actual documented history of Queen Christina’s life, the story of the Queen
Christina film follows the queen as she falls in love with a fictional male
Spanish envoy. Stressed out by the demands of the throne and the continued insistence
that she marry her cousin, Karl Gustav, this fictionalized version of Christina
disguises herself in men’s clothing and sneaks out of her castle to enjoy life
as an everyday commoner. When an unexpected snow storm leaves her stranded at
an inn, she is forced to share a bed with an occupant of the inn, a diplomat
sent from Spain named Antonio. Christina eventually reveals herself to be a
woman and the two fall in love.
erasure of Christina’s lesbianism, the 1933 film became a touchstone for
lesbian culture for its depiction of a masculine woman protagonist and the
iconic scene where Christina shares a “friendly kiss” with her lady in waiting
and real life lover, Ebba Sparre. The film The Girl King that was released in 2015 recently restored the lesbian aspects of Queen Christina’s true story.
The legendary lesbian Queen of
Sweden, Queen Christina, was born on this day in 1626. She reigned on the
throne from the time she was 6-years-old and was known as one of the most
well-educated woman of the 17th century.
14-year-old Queen Christina painted by the royal court portraitist Jacob Henry Elbfas (x).
Christina was born on December 8,
1626 at the royal castle of Tre Kronor in Stockholm. King Gustav II Adolph and
his wife Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg had birthed two daughters previously,
but both had died in infancy and Christian was to be the only surviving legitimate
heir to the throne. She and her father were very close throughout her childhood
and King Gustav was known to have admired her greatly despite Christina being a
girl child. When Gustav died in 1632 at The Battle of Lützen, 6-year-old
Christina was sworn in as King of Sweden in February of 1633; however, her
mother ruled on her behalf until she was 18. Although she was informally called
Queen Christina, her formal title in the Riksdag was King due to her masculine
Due to her status as “girl-king,” Christina
was educated to the same caliber as a noble young man; this awarded her a
reputation as one of the most highly educated women in Europe during her day. Christina
was also known for her masculine clothing and her relationship with a
lady-in-waiting named Ebba Sparre; Christina first met Ebba when she turned 18
and truly assumed the throne. Although she had two other flings with
ladies-in-waiting, – Jane Ruthven, who was the daughter of an exiled Scottish
general, and Louise van der Nooth, the daughter of a baron – it was Ebba who
was the love of her life. Christina used her power to keep Ebba’s husband away
from court, would often boast of her beauty to visiting diplomats, and publicly
referred to her as “la belle comtesse” (the beautiful countess) and as her “belle”
Greta Garbo, portraying Christina in the 1933 film Queen Christina, shares a “friendly” kiss with Elizabeth Young who is portraying her lover Ebba Sparre.
The royal court of Sweden began putting
increasing pressure on Christina to marry and give the nation a king, an idea
which she firmly detested. Her refusal to marry resulted in growing
unpopularity for her, and on June 6, 1654, Christina formally abdicated the
throne. Once she was free from the chains of the throne and out of the public’s
eye, she moved to Holland and began dressing in traditional men’s clothing
regularly. In 1681, Christina wrote a long-awaited Autobiography, in which she discussed her androgynous identity, but
also states that she was “neither Male nor Hermaphrodite, as some People in the
World have pass’d me for.”
After passing away at the age of 62 on April 19,
1689, Christina would eventually become known as a lesbian icon. Her icon
status became even more ubiquitous after the release of the 1933 film Queen Christina, starring none other
than fellow lesbian legend Greta Garbo, and then the 2015 film about her life
titled The Girl King.
Film icon Lilyan Tashman was born
on this day in 1896. The bisexual American actress who rocked Vaudeville,
Broadway, and the silver screen throughout her lifetime is most well-known
today for her roles in Millie, Girls About Town, and So This is Paris.
Publicity photo of Lilyan Tashman from Stars of the Photoplay (x).
Lilyan Tashman was born to a
working-class Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York on October 23, 1896. She was
the tenth and youngest child to be born to her immigrant mother and father, who
had been born in Germany and Poland respectively. She attended Girl’s High
School and worked as a fashion and figure drawing model throughout her teen
years to help support the family. Her modeling career eventually blossomed into
a Vaudeville career and by 1914 she was a part of a successful travelling
troupe. Performing became cemented as Lilyan’s career when she was picked up to
join the Ziegfeld Follies in 1916.
Her stint with the Ziegfeld
Follies, although only lasting two years, allowed Lilyan to get a supporting
role in the hit musical The Gold Diggers.
She made her film debut in 1921 with the small film Experience, but after her attempt at leaping from the stage to the
silver screen wasn’t going the way she planned, Lilyan moved across the county
to California. Finally in Hollywood, her career took off; she appeared in five
films in just the course of one year and eventually signed a contract with
Paramount Pictures. Starring in over 66 films during her career, she became
known to audiences for her roles as the “other woman” or the seductive “villainess.”
Today, many consider Lilyan to
have been a bisexual figure. Her first husband was a colleague from her
Vaudeville days named Al Lee. The two were married in 1914, but soon divorced
in 1921. Her second husband was longtime friend and fellow actor Edmund Lowe.
The two lived together in their lavish Beverly Hills mansion called Lilowe,
threw extravagant parties, and were touted by the media as being Hollywood’s
new darling “it” couple; however, Edmund was a gay man and many believe their
marriage to have been one of convenience. Lilyan herself was rumored to have
had several trysts with women and even an intense relationship with Greta
Garbo, which left Lilyan heartbroken after Greta called it off. There is even a legend that Lilyan was almost charged with assault (for the SECOND time) after she
caught the actress Constance Bennett in a compromising position with her
girlfriend at the time.
Despite her vitality and
scrappiness, Lilyan tragically contracted abdominal cancer at the young age of
36. She would film five more films during the last years of her life, Frankie and Johnny being the last time
America would ever see her on film. After entering Doctor’s Hospital on March 21,
1934, Lilyan passed away from cancer at the age of 37. Her funeral at the New
York City synagogue Temple Emanu-El saw over 10,000 mourners, fans, and fellow
Hollywood elite in attendance.
One of the most iconic actresses
of the 20th century, Greta Garbo, was born on this day in 1905.
Despite her image in the American imagination as the eternally heterosexual
romantic lead and starlet, Greta lived a lonely, closeted life.
Greta Garbo first traveled to the United States at the age of 19 and not two years later she would be one of the most well-known actresses in the country (x).
Greta Lovisa Gustafsson was born
in the slum of Södermalm in Stockholm, Sweden on September 18, 1905. She was
the third and the youngest child born to a working class family – her mother
worked at a jam factory and her father was a janitor. Poverty haunted her
childhood and she is remembered as having been a shy, daydreaming child who was
interested in theater and performance from an early age; a former classmate remembered
a 10-year-old Greta declaring that she wanted to be an actress when she grew up
“because it’s posh.” After leaving school at the age of 13, she began working
as a cleaner girl in a barber shop, but eventually took a job at the PUB
Department Story. It was there where Greta was picked out for her beauty and
chosen to model women’s hats. Modeling gigs turned into commercial gigs, which
eventually lead her to starring in short films.
In 1922, the director Erik Arthur
Petschler spotted one of Greta’s commercials and invited her to star in his
small comedy film Peter the Tramp.
Seeing a real future in acting, she studied at the Royal Dramatic Theatre’s
Acting School for two years before getting shipped off to America on the request of
MGM Vice President Louis B. Mayer. After the studio forced her to straighten
her teeth, lose 30 pounds, and lean English, Greta became a superstar and
starred in over 20 silent films. In 1929, she became one of the few stars who
was able to make the jump over to “talkies” with the film Anna Christie. Over the next decade, she would star in hits such as Grand Hotel, Camille, and Anna Karenina
and would receive three Oscar nominations.
Video footage of Greta arriving at Gothenburg Harbor in 1935 overplayed with words from one of her loves, Mercedes de Acosta.
Closely associated with the line
from Grand Hotel, “I want to be alone; I just want to be alone,” Greta hated
publicity and was a recluse later in life. Many historians have theorized that Greta’s social
anxiety and depression were results of her lesbianism and the pressure placed
on her to hide that part of her life from the world. Actresses Lilyan Tashman, Mercedes de Acosta, and Louise Brooks have all admitted to having sexual
relationships with Greta, but if she had an ultimate love it had to have been
Mimi Pollack. Mimi was a Swedish actress who Greta met during her time at
the Royal Dramatic Theater and the two maintained a close correspondence for
the rest of their lives. The romantic tone of their letters is undeniable;
“’The letter from you has aroused a storm of longing within me,” “’I
dream of seeing you and discovering whether you still care as much about your
old bachelor. I love you, little Mimosa,” “’We cannot help our nature, as God
has created it. But I have always thought you and I belonged together.”
Mimi’s son was born, Greta even wrote that she was “incredibly proud to be a
Greta’s relationship with Mimi
would not become known to the mainstream public until 2005 with the publication of the
Swedish book Djävla Älskade Unge by Tin Andersen Axell. At the time of Greta’s
death on April 14, 1990, it would be over ten years before the
public who claimed to adore her would know a sliver of who the actress truly