Christina (18 December 1626 – 19 April 1689) became Queen of Sweden at the age of almost six. As a member of the House of Vasa, she succeeded her father Gustavus Adolphus upon his death at the Battle of Lützen, but began ruling the Swedish Empire when she reached the age of 18.
Christina is remembered as one of the most learned women of the 17th century. She was fond of books, manuscripts, paintings, and sculptures. With her interest in religion, philosophy, mathematics and alchemy, she attracted many scientists to Stockholm, wanting the city to become the "Athens of the North". She caused a scandal when she decided not to marry, and in 1654 when she abdicated her throne and converted to Catholicism.
Christina's financial extravagance brought the state to the verge of bankruptcy, and the financial difficulties caused public unrest after ten years of ruling. At the age of 28, the "Minerva of the North" relinquished the throne to her cousin and moved to Rome. Pope Alexander VII described Christina as "a queen without a realm, a Christian without faith, and a woman without shame." Notwithstanding, she played a leading part in the theatrical and musical community and protected many Baroque artists, composers, and musicians.
Being the guest of five consecutive popes, and a symbol of the Counter Reformation, she is one of the few women buried in the Vatican grotto. Her unconventional lifestyle and masculine dressing have been featured in countless novels, plays, operas, and film. In all the biographies about Christina, her gender and cultural identity play an important role.