On this day in 1654 Queen Christina of Sweden abdicated her throne and converted to Catholicism.
While she’s known as Queen Christina, she was more properly a king. She took her oath as a king and she was brought up as a prince by the order of her father. Apparently when she was born she was so hairy that at first everyone thought she was a boy, which sounds odd to me. Surely if she was that hairy they’d have thought she was a monkey or a werewolf or something, but no, clearly they thought it was normal for a baby boy to be born covered in hair. Anyway, they noticed she didn’t have a winky and realised she was a boy. Her dad, Gustav II didn’t care, he was just overjoyed that she was bonny and healthy because four children had died before her and he wanted an heir. Her mother didn’t like her so much and spent the first six years of Christina’s life giving her a hard time for being a girl and causing her mother pain when she was born. Then Gustav II was killed in battle and suddenly Maria, Christina’s mother, was all over her like a rash, clinging to her like a limpet and basically being a huge pain in the arse. Christina didn’t want to hurt her mother, but she did want her to eff the eff off. In fact she was such a pain that eventually she was sent off to live in another castle and Christina was brought up for a few years by her aunt Catherine, as per her father’s wishes.
Apart from having the mother from hell and losing her beloved father so young, Christina had a fairly good childhood and was an intelligent and capable young woman. She spoke many languages fluently, rode well, was well-versed in history and politics and was much admired throughout Europe. She remained in the background politically until she was 18 and then became Queen regnant proper. It’s fair to say that she wasn’t the best of queens, but that was as much due to circumstances as any shortcomings on her behalf. She steered clear of marriage, saying privately that she found the whole thing distasteful and while she enjoyed the company of men, her closest relationships and truest affections were directed toward the women in her life. Was she a lesbian? It’s hard to say for sure, but given her distaste for the institution of marriage and all it entailed, it’s fair to say that if she ever did have sex it was far more likely to have been with a woman than a man. She reigned as queen proper for a decade, but she never really enjoyed it. She had wanted to abdicate long before 1654 but kept agreeing to stay on because parliament begged her. She felt a bit of a hypocrite, ruling over a Protestant country when she was secretly a Catholic, but it also made her a very tolerant woman. She did not discriminate against anyone based on religious distinctions and believed that everyone should be allowed to worship as they saw fit. These were very liberal views for the time.
But la! She had a nice abdication ceremony and then buggered off through Denmark and down to Rome, where they were well happy to
see her what with her being all famous and a Catholic convert. They didn’t even seem to mind too much that she’d made most of her journey dressed as a man. That was another thing about her: she did like men’s clothes. She made quite the impact among the gentle ladies of Italy who were astonished by her manners and the ease with which she comported herself. She got invited to loads of parties and everyone was keen to have her in their home because she was such a big celebrity. The rest of her life was spent between Paris and Rome with short trips back to Sweden and elsewhere before she eventually died in Rome and was buried in St Peter’s Basilica, which is well posh.
The thing that makes her stand out in history is that she wasn’t like others around her. She dressed how she pleased, she did what she wanted and she wasn’t at all bothered by the constraints of class and gender. That she managed to do this whilst still being accepted by the establishment of Europe and the Roman Catholic church, which was even more Conservative with a capital C and a “don’t you be poof or a Jew or one of those funny laydeez around us, you fucking weirdos!” then than it is now. So much was her masculine demeanour and her deep voice noted at the time, that in the 60s her body was exhumed so that scientists could figure out if she was intersex and/or had a winky and a lala. They weren’t able to discern from her bones whether or not this was the case, but as there are diary entries along the lines of “Fuxace!!!!1 On the rag. Again!!!!111!1”, we do know that she menstruated, so she did have a lala even though she looked a bit like a man.
Today was the Birthday of the novelist, Virginia Andrews.
She may mean nothing at all to a lot of the men out there. To be fair a lot of women may also be going “Who?” But there are a lot of us who remember reading Flowers in the Attic and then if were obsessed nutters, the whole series of Dollganger novels. It’s fair to say that her books were the crack cocaine of trashy literature and we were her desperate little junkies all wanting just a little more of her sick and twisted little world.
If you’ve never read these books, here’s the story. In Flowers in the Attic we first come across the Dollganger children, Chris, Cathy, Cory and Carrie. Their parents are Christopher and Corrine. Christopher dies in a car accident and Corrine who is afraid of being destitute asks her mother, Olivia, if the children can live with her while she tries to get work, etc. Olivia is all “yeah, that’s fine, but your father cannot know about them, so we must hide them in the attic.” The kids are all “Do we have to?” and Corrine is all “Yeah, your grandfather didn’t like it when I married my half-uncle and he’d have a fit if he knew we had children, but he’s going to die soon, so I’ll be nice to him, he’ll leave me lots of money and then we can all live together.” and so the kids have to live in the attic. It’s horrible up there, Grandma’s a bitch, Mum pretty much reneges on her word, there’s arsenic, drinking blood out of hunger,one of the twins dies and Chris and Cathy end up doing sex. They escape when they realise that their mother is trying to murder them and head out to an unknown future.
Petals on the Wind, is even more batshit mental. The other twin dies, Cathy gets to be a ballet dancer and Chris a doctor. She tries to stay away from him, but he still loves her. She wants revenge on her mother. There’s death, love,madness, a fire, more death and then Chris and Cathy give in and pretend to be husband and wife. Onto If There Be Thorns which again ups the mentalism. Cathy and Chris are together with “their” children, except they’re not, they’re Cathy’s with her first husband and her mother’s husband. She’s nothing if not prolific when it comes to inappropriate relationships. They adopt a little girl. Everyone’s happy then Bart starts visiting the old lady next door who is … oh come on, she’s Corrine the evil mother with her evil butler and Bart gets made all mental by the pair of them and there’s another fire and more death and at the end, Cathy and Chris are safe and Bart’s a bit less mental.
Seeds of Yesterday concentrates on the children, Bart, Jory and Cindy. Bart is still mental, Cindy’s a bit of a strumpet and Jory, a ballet
dancer, has an accident and ends up in a wheelchair. Much mentalism ensues. Chris is killed in a car crash just like his dad and Cathy goes up to the attic and dies. As you do. This is the end of the series, but then – oh joy (really, I wish I was being sarcastic, but I’m not) – there’s Garden of Shadows, a prequel wherein the madness begins to make some sort of sense. Not in a real “oh well that’s all right then!” way, but more “Well bugger me with witch’s broomstick, the whole damn lot of them are a bunch of incestuous mentals!”
By this time, Virginia Andrews had died of breast cancer. The last book was partly written by her and partly by a ghost writer, Andrew Neiderman, who was hired by her estate. He is still writing books as Virginia Andrews, which brings a nice touch of real-life mentalism to her literary heritage. Not as crazy as the plots of the books she actually wrote, but pretty strange all the same.
Anyway! I’m sorry, I have introduced you to a strange world of wrong, or maybe reminded you of it, if like me you wallowed in this filth. I should have chosen a more worthy subject, but if it’s any consolation, going back through the plot summaries of these awful, trashy, outrageously schlocky books has made me want to read them again. Surely that is penance enough?