Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview

CHRISTINA OF DENMARK
(1521-1590)

Denmark
Leader in Exile

Christina was the niece of the powerful Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain Charles V. Her mother Isabella married King Christian II of Denmark in June 1514, part of an alliance that was initiated by the young woman's grandfather, the Emperor Maximilian. By 1520 King Christian had failed to check the growing Lutheran reform movement in his kingdom, whereas his numerous affronts against the aristocracy in Denmark led to great discontent among both clergy and nobility. After a series of clashes with his most powerful subjects, the king was deposed in 1523, and he and his family fled to Holland. The infant Christina of Denmark was never again to set foot in the land of her birth.

Christina's mother Isabella died in 1528 at the age of twenty-five, and the exiled king handed his children over to the care of their aunt Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands. For the next four years, until Margaret's death in 1531, Christina, together with her brother and sister, lived in Flanders under the direction of tutors and supportive relatives. Their father was later captured and imprisoned by his rebellious subjects, and his only male heir, Prince John, died of a fever in 1532 while traveling with his uncle, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The next year Christina's powerful uncle entered into an agreement with Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, whereby eleven-year-old Christina would be wed to the duke. Like so many arranged marriages within the ranks of royalty, this one was motivated by the emperor's larger strategic concerns in the Italian penninsula, in particular, an eagerness to preempt French ambitions in Northern Italy. The marriage between the forty-year-old Sforza and his childwife lasted only eighteen months, however, when after a brief illness the duke died in November 1535.

Christina returned to Flanders in 1537, and almost immediately upon her arrival at her childhood home in Brussels, rumors began

-37-

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