Thursday, April 18, 2019

Damn, Girl-Wilma Mankiller

Wilma Mankiller¹ was the first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation and was an instrumental part of reshaping the way the United States Federal Government interacts with Native American Nations. During her eleven years as Chief, she brought running water and electricity to Cherokee in rural and impoverished areas, revitalized the reservation school system, and won back the right for the Cherokee people to control their own government funds and programs.

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Wilma
Born November 18, 1945, Wilma Mankiller was number six of eleven children living in a tiny four-room house. Her parents, Charlie Mankiller and Irene Sitton, were very poor, relying on food they grew themselves and itinerant agriculture jobs in Colorado to survive. Their home, located on Mankiller Flats², lacked both electricity and running water.

In 1956, Wilma's family participated in the government relocation program signed into law by the Indian Relocation Act of 1956. This act exchanged reservation land for homes and vocational training in cities. Around 30,000 Native Americans participated in the program, moving to Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Denver, Dallas, and other large urban areas. Participants were promised reimbursement for moving expenses, as well as money to live on for a month after moving. This was widely seen by Native Americans as a way to improve lives for their children, as communities on reservations were, and continue to be, very poor.

Much to Wilma's chagrin, her parents decided to take advantage of the opportunity, and packed up their home. They chose to relocate to San Francisco, as it was close to where Irene's mother lived. Wilma was distraught by this move. It was a complete culture shock for her, moving from a tiny rural community to a large city.

Life didn't improve much for the Mankillers in the city. The Federal Government reneged on their deal, and much of the assistance promised to the Mankillers, as well as thousands of others, never arrived. For many Native Americans this meant homelessness, as the promised money and jobs never materialized. For the Mankillers, this meant that Wilma's father and brothers had to work long hours in factories, and the family lived in a dangerous housing project.

Wilma graduated high school in 1963 and married Ecuadorian businessman Hector Hugo Olaya de Bardi shortly after. In an interview with an Oklahoma radio station, Wilma described Hector as being handsome and kind. He wanted to rescue her from her life of poverty, and he very much wanted Wilma to be a traditional 1960s housewife. They had two daughters together--Gina and Felicia--and lived happily for several years.

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The Occupation of Alcatraz lasted 19 months
before fizzling out and dying. 
Everything changed for Wilma when a group of Native American activists occupied Alcatraz Island on November 20, 1969. In a movement comparable to the 2016-2017 Standing Rock Protests, a group of native and non-native protesters gathered on Alcatraz island and refused to leave. The Occupation of Alcatraz was based off the terms of the Treaty of Fort Laramie, an 1868 treaty between the US Federal Government and the Lakota people which stated that abandoned federal lands would revert back to the tribes who previously occupied them. When the Alcatraz penitentiary closed down in 1963, the land once again became native property. However, as is always the case, the US Federal Government had no intention of honoring this treaty. The issue of Alcatraz may have been swept under the rug entirely had not a group of 89 Native Americans claimed the island.

The occupation was an eye-opener for Wilma. San Francisco of the '60s was a wild place at the heart of the feminist, civil rights, and gay rights movements, and Wilma was no stranger to activism. Her parents had been involved in organizing community programs, and she was surrounded by young people attempting to make a difference. However, the occupation inspired Wilma to get involved herself. She followed the occupation obsessively, and visited and fund-raised for the protesters, taking them food with her young daughters on several occasions. She was also inspired to do some research into her own history. She read stories about the Haudenosaunee, and realized how Eurocentric the historical narrative being presented in schools was, and she decided to help educate the public about native history. She held public forums and sponsored films about native history.

During this time, Wilma also started to seriously get involved in social work. Realizing that dropout rates among Native American teens were rising, Wilma helped create after-school programs for Native American students and became the Indian Affairs Coordinator for the Oakland School District. All of this gave her valuable experience that would help her later.

While Wilma was doing fantastic things for her community, her activism was hard on her personal life. Her husband, never too keen on his wife doing non-wifely things, had grown even more chagrined as she started and completed college and started to get more and more involved in native affairs. In 1977 they divorced, and Wilma moved her and her two daughters back to Oklahoma.

Arriving back at Mankiller Flats, Wilma saw how poor her community was. She wanted to build up her community, so she began to collaborate with the Principal Chief of the Cherokee nation, Ross Swimmer. She created and served in the role of Community Coordinator, helping to oversee social programs for the nation. She also began to study infrastructure development as a graduate student at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Wilma had a considerable commute between her work and school, and in 1979, she was involved in a catastrophic traffic accident that would claim the life of her best friend, Sherry Morris. Wilma had been driving up a hill when Sherry attempted to pass another vehicle on a blind curve. Wilma and Sherry collided head on, destroying the two cars. Wilma had to be cut out of her car and was rushed to the hospital. Her ribs, face, and left leg had been crushed, and her right leg broken. Sherry Morris died in the ambulance.

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Cherokee Nation Headquarters in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
Wilma worked here from 1978-1995.
The accident would result in Wilma spending a year in recovery. She spent much of that year in a wheelchair. She also developed myasthenia gravis, a disease which made it difficult for her to chew or speak. She continued to work when she could however, and she eventually recovered. She would later attribute her recovery to her integration of the Cherokee idea of "being of good mind" into her life. For Wilma, "being of good mind" meant accepting what the Creator threw at her and finding the positive in her circumstances.

This was just one of many periods of health difficulties in Wilma's life. She would later have to have a kidney transplant and have cancer three times.

Following recovery, Wilma remained busy. She honed in on the Bell Community, a tiny town in rural Adair County. Much like Mankiller Flats, Bell was deeply impoverished. A quarter of the homes didn't have indoor plumbing, and almost none of them had running water. Homes were dilapidated to the point of danger, and school enrollment in the community was dropping. Bell wasn't on the Cherokee reservation, but most of the citizens were Cherokee, and several spoke only Cherokee. Ross Swimmer and Wilma agreed that something needed to be done. They decided that the Cherokee Nation would team up with Bell to approve the community. The nation would provide engineers and materials, and Bell would provide the manpower.

This kicked off a several years' long coordination project between the Cherokee Nation and Bell. Wilma hit the road along with Cherokee traditionalist and activist, Charlie Soap. The pair would spend many hours persuading Bell citizens to cooperate with the nation and coordinated community efforts for different projects.

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Bell, Oklahoma. As of the 2010 census, Bell had 535
residents.
The biggest achievement of this project was the Bell Waterline, a sixteen-mile-long pipeline that brought fresh water to the community. The pipe was built in two-mile segments, with each segment being done by a different family. It was Wilma's job to make sure that each person was performing the right job at the right time in the right place. The project was a wild success, leading the way for future community development projects. The project also led to Wilma marrying Charlie Soap. They would remain married until her death in 2010.

With the Bell project behind her, Wilma was beginning to become quite well known. Still, it was a surprise to everyone when Ross Swimmer asked her to run as his deputy chief in 1983.

There was significant pushback at the announcement of Wilma's candidacy. Many voters didn't like that she was a woman, a Democrat, an outspoken activist, and new to politics. Campaign signs with her name on them were burned, her tires were slashed, and Wilma received death threats.³ Many of the people running for Tribal Council along with Swimmer threatened to not run if he didn't drop Wilma from the ticket. Swimmer refused. He would later tell Wilma that he wanted her as his deputy chief because she loved what she did and she was honest with money. They won with a slim majority.

Finally, instead of petitioning government officials to allocate funds to community projects, Wilma was able to allocate funds herself and get social programs done. She and Swimmer worked together for two years before he stepped down to head up the Bureau of Indian affairs, leaving Wilma as the first Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Though she experienced resistance from some members of her Tribal Council, Wilma won their respect. She would be elected for two more terms, retiring in 1995.

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Wilma's autobiography
During her time as chief, Wilma oversaw a great deal of social improvements. She helped build clinics in rural areas, revitalize failing schools, and create housing. Under her leadership, infant mortality levels went down and education levels went up. Employment rates doubled, and tribal enrollment tripled. Notably, in 1990 she was instrumental in negotiating a self-governance agreement from the US Federal Government that, for the first time since 1907, allowed the Cherokee people direct control over their own funds and government programs.

Wilma passed away from pancreatic cancer on April 6, 2010. She left an enormous legacy behind her and greatly improved the lives of her people. She spent her life working to fix the un-glamorous problems of poverty and left her community much richer for it. She received recognition for her work in 1998 when President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Honor.


If you want to help continue Wilma's life's work, you can donate to the Wilma Mankiller Foundation here.


¹"Mankiller" was a title given to high ranking warriors in small Cherokee communities. This title belonged to one of Wilma's forebearers and was assigned to the family as their surname by a census official. "Mankiller" is, without doubt, one of the most epic surnames available.
²Mankiller Flats is part of the 160 acres allotted to Wilma's great-grandfather in 1907. Cherokee lands that had once been held in common were allotted into 160-acre plots. As of 2009, Wilma's family held 100 acres and her cousins 60.
³Wilma told the aforementioned Oklahoma radio station that during this time she received several phone calls from an unknown number. The caller would call, say nothing, cock a gun, and hang up.

This article edited by Mara Kellogg.


More on Similar Topics



Sources
Makiller: a Chief and Her People by Wilma Mankiller and Michael Wallis
Wilma Mankiller-National Women's History Museum
Wilma Mankiller-Encyclopedia of World Biography
About Wilma-Mankiller Foundation
Wilma Mankiller-FemBio
Wilma Mankiller-Women on 20s
Just Doing "What I Could", Wilma Mankiller Changed Native America-Smithsonian Voices
October 13, 2008 Radio Interview With NPR
August 13, 2009 Interview with Voices of Oklahoma


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The French and Indian War

The French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years War, the Third Silesian War, the Pomeranian War, or "that one war that Mrs. Painter talked about for, like, two weeks before we finally got to the Revolution."¹ was the first truly global war. As far as wars go, the French and Indian War is little more than a footnote on American history. On the outside, it may look relatively unimportant, but the French and Indian War changed the political landscape of North America in a way that would be instrumental to the Revolution that would occur twenty years after. And while it's no War of the Oaken Bucket, the French and Indian War merits discussion.

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North America at the beginning of the French
and Indian War
Winston Churchill described The Seven Years' War as being the first world war, and he wasn't wrong. The Seven Years' War was fought across the world, in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean². In Europe, multiple nations were fighting to curb the influence of Frederick the Great of Prussia. In India, the French and English supported various Indian rebel states in attempt to gain more favorable trade situations. In Africa, they tussled over the gum arabic trade. In the Caribbean, they fought over the financially lucrative sugar colonies.

In mainland North America, France, Spain, and England were fighting for land. France claimed to own all of the land watered by the Mississippi River, as well as Quebec and New France. Spain claimed Florida. Britain, by far the greediest of the bunch, claimed that the borders of their colonies continued horizontally from the east coast of the continent to the west coast. The fact that they weren't sure that there even was a west coast was conveniently overlooked.

With these overlapping claims, it's inevitable that the French and English would collide, and collide they did³. Enterprising British settlers, hungry for land, kept moving west, most notably into the lush Upper Ohio River Valley. Meanwhile, the French had been warring with the Meskwaki tribe, and in order to preserve some semblance of a peace, they had rerouted their trade routes, building forts in what was considered English territories.

In this era, forts were vital to controlling the land and protecting the settlers on the land. Because there was no wide police force, all policing had to come from the soldiers in the fort. The fort was also a place for civilians to hide in case of attack, and it protected travelers on the road. Forts were tremendously important, and both the French and the English were very touchy about the other side building forts on their land.

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Drawing of Fort Le Boeuf
Things kicked off in 1753 when the Virginia lieutenant governor, Robert Dinwiddie, sent an enterprising young nobody named George Washington to Fort Le Boeuf to tell the French to get the heck off the metaphorical English lawn. France had built a string of forts between Lake Erie and modern Pittsburgh, and the English were less than pleased. Washington carried out his duty, and the French politely declined his eviction notice. The niceties covered, Dinwiddie declared the French forts an act of aggression, and sent William Trent to build forts of their own, and George Washington to kick the French out of their forts.

Aggression declared, it was time to pick teams. Both the French and the English had been trading with the native tribes, and they realized that having the locals on their side was not only good for business, but it was also good for the war effort. The majority of Native Americans sided with the French, as they were the lesser of two evils. The French were less inclined to settle the land, and they bothered to learn native languages, and try to make friends. The British were increasingly encroaching on traditional hunting grounds, and they didn't seem inclined to stop. For many tribes, siding with the French seemed the best way to ensure their way of life.
Credit: Devan Hurst
However, just because one particular native nation teamed up with the French or the English didn't mean they were friends. In fact, tribes frequently fought with their European allies in between fighting the opposing side. Allying with the Europeans wasn't so much joining together to fight for a common cause as it was attempting to keep the white men too busy fighting each other to steal from tribes.

The most significant native ally to the British was the Iroquois League, or the Haudenosaunee. The Haudenosaunee were a powerful group in the region, and the British claimed them as subjects. This was particularly convenient for them, because the Haudenosaunee, as far as the British understood it, claimed a portion of land that the French were settling on, and this strengthened the English claims to the area.

It's summer of 1754, and George Washington is continuing in his efforts to run the French out of town. The French had defeated William Trent and burned his unfinished fort, building the much nicer Fort Duquesne (pronounced Du-cane) on its ashes. Meanwhile, Washington had defeated a small force of French in Pennsylvania and had captured the French leader, Joseph de Jumonville. Jumonville claimed that he and his men were on a peace mission to warn the English they were trespassing. Washington was, by all accounts, willing to negotiate and let Jumonville and his men go, when his Haudenosaunee ally,⁴ Tanaghrisson, killed Jumonville. Tanaghrisson notoriously hated the French, claiming that the French had boiled and eaten his father.

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Recreation of Fort Necessity
The French were none too pleased about the death of their commander, and George Washington high tailed it to Great Meadows, where he started building a fort appropriately named Fort Necessity. The French arrived at Fort Necessity on July 3rd and soundly beat the English, sending Washington and his men scurrying back to Virginia.

This led to a string of French victories, allowing them to take several English forts, and establish their own forts all along the Ohio river. They were able to do this partly because of their superior military power but also partly because they had support from Paris. London, on the other hand, didn't care about what was happening in the colonies, with King George II stating "Let the Americans fight the Americans." This ambivalence would continue until future Prime Minister, William Pitt, realized that the North American colonies were key to establishing British world dominance.

Meanwhile, up north in Nova Scotia, trouble was brewing. A group of French settlers called the Acadians had been farming the land since the 1600s, when Nova Scotia was still New France. The presence of these Francophone peoples made the British nervous, so nervous that in 1730, the Acadians had been forced to swear an oath of neutrality. However, things were heating up in Nova Scotia, and the British governor, Charles Lawrence, was getting nervous. The French had built an enormous fortress, Fort Louisbourg, on Cape Breton island, and they had built another fort, Fort Beausejour, on the Chignecto river. While storming Fort Beausejour in 1755, a small group of Acadian militiamen were captured, and Lawrence seized upon the incidence as a violation of the Acadians' oath of neutrality made twenty years earlier.

Lawrence gathered a group of Acadian leaders and tried to compel them to take an oath of allegiance to the British. The Acadians, unsurprisingly, refused. Though they had been mostly ignored by their French liege lords, they weren't too fond of the British, who coveted their lands. Lawrence took their refusal as an act of aggression and signed a deportation order. All Acadian lands and possessions were forfeit, and the Acadians were to leave Nova Scotia forthwith.

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Depiction of the Acadians by artist Claude Picard
Not trusting the Acadians to go quietly, Lawrence sent his men to surround churches on Sunday mornings when the majority of the Catholic Acadians were attending mass. They captured the men, and sent the women and children running. The English destroyed dykes and fields, and loaded the Acadians onto ships headed to France, Britain, and the colonies of South Carolina, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. While many Acadians fled to the forests and fought back, they were unsuccessful. Approximately 10,000 Acadians were deported, and more than a tenth of them died. Acadians who landed in English colonies landed to a cool reception and were forced to wander in search of a new home. A number of these Acadians ended up in Louisiana, becoming the people who would become to be known as the Cajuns.

Meanwhile, back in London, parliament was finally taking the war seriously. They sent a significant force to the colonies to fight the French, and their newly minted navy to cut off French supplies and reinforcements. The British started winning in the Americas, aided by their fancy new guerilla warfare tactics learned from the Native Americans.

The French were starting to get desperate. The war had been dragging on for eight years, and the French government was going bankrupt. The British were slowly taking away both their trade on mainland North America and their sugar colonies, and they were getting tired of it. They turned to their friends, the Spanish. In an agreement that would be later known as the Family Compact⁵, the Spanish agreed that if the British had not withdrawn from North America by May 1, 1762, Spain would enter the war.

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Map of North America at the end of the French and
Indian War
This was meant to pressure the British into withdrawing. Unfortunately, Spain wasn't very intimidating. The English declared war on Spain in January of 1762 and thoroughly defeated them, taking Cuba, the Philippines, and the French Caribbean islands.

After these defeats, the French were ready to throw in the towel. Spain, France, and Britain signed the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763. In this treaty, Britain got Florida, Canada, and everything east of the Mississippi river. France got everything west of the Mississippi, as well as their sugar colonies. Spain got Cuba and the Philippines.

As the dust settled, the people in the Americas, native and non, realized that they had been massively screwed over. The Native Americans had hoped that fighting with the French and British would ensure that settlers kept off their lands in the Ohio River Valley. Unfortunately, with the French driven out, the British were free to settle where they pleased. Native Lands were snapped up at an alarming pace, and it was becoming increasingly impossible to keep settlers at bay.

Additionally, the war had been enormously expensive for the British government, and they had to find some way to pay for it. What better way to pay for it than taxing their colonies? These taxes would infuriate the colonists and ignite the spark that started the American Revolution.




¹Thanks, Mrs. Painter!
²Okay, sure, the Caribbean is technically a part of North America, but it's easy to forget that.
³At this point in the war, Spain was keeping itself to itself. They didn't have a horse in the Upper Ohio River Valley race. They wouldn't enter the war until later.
⁴Tanaghrisson was, specifically Seneca, though he may have been born into a different tribe. He was a significant Haudenosaunee leader, known by Europeans as "half-king."
⁵The French and Spanish kings were cousins.

This article edited by Mara Kellogg. Infographic made by Devan Hurst.

More on Similar Topics



Sources
Who Fought in the French and Indian War?
French and Indian War-Ohio History Central
French and Indian War-Encyclopedia Britannica
French and Indian War/Seven Years' War
Incidents Leading Up to the French and Indian War
French and Indian War-History
Acadian Expulsion (The Great Upheaval)
Acadian Deportation, Migration, and Resettlement
French and Indian War-US History
French and Indian War Forts
The Battle of Fort Necessity
French and Indian War-Michigan State University


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Damn, Girl-Queen Christina of Sweden, Minerva of the North

One of the most colorful queens of history, Christina of Sweden lived many lives within the span of 62 years. An enigma wrapped in a mystery deep-fried in a contradiction, she ruled Sweden for fourteen years and oversaw some of the best infrastructural and cultural improvements of the country at the time, yet she abandoned her country to live unfettered by duty. She was a philosopher and a patron of the arts whose collecting and patronage preserved some of the best late Renaissance/early Baroque art and music, and was a major player on the European political stage.

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Christina
Christina was born in December of 1626 to Queen Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg and Gustav II Adolf, who were desperately seeking an heir. Maria had had three previous miscarriages, and all of them had been girls. When Christina was born, Maria was very disappointed that she had another daughter instead of the son she had hoped for. Gustav, on the other hand, was ecstatic that they finally had a living child and ordered that she be treated and educated as a prince. Four years later, she was declared heir apparent.

Gustav was deeply embroiled in the Thirty Years War, and after being separated from his men, he died in battle in 1632. Gustav was a remarkable ruler in his own right, but his wife was...unstable. Before his death, Gustav had ordered that Christina be raised by her aunt Catherine and not by her mother. However, that order was disobeyed, and Christina lived with her mother for several years.

To say that those years were unhappy would be an understatement. Maria Eleonora had plunged into a deep depression after the death of her husband. She had her apartments draped in black and refused to let Gustav be buried keeping his body lying in state, except for his heart, which she kept with her in a small, gold casket. She insisted that Christina be with her at all times and, in turns, verbally abused her daughter for not being a boy, criticized her for not being feminine enough, and scarred the young queen with outbursts of violent affection. The governors appointed by Gustav to take care of Christina during her minority deemed Maria unfit as a mother and gave custody of Christina to her aunt. Maria Eleonora was exiled to Gripsholm castle.

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Gustav II Adolf
Christina's youth with her aunt and cousins was filled with lessons. This might have been tedious to any other child, but Christina passionately loved learning and would spend her life in hours of daily study, and she often said that her favorite activity was learning new languages¹. In her childhood, she would rise at five, then spend six hours at her lessons. On weekdays, those lessons were the academics one would expect. On weekends, she was tutored in the princely sports of riding, shooting, and swordfighting. Afternoons saw politics lessons with Axel Oxenstierna², one of the most accomplished politicians of the era.

Christina's main tutor was Johannes Matthiae, a retired clergyman and skeptic of the Lutheran faith. The Lutheran faith, then as now, was the state religion, and rulers were required to be Lutheran. Mathie taught Christina to question Lutheranism, a skill that would aid and plague her throughout her life.

Though Christina would not formally assume the throne until 1644,³ she was consulted in serious political matters as early as 1638, when she was just twelve years old. She started ruling with the council in 1640. During these early years, she showed a strong inclination against warmongering and favored the improvement of Swedish infrastructure and extending welfare and education to the lower classes. Achievements of this time include overseeing the refurbishment of Stockholm, and the setting out of the "Instructions", a document that stated in exacting detail how the colony of New Sweden was to be run. The "Instructions" contained progressive ideas like not warring with the surrounding colonists and not massacring the Native Americans. It instructed that colonists were to pay tribes for their lands and that they were to practice religious tolerance.⁴

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Maria Eleonora
After reaching majority, Christina most notably helped bring an end to the Thirty Years' War by declaring that the official religion of a state should be the same as the religion as its ruler. She established the first Swedish newspaper and opened up education to all citizens.

Christina's goal was to bring the fledgling Enlightenment north. She wanted to turn Stockholm into the "Athens of the North", and for this, she is often known as the "Minerva of the North". A big fan of philosophy, going so far as to claim it was more important than science, Christina imported philosophers to her court--most notably Rene Descartes, who tutored her personally.⁵

All of this was quite expensive, and Christina's habit of giving away crown lands and her refusal to marry worried her nobles. Even more worrying was her relationship with her beautiful Maid of Honor, Ebba Sparre.

Ebba Sparre was the daughter and granddaughter of politicians and was also a celebrated beauty. As is the case with so many people of the era, much of the details of her life are lost to history, and the lady herself might have been entirely forgotten had she and Christina not been lovers.

Though not much is known about their affair, that it existed is unquestionable. Even for an era where friendship was proclaimed in far more florid and intimate terms than it is now, Christina was suspiciously demonstrative of her love for Ebba. She proclaimed Ebba as her royal bedfellow and frequently gushed about her "friend" to foreign ambassadors, urging them to appreciate Ebba's beauty and wit. Surviving letters from Christina to Ebba paint an undoubted picture of extreme passion. In 1656 Christina wrote to Ebba:
"How happy I should be if only I could see you Beautiful One. But I am condemned by Destiny to love and cherish you always without seeing you; and...I cannot be completely happy when I am separated from you. Never doubt this fact, and believe that, wherever I may be, I shall always be entirely devoted to you, as I have always been...Goodbye Beautiful One, goodbye. I embrace you a million times."⁶
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Ebba Sparre
Though Ebba married Jakob de la Gardie in 1652, some sources claiming on Christina's suggestion, others her ire, the two women remained in contact throughout their lives. Christina tried to visit Ebba several times but was prevented by Ebba's family. The pair would never meet again after Ebba's marriage.

In 1654, Christina finally achieved her dream of abdicating. She had been trying to give up the throne since 1650 and had petitioned the Riksdag no less than 20 times, claiming that ruling was bad for her health. They had previously denied her requests, but in 1654 they relented.

Why, exactly, the Riksdag relented is a matter of some debate. Some sources claim that it was because Christina had alienated the nobility with her spending and attempts to enlighten her court. Some sources say that the affair with Ebba Sparre and Christina's refusal to marry made the Riksdag worried about the future of Sweden. Other sources claim that it was because Christina had converted to Catholicism, and that the Riksdag was forced to let her abdicate. Whatever the reason, Christina designated her cousin and once fiance Carl as her heir and abdicated.

The Swedes, at large, were NOT happy with this development. Despite the feathers she ruffled, Christina was still wildly popular with nobles and peasants alike, so popular that she had to uncrown herself during her abdication ceremony, as the gentleman assigned to the task refused to do so.

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Christina was described as being "short,
pockmarked, with a humped right shoulder"
Dressed as a man, Christina left Sweden, and arrived in Rome. In 1655, she officially converted to Catholicism, which was a huge coup for the Vatican. The conversion of a previously Protestant ruler made Pope Alexander VII so happy that he gave her sumptuous apartments in the Vatican and gave her a stipend from church coffers to help maintain her lifestyle. This enamorment didn't last long, as the pope soon discovered that Christina wasn't one to blindly accept the religious teachings of the church. That aside, Christina kept a home in Rome for the rest of her life and was called friend by seven popes.

Finally, free to do as she wished, Christina traveled Europe. She became a major patron of the arts, amassing a huge collection of Venetian school paintings, opening the first opera house in Rome, sponsoring the composers Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti, founding the still functioning Arcadia Academy, and rescuing the reputation of the architect Bernini. She began writing herself, publishing three main philosophical works and sponsoring philosophical conventions around Europe.

Though Christina spent most of the rest of her life writing, art collecting, and philosophizing, she did make two more forays into politics. In 1657, it came to light that Christina had been plotting the takeover of Habsburg Naples with the support of the French crown. The scheme collapsed after Christina attended the summary execution of a traitorous servant at Fontainebleau. In 1667, she attempted to have herself elected queen of Poland but was unsuccessful. She was, reportedly, not too distressed about this failure.

In 1670, Christina returned permanently to Rome and lived there until her death in 1689. She died a well-respected philosopher and patron of the arts. She was buried in the Vatican Grotto--one of only three women to be buried there.

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Christina in her later years
Christina's main focus in philosophy, like so many other philosophers of her day, was on the nature of love. According to Christina, real love was religious in nature, and very rare. She also believed that men and women were equal, saying that "soul had no gender". She was also a big fan of religious tolerance, exerting her influence to protect Rome's Jewish community and the Huguenots in France. In government, Christina was a big fan of Enlightened Despotism, believing that a good and enlightened ruler with absolute power was the only way to properly govern a country. She wrote three books on her philosophical views.

One of the most commonly discussed aspects of Christina is her gender and sexuality. Historians have been quibbling over the question since before Christina was history, and unless Christina rises from the grave to give us a definitive answer, it is unlikely that we will ever have a definite answer. Christina has been, by turns, described as straight and slandered, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, hermaphrodite, and asexual.

This historian strongly favors the bisexual and lesbian theories, as Christina's name was later linked with that of Cardinal Decio Azzolino, as well as that of Ebba Sparre. Christina also wrote passionate letters to women whose writings she admired and once spent several hours alone with a famed courtesan. Whatever Christina may have felt and done with other people, it seems likely that Ebba was the love of Christina's life. Christina's lifelong letters to Ebba show a woman who is very much in love, and neither party ever found happiness with another person (Ebba's marriage was famously unhappy).

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Christina's tomb beneath St. Peter's Basilica in Rome
Christina was a woman of contradictions. She hated the task of ruling, yet attempted to take over two countries. She believed in gender equality, but said on multiple occasions that she didn't think women should rule. She loved women, but did not often enjoy their company. Christina led a troubled life and has gone down in history as one of the most complex and intriguing monarchs in European history.





¹Christina reportedly learned to speak Latin, Spanish, Italian, German, and French, in addition to Swedish. She also had some knowledge of Hebrew and Arabic. Out of all of these, French was the one she used most frequently and the language she wrote in.
²Christina loved learning from Oxerstina and claimed to prefer learning from him above all else. However, later in her reign, she limited his power, resentful of his attempts to limit her power during her minority. Oxerstina, a devout Lutheran, tried to limit Christina's contact with her cousins due to the Calvinist leanings of their parents. This may also have contributed to Christina's later ambivalence toward him.
³Though she assumed the throne in 1644, she was not officially crowned until 1650 because of Sweden's involvement in constant warfare.
⁴Religious tolerance aside, colonists of New Sweden were still supposed to try and convert the Native Americans to Christianity.
⁵Descartes unfortunately died of pneumonia four months after reaching Stockholm. This may have been contributed by Christina's insistence at 5 am study sessions in the freezing winter.
⁶Quote taken from "'A Girton Girl on a Throne': Queen Christina and Versions of Lesbianism, 1906-1933" by Sarah Waters.


This article was edited by Mara Kellogg.

More on Similar Topics



Sources
"Christina of Sweden" by Marguerite Horan Gowen
"Christina of Sweden (Continued)" by Marguerite Horan Gowen
"A Girton Girl on a Throne': Queen Christina and Versions of Lesbianism, 1906-1933" by Sarah Waters
"Two Portraits of a Queen: Calderón and the Enigmatic Christina of Sweden" by Deborah Compte
Wasa, Kristina (1626-1689)
Christina, Queen of Sweden
Famous Queen Christina
Queens Regnant: Christina of Sweden--the Girl King
Queen Coins: LGBTQ Rulers Through History

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Kingdom of Navarre

Navarre from beginning to end wielded a significant amount of power, especially for its size and relative lack of natural resources. Caught between France and Spain, located in a strategic point in the Pyrenees mountains, it's no surprise that Navarre's powerful neighbors eventually gobbled it up, leaving the only remnants of Navarre in regional toponyms. However, in the seven centuries between its inception and it's ultimate absorption into larger kingdoms, Navarre managed to be one of the most progressive of the medieval kingdoms, practicing religious tolerance and allowing women to inherit the throne, making it one of the best places to be a woman or non-Christian in medieval Europe.

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Navarre, 1000
Navarre was blessed by location. A mountainous kingdom, it controlled the only pass through the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain. It controlled several pilgrim routes and served at various times in its history as a buffer state between Gascony/England/France and Castille/Aragon/Leon.¹ Because of this, alliances with Navarre were very attractive, especially given that Navarre wasn't the type to go quietly into the night.

Navarre began ethnically Basque. There's quite a bit of debate as to where the first Basques came from, but by the 700s when Navarre first started out as the Kingdom of Pamplona, the region was comprised of Basques, Moors, and Basque-Moors, the results of Basque-Moor intermarriage and conversion to Islam after the Basque kings agreed to subordination under the Caliphates. As French influence grew in the 1200s the human landscape of Navarre began to include more Francophonic characteristics. French became a co-language with Navarro-Aragonese (Occitan).

It is difficult to piece together the story of Navarre. Much of what we know about Navarre today comes from the stories of its rulers. Unlike other countries of the time, there isn't a good record about daily life for peasants or nobles. However, there are really good records of who Navarre fought, which was more or less everyone around them. To get even a general idea of Navarrese history, you have to go deep into the history of its royal families. Such depth would require a several hundred-page-long book, and we don't have that sort of time. So, to sum it up:

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Navarrese flag
Navarre was wrested from the Cordoba Caliphate in 824 by Inigo Arista, founder of the House of Iniguez. Navarre was, initially, named "The Kingdom of Pamplona", and in fact didn't come to be known as Navarre until the mid-1100s. The Kingdom of Pamplona was, unsurprisingly, located around the now Spanish city of Pamplona and extended into modern French territory. Inigo and his two successors spent their lives fighting against the Cordoba Caliphate, who were the major power in the region. Though they were briefly forced into vassalage to the Cordobas, Navarre ultimately remained an independent kingdom.

The House of Jimenez oversaw Navarre's most successful military expansions, reaching its greatest size under the aptly named Alfonso the Battler. He gained control of most of Castile and Leon through marriage to Urraca of Leon. Unfortunately, he and Urraca couldn't stand each other, and he lost his new territories in the divorce.

Jimenez also oversaw Navarre's vassalage to the Holy See, usually known as the Vatican. Unlike it's vassalage to Cordoba, or later to Aragon and France, this was voluntary. For most of Navarre's existence as a country, it was a profoundly Catholic nation, participating in two crusades, and swearing fealty to at least three popes.

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Alfonso the Battler and groupies
Despite this decidedly pro-Catholic stance, Jimenez Navarre, and Navarre for the rest of its inception, was remarkably protective of its Jews, welcoming in Jews that had been expelled from other countries, and allowing them to participate in their own governance.

Navarre passed into French control in 1234, and though it maintained nominal independence, it was, essentially, the red-headed stepchild of France, governed by a series of oppressive French governors. Still, this era saw the codification of law and the rise of a middle class. Two houses ruled during this era of French domination: the House of Blois² and the House of Capet. Several of the rulers of this era never even stepped foot in Navarre. Each of these houses produced one queen regnant--Joan I and Joan II.

With the death of Joan I, Navarre passed to her daughter Joan II, who straddled the House of Capet, and the House of Evreux. Joan II was queen regnant in her own right. Navarre has no adherent of Salic Law. However, her husband, Phillip,  got his knickers in a twist. Having been denied the throne of France, he was irritated that his wife got to rule a country but he didn't. After extensive lobbying, both Joan and Philip were crowned as co-rulers.

This new House of Evreux oversaw some of the most turbulent and progressive times of Navarrese history. The monarchs after Joan II and Philip were the first in more than a century to actually have been born in Navarre. The Navarrese monarchs of the time had significant holdings in France, which saw expansion and deflation, depending on the day. Protections were put in place to protect Navarrese Muslims, and a Supreme Court was established.

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Jeanne III, also known as Jean d'Albret
Unfortunately, the death of Navarre's third Queen Regnant--Blanche I--in 1441 spelled the beginning of the end for Navarre. The throne was grabbed by Blanche's Aragonese Trastamara husband instead of her son, sparking a civil war that weakened the country. The House of Trastamara saw only two monarchs, and the succeeding House of Foix saw only two as well before Upper Navarre (Navarre on the Spanish side) was conquered by Aragon.

With only Lower Navarre (the French side) left, Navarre was ruled by the House of d'Albret, a two-ruler house that boasted Navarre's most impressive Queen Regnant--Jeanne III.

Jeanne was a Renaissance princess, and she was swept up in the Reformation. Like Henry VIII, she had her country converted to Protestantism (though with less bloodshed). She also threw her weight behind the French Huguenots, who were a constant thorn in the side of the Catholic French monarchs. Her constant warring with France, and the concessions she was forced into, saw Lower Navarre absorbed into France for good on her death.

The Middle Ages saw a large amount of small states rise and fall, especially on the turbulent Iberian Peninsula. Many of them are more or less forgotten today. We remember Navarre because of its longevity, its political power, and its progressive (for the time) stance on human rights.

Navarre lasted as an independent entity in some form from its inception in 824 until the absorption of Lower Navarre into France in 1620. It saw nine royal houses and 38 individual monarchs. Several periods of this time included vassalage to the Cordoba Caliphate, Aragon, France, or the Holy See. Despite this, Navarre maintained a separate identity, still remaining distinctly Navarrese.

Navarrese royal crest
Navarre's political power was backed both by impressive political skills and by a fearsome fighting force. Navarrese royalty intermarried with royals from Castile, Leon, Aragon, the Cordoba Caliphate, France, and England. Notorious fourteenth-century monarch, Charles the Bad, was especially wily, playing France and England off each other to expand his territory. Jeanne d'Albret, the last truly Navarrese ruler of Navarre, skillfully negotiated with Catherine de Medici to maintain Navarrese sovereignty and freedom of religion.

Words were backed up with a strong arm. From its very inception, Navarre had been a state with a strong military. In the years of the House of Iniguez and the House of Jimenez, it was constantly at war with the Muslim forces that occupied the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula or with its neighbor, Aragon. After its first vassalage to France, Navarre became a sort of mercenary farm, used by French-Navarrese monarchs to pad out their French army and to advance their interest militarily in the Iberian peninsula and the south of France. After the reign of Charles the Bad, the most notorious Navarrese warmonger, Navarrese mercenaries become popular all over the continent.

Navarre was an incredible country--progressive for a medieval state, incredibly powerful, and long-lived. While it has been more or less forgotten today, it left a large mark on history and was instrumental in making modern European nations what they are today.


¹It is worth mentioning that Spain and France as modern states did not exist for much of Navarre's history but were instead split up into a series of smaller states continually at war with each other.
²Or the house of champagne, depending on how you want to split things.

This article was edited by Mara Kellogg

More on Similar Topics

Sources
Pamplona. Navarre. History of Early Christian Kingdoms