Showing posts with label sweden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sweden. Show all posts

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Girl King

"The Girl King" is a 2015 drama focused around the infamous Queen Kristina of Sweden, and her love affair with the countess Ebba Sparre.

Image result for the girl kingFirst, it must be said, I LOVED this movie. Not only is this a film about a badass lady, but it's about a badass sapphic lady, one of my favorite types of badass ladies.

Now, in case you're confused about the term 'sapphic', let me explain. 'Sapphic' is a broad term used to describe women (including trans women) who love women (also known as wlw), be they lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals, or any other sort of gay. In case you're wondering about the etymology, 'Sapphic' gets its root from Sappho, the famously gay ancient greek poet, whose island home of Lesbos also sired the word lesbian.

"The Girl King" opens on a dramatic scene. Kristina's arguably insane mother, Dowager Queen Maria Eleonora is weeping over the corpse of her deceased husband, King Gustav II. She imperiously orders her daughter to kiss her father good night. That's when Kristina's uncle, Carl, and the Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna burst into the room, and rescue Kristina from the clutches of her mother. The movie then skims over Kristina's childhood, showing brief scenes of her extensive education and grooming to become Queen of Sweden. There is particular focus on Kristina's indifference to Protestantism (the ideal her father died fighting for) and her admiration for the philosopher Rene Descartes.

The movie really gets going when Kristina is crowned queen on her eighteenth birthday. In the span of a single day she is crowned, announces her intentions to turn Sweden into an academic paradise, meets the love of her life, and turns down a marriage proposal. It's a busy day for the young queen, but that doesn't stop her from running around with a sword, and leaving quite the impression on the beautiful Ebba Sparre.

Kristina (right) and Ebba.
From there the movie details Kristina's struggles against the stubborn conservatism of Sweden in the age, and her attempts to educate the people, and broker peace between the warring Protestant and Catholic nations. Along the way her hero, Rene Descartes, arrives in Sweden, and along with the French ambassador and some unscrupulous churchmen, convince Kristina of the virtues of Catholicism. That's pretty worrisome to Kristina's nobles, but more worrying is her refusal to marry, and her suspicious closeness with Ebba.

And, indeed, they had cause to worry. Kristina and Ebba were in love, sharing a bed, kisses, and other more intimate moments. In a move spurred by politics and jealousy Axel's son arranges to have Ebba abducted and forcibly married. Kristina is less than pleased.

By this point Kristina has been ruling for ten years, and she's sick of it. Her love is gone, her friend Descartes dies, and Sweden resists her attempts to bring the Enlightenment north at every turn. Additionally, she's decided to convert to Catholicism, and leave Lutheranism behind. All of these things combine to make her realize that she can no longer rule Sweden. So she plans for her abdication. She adopts her cousin Carl Gustav, then abdicates in his favor. She leaves Sweden for a better life.

Now, as for historical accuracy, this movie does pretty well. Kristina did have a love affair with Ebba Sparre*, and she certainly struggled against the ignorance of Sweden in that era. She did adopt her cousin, and abdicate in his favor.

However, there are a few inaccuracies. One of the recurring themes of the movie is the philosophy of Descartes, and his friendship with the queen. In reality, Kristina couldn't stand Descartes, and they were, by no means, friends. Additionally, Kristina became queen at sixteen, not eighteen.

Overall, this was a fantastic movie about a fascinating woman. I highly recommend watching this, and this is, by no means, the last time I write about Queen Kristina.

*Anyone who wants to insist Kristina and Ebba were just 'gals being pals' can meet me in the Target parking lot at midnight, and we'll fight it out. I try to limit my personal biases, but I have no patience for queer erasure in history, so bring a knife.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Sweden, the Gregorian Calendar, and the Double Leap Year of 1712

Not a lot happened in 1582. As far as world events go, it was pretty quiet. 1582 was, however the year of  the reform of the Julian calendar, which was a pretty big deal.

Pope Gregory XIII decided that some major changes were needed in the Catholic church. Germanic countries were leaving the faith left and right, and this upstart priest kept nailing things to church doors. Gregory implemented many of the changes decided upon in the Council of Trent, but he also decided to reform the calendar, because the Julian calendar was downright inaccurate.

Image result for pope gregory xiii
Gregory XIII in his fancy tiara
Why was the Julian calendar inaccurate, you ask. Well, according to the Julian calendar every year has 365.25 days. In actuality, a day is eleven minutes short of that easy number, which I think we can all agree was a bit of a dick move on the part of Mother Nature. This meant that by our friend Greg's time the Julian calendar was a wee bit inaccurate. The Julian calendar had been in use for over 1,600 yeas. Eleven minutes over more than a millennia starts to add up after a while, and the Julian calendar was about two weeks ahead of time when Pope Gregory was kicking it in the Vatican. This wouldn't have been much of an issue, except it made scheduling Easter a little difficult, and that really would not do. So Pope Gregory decided to adopt a new calendar.

Gregory's calendar was a major success in Catholic countries like Poland, Italy, France and Spain, but Protestants viewed it with suspicion. Protestants were convinced that this new calendar was yet another way that the Catholic Church was trying to control the world. Obviously, the whole political point of Protestantism was to avoid that, so Protestant nations told the Pope to go to hell, and continued in their Julian ways for quite some time.

Slowly, however, most nations relented. It was a bit difficult to be out of sync with the rest of the world. Turkey was the last hold out, and put off adopting the calendar untilf 1927. To get in sync with the Gregorian calendar, most nations dropped days from their calendar. The Americans lost most of September in 1752, as did the English and Canadians. However, when Sweden adopted the calendar in 1712, the proposed to add two days to February.

Sweden at the time also encompassed the nation of Finland, and 1712 would normally have been a leap year, as under the Julian calendar all years divisible by four are leap years (including years that end in 100 that aren't divisible by 400). However, to get in sync with the shiny new(ish) Gregorian calendar, the Swedes added an extra day, bringing around the once-in-a-lifetime February 30th.

Unfortunately, nothing momentous seems to have happened in Sweden on that day. It was a bit of a slow news week. Nobody important was born, and nothing big happened, at least as far as I can find. It's a shame really. February 30th only came around (for Sweden anyways) once, you would think that someone would have made a big deal out of it. But no luck. Were it not for the oddity of the date, February 30, 1712 would have been just another boring day in history.

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Gregorian Calendar
Time and Date
Julian vs. Gregorian (first two pages)
February 30
Pope Gregory