Father Le Bel at once left the Galerie des Cerfs and went into the queen’s apartment, with the smell of blood in his nostrils. He found her calm and ready to justify herself. Was she not still queen over all who had voluntarily become members of her suite? This had been agreed to in her act of abdication. Wherever she set her foot, there, over her own, she was still a monarch, with full power to punish traitors at her will. This power she had exercised, and with justice. What mattered it that she was in France? She was queen as truly as Louis XIV. was king.
The story was not long in getting out, but the truth was not wholly known until a much later day. It was said that Sentanelli had slapped the marquis in a fit of jealousy, though some added that it was done with the connivance of the queen. King Louis, the incarnation of absolutism, knew the truth, but he was slow to act. He sympathized with the theory of Christina’s sovereignty. It was only after a time that word was sent to Christina that she must leave Fontainebleau. She took no notice of the order until it suited her convenience, and then she went forth with all the honors of a reigning monarch.
This was the most striking episode in all the strange story of her private life. When her cousin Charles, whom she had made king, died without an heir she sought to recover her crown; but the estates of the realm refused her claim, reduced her income, and imposed restraints upon her power. She then sought the vacant throne of Poland; but the Polish nobles, who desired a weak ruler for their own purposes, made another choice. So at last she returned to Rome, where the Pope received her with a splendid procession and granted her twelve thousand crowns a year to make up for her lessened Swedish revenue.
From this time she lived a life which she made interesting by her patronage of learning and exciting by her rather unseemly quarrels with cardinals and even with the Pope. Her armed retinue marched through the streets with drawn swords and gave open protection to criminals who had taken refuge with her. She dared to criticize the pontiff, who merely smiled and said:
“She is a woman!”
On the whole, the end of her life was pleasant. She was much admired for her sagacity in politics. Her words were listened to at every court in Europe. She annotated the classics, she made beautiful collections, and she was regarded as a privileged person whose acts no one took amiss. She died at fifty-three, and was buried in St. Peter’s.
She was bred a man, she was almost a son to her great father; and yet, instead of the sonorous epitaph that is inscribed beside her tomb, perhaps a truer one would be the words of the vexed Pope:
KING CHARLES II. AND NELL GWYN
One might classify the kings of England in many ways. John was undoubtedly the most unpopular. The impetuous yet far-seeing Henry II., with the other two great warriors, Edward I. and Edward III., and William of Orange, did most for the foundation and development of England’s constitutional law. Some monarchs, such as Edward II. and the womanish Henry VI., have been contemptible. Hard-working, useful kings have been Henry VII., the Georges, William IV., and especially the last Edward.