History for the Rest of Us

Queen Christina of Sweden and the Marquis Monaldeschi

Queen Christina of Sweden and the Marquis Monaldeschi

Aug 27, 2012

Sweden to-day is one of the peaceful kingdoms of the world, whose people are prosperous, well governed, and somewhat apart from the clash and turmoil of other states and nations. Even the secession of Norway…was accomplished without bloodshed, and now the two kingdoms exist side by side as free from strife as they are with Denmark, which once domineered and tyrannized over both. It is difficult to believe that long ago, in the Middle Ages, the cities of southern Sweden were among the great commercial centers of the world. Stockholm and Lund ranked with London and Paris. They absorbed the commerce of the northern seas, and were the admiration of thousands of travelers and merchants who passed through them and trafficked with them. Much nearer to our own time, Sweden was the great military power of northern Europe. The ambassadors of the Swedish kings were received with the utmost deference in every court. Her soldiers won great battles and ended mighty wars. The England of Cromwell and Charles II was unimportant and isolated in comparison with this northern kingdom, which could pour forth armies of gigantic blond warriors, headed by generals astute as well as brave. It was no small matter, then, in 1626, that the loyal Swedes were hoping that their queen would give birth to a male heir to succeed his splendid father, Gustavus Adolphus, ranked by military historians as one of the six great generals whom the world had so far produced. The queen, a German princess of Brandenburg, had already borne two daughters, who died in infancy. The expectation was wide-spread and intense that she should now become the mother of a son; and the king himself was no less anxious. When the event occurred, the child was seen to be completely covered with hair, and for this reason the attendants at first believed that it was the desired boy. When their mistake was discovered they were afraid to tell the king, who was waiting in his study for the announcement to be made. At last, when no one else would go to him, his sister, the Princess Caroline, volunteered to break the news. Gustavus was in truth a chivalrous,...