s death! Don’t they sing well!” The castrati and the Italians, who are not the bravest of people, were so terrified at the sight of this strange face that they remained mute and the music had to stop… ”
She also said of her that she was “very vindictive and gives herself up to all sorts of debaucheries, even with women… She forced Mme de Bregy to some turpitudes and the lady was unable to defend herself… ” She adds, however: “This Queen would never please women, because she disdains them all in general.”
This loud aversion for women is one of the main grudges held against Christina. While she is at Fontainebleau, several ladies, going to greet her, advance to kiss her. She doesn’t like this and exclaims: “What rage these women have to kiss me! Is it because I look like a man?” However, she sometimes allows herself to be seduced by women, if we believe what Prince Edward, Palatin of Bavaria, says in a letter addressed to his uncle, the Duke of Mantua.
“We made a very pretty trip to Auxerre these last few days, to see incognito the Queen of Sweden: which we did, my wife as lady-in-waiting to the Marquise de Mouy, and myself as her equerry.
“The Queen having recognized us, and not wanting to show it, teased us strongly, and even the Marquise de Mouy, about how well she chose her people, and whispered up close to us, a thousand civilities and particularly to my wife, to whom she showed the most obligingly in the world, the great displeasure she felt at not being able to give us, in the state in which she found us, the marks of estime and affection which she felt for her, telling her to be sure that she felt it, and told us a thousand other gallanteries with very good grace.
“All of her postures are those of a man and not at all those of a woman. So, the most agreeable praise that can be given to her is to tell her that she is the most honest man in the world.
“She loves beautiful women. She found one at Lyon who pleased her. She kissed her everywhere: the throat, the eyes, the forehead, very lovingly and even wanted to kiss her with her tongue in her mouth, and sleep with her, but the woman didn’t want to.
“Mr de Guise gave her three of his wigs as a gift, and she always wears one of them with a hat loaded with feathers, that she always holds in her hand when speaking. She wears a jerkin and a cravate at the neck. She does not appear to have a woman with her, and only a few men.
“That is what we saw, My Lord, on this little trip.”
Another source, less reliable than the former, tells us of a different episode. Christina had taken a fancy to the Marquise de Ganges. While the famous painter Mignard was doing her portrait, the Queen of Sweden proclaimed that the Marquise was Nature’s most beautiful chef d’oeuvre.
The ardent Queen writes to her: “Ah! If I were a man, I would throw myself at your feet, submissive and languishing with love; I would pass my days there, I would pass my nights there, to contemplate your divine attractions, and offer you a tender, passionate, and faithful heart. But since I am not, let us limit ourselves, beautiful Marquise, to the purest, the most confident and the firmest of friendships. On my side, that is all that I think; but my burning desires are not satisfied. Your beautiful eyes, you know, are the innocent authors of all my suffering; they alone can, in an instant, repair the damage, and make my happiness by their softening. Would you, alas, refuse me one of your gracious looks? No, No; as sensitive as beautiful, you will listen with kindness to the tender moans of my deep suffering, and I shall spend the rest of my life in painful enchantment.
“While waiting for an agreeable metempsychosis to change my sex, I want to see you, to adore you, and to tell you of it every instant. Until now, I have searched for pleasure everywhere and have hardly tasted it. If your generous heart would take pity on mine, upon my arrival in the next world, I would caress it with constantly renewed delight; I would savour it in your victorious arms, and make it last eternally. In this sweet hope, I live the days of my life, and my happiness grows thinking of you.
“So, pray to Heaven, beautiful Marquise, that my wishes be fulfilled, as much for your own felicity as for mine, which depends entirely on you for the present and for the future.”
Can it be concluded that Queen Christina had homosexual affairs? Fiery in everything, she writes the way that she lives, with no restriction and straight to the point. Other letters sent by her, to men this time, also give the impression that there was sexual commerce between Christina and the letter’s recipient. Her writing style of excessive preciosity, current at the time, and her taste for provocation, can explain the indecency of her letters, but are not sufficient to prove that her passionate impulses were ever consummated.
Ninth part tomorrow.