THE MODERN TABLOID press would have had a field day reporting the life of Queen Christina of Sweden. Constitutionally, politically, sexually and on religious grounds it makes our own Camilla-Diana-Charles saga appear pathetically tame. For a start, Christina was a midget monarch - under five foot, with one shoulder higKer than the other - and widely assumed to be a lesbian. She liked to cultivate the provocative possibility of her Sapphic orientation, regularly sharing a bed with her lady-in-waiting Ebba Sparre, whom she called Belle as a compliment to her looks. The prudish English ambassador to Sweden found himself blushing when she whispered into his ear that Belle's 'inside' was 'as beautiful as her outside'. The traditional Protestant court of seventeenth-century Sweden lurched from one drama to another during the reign of this young, short-haired queen with her mannish clothes, flat shoes, gruff voice and addiction to controversy. It ended in a surprise abdication and her wandering wildly around Europe, where she found herself forced to sell her lavish coronation robes to put bread on the table, and relying on hand-outs from the Christina, Pope to keep a roof over her head.
Was Christina, in fact, a disfigured man, or even a hermaphrodite? When she was born the lower half of her body was still covered in a birth caul and upon its removal the midwives precipitately declared her a boy. The healthy birth of any child was hugely welcome to Queen