Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Queen Christina (1933)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Queen Christina (1933)

In MGM's and director Rouben Mamoulian's lavish, classic, well-produced historical-romance and costume drama that stretched historical truth - it was a romantically-told biopic about the Swedish Queen (ethereally-performed by Greta Garbo) who served the Scandinavian country in the mid-1600s - and faced a dilemma - a choice between love and royal duty - when she fell in love with a Catholic-practicing Spanish envoy:

  • the film's opening - the crowning of 6 year-old Christina (Cora Sue Collins) as the Protestant Queen of Sweden, after her father, King Gustavus Adolphus (C. Montague Shaw) of Sweden, died in 1632 on the battlefield during the Thirty Years War; Christina had the proper upbringing: ("Her father, our King, brought up this child as a boy accustomed her ears to the sound of cannon fire and sought to mold her spirit after his own"); she vowed to continue fighting until the war was won
Death of Swedish King on Battlefield
Coronation of 6 year-old Queen Christina
  • the reigning, peace-loving, lovely yet willful 17th century Swedish Queen (Greta Garbo), now an adult, was ruling on the throne when she was summoned from hunting and told: "Sweden now has the commanding place in Europe" after thirty years of war; she was dismayed by the high casualty reports of 10,000 men lost in the victorious war, and the expensive drain on Swedish resources: ("A few more victories like this and we will have to hire foreigners to fight our battles")
  • the Queen's heroic, victorious, older Swedish-born cousin from the warring Swedish army, Prince Palatine Charles X. Gustavus (Reginald Owen) was about to arrive home from the battlefield, and she was expected to become betrothed to the national military hero; the controversial queen of Sweden realized that she was being forced into the possibility of a politically-correct marriage to Prince Gustavus, to give her country an heir to the throne; she rejected the idea of marrying someone she didn't love, and instead flirted with her handsome and ambitious treasury secretary Count Magnus (Ian Keith) (but their affair was winding down)
  • in Parliament, she listened as all of her constituents (the nobles, a gallant general, the Archbishop (David Torrence), and the returning Prince) clamored for more war against the "barbarians" to avenge the glory of Sweden, but Queen Christina disagreed with them; the Queen requested another opinion from the down-trodden peasants who were the ones sacrificed: "But what of the peasants? You peasants have fought this war"; when a representative from the peasants proclaimed that they would go when ordered, she commanded: "You shall go no longer"
The Parliament's Discussion About Further War
"But what of the peasants?"
Listening to the Warmongers
"I want no more of it...I want peace and peace I will have"
  • with her demands for a proclamation of peace, she rejected calls for more violence and decreed that the bloody war would end: "There are other things to live for than wars. I have had enough of them. We have been fighting since I was in the cradle and many years before. It is enough. I shall ask the powers to meet for a speedy and honorable peace. There must be an end!...Spoils! Glory! Flags and trumpets! What is behind these high-sounding words? Death and destruction! Triumphals of crippled men! Sweden victorious in a ravaged Europe. An island in a dead sea. I tell you, I want no more of it. I want for my people security and happiness. I want to cultivate the arts of peace. The arts of life! I want peace and peace I will have"
  • meanwhile, the Queen expressed her romantic attraction to her own neglected and complaining lady-in-waiting Countess Ebba Sparre (Elizabeth Young) whom she affectionately kissed on the lips while greeting her; Countess Ebba was unhappy: "I can't get near you"; Christina explained how she must attend to her official duties of "ambassadors, treaties, councils" instead of going sleigh-riding with Ebba, but then she promised to spend private time with Ebba later (Christina: "Today, I'll dispose of them by sundown, I promise you, and we'll go away for two or three days in the country. Wouldn't you like that?" Ebba: "Oh, I'd love it."); Ebba was also kissed as she was leaving; (later, it was revealed that Ebba was only pretending to be sympathetic, concerned, and caring for the Queen, and the Queen confronted and reprimanded her: "You pretended to be interested in me and my problems. Your sympathy, your concern - all pretense, underneath which you resent me") [Note: After finding heterosexual love herself later in the film, the Queen excused Count Ebba's behavior and blessed her marital intentions to wed Count Jacob (Edward Norris).]
  • a startling statement was made to Chancellor Oxenstierna (Lewis Stone) by the Queen, after he kept pressuring her to marry Prince Charles to produce an heir; she expressed her professed desire to remain a bachelor: (Chancellor: "But your Majesty, you cannot die an old maid." Christina: "I have no intention to, Chancellor. I shall die a bachelor!")
  • the Queen desired to escape from the pressures of the Court and her people to marry: ("We want Prince Charles for our King and Christina for our Queen") - to be lost and forget her problems in the snow (she had said earlier: "Snow is like a wide sea. One could go out and be lost in it and forget the world and oneself"), she prepared to go on a hunt by impersonating a young boy (by cross-dressing in a young man's clothes) and restlessly escaped the Stockholm royal court with her trusted servant Aage (C. Aubrey Smith)
  • during her horseback ride, she happened to encounter a group of Spaniards in a coach that was disabled on its way to Stockholm - carrying the new Spanish (and Catholic) diplomatic ambassador-envoy to Sweden, Don Antonio de la Prada (John Gilbert, Garbo's silent era leading man and lover)
  • all travelers were stranded and forced to overnight in a country inn during a fierce snowstorm; Christina paid the innkeeper (Ferdinand Munier) for the last room available; later, while standing on a table that evening, the disguised Christina boldly assessed the Queen's highly promiscuous behavior in order to settle a wager and contentious dispute amongst some of the drunken guests: "The truth is that the Queen has had twelve lovers this past year, a round dozen"; after being charmed by Don Antonio's wit and intelligence in the dining room, she was asked to share her bedroom with him and she reluctantly agreed, knowing full-well that there would be complications ("You shall share my room with me")
  • in a sizzling bedroom scene, the Queen soon revealed her true self to the Spanish ambassador that she was female (but he remained unaware of her identity as the Queen); the revelation occurred as she removed her outer garment and averted her eyes downward; the emissary took a look and was surprised to realize that she had breasts under her thin blouse - in a double-take, he exclaimed: "Of course!"
With Eyes Averted
The Spanish Ambassador's Double-Take
"Of course!"
  • it was the beginning of a notorious, multi-night tryst and bedroom scene (before a roaring fire); their love grew in the bedroom during a clandestine and passionate love affair that lasted a few days during the snowstorm; before a flickering fire, she ate grapes meltingly in the flickering firelight with Don Antonio
The Passionate Tryst in a Country Inn Bedroom: Christina with Spanish Envoy Don Antonio
Firelight and Eating Grapes
Passionate Kisses
Memorizing Items in the Bedroom
  • later in the after-glow of their heterosexual love-making (a scene considered offensive by the censors), she caressed objects in the room (she even touched and hugged a phallic-shaped vertical stack of wool next to a spinning wheel) and then laid down on the bed's soft pillow; on the other side of the bed, she touched a religious picture hanging on the wall and embraced the massive wooden bedpost (another phallic symbol), and then made sentimental joyous statements as she 'memorized' every single item: "I have been memorizing this room. In the future, in my memory, I shall live a great deal in this room...I have imagined happiness, but happiness you cannot imagine, happiness you must feel, joy you must feel. Oh, and this great joy I feel now...This is how the Lord must have felt when he first beheld the finished world with all his creatures breathing, living!"
  • later in Stockholm, when the Spaniard presented himself to the femininely-dressed Queen seated on the throne, he recognized - to his shock - that she was his lover; it was a startling reunion scene; his mission was to present King Philip IV of Spain's offer of marriage to her; when they met privately, the ambassador felt his loyalty to the King had been compromised: ("It isn't pleasant to have betrayed one's king, to have dishonored him in a far country"); he was relieved when she apologized for seemingly misleading him, and told him that she had truly fallen in love with him: (" had been so enchanting to be a woman. Not a queen, just a woman in a man's arms....But I fell in love with you. I love you, Antonio....Forgive me for being a queen...What do I want? What? I want back that room in the inn, the snow that fell, the warm fire and the sweet hours - beloved one")
  • the jealous, antagonistic and suspicious Count Magnus expressed his unrequited affection for the Queen, and then when rejected, he sought revenge by demonizing her for even considering a Spanish proposal of marriage, and spreading scandalous rumors and gossip about Christina's behavior (who was thought to be under the spell of the Spaniard and witchcraft); she realized rumors were being spread, and agonized over the dire consequences of her romantic and political decision; while riding in a sleigh with the ambassador, she saw the unrest for herself: ("Evidently, my people who are said to love me, do not wish me to be happy")
  • the Queen had to silence a threatening and indignant mob with torches at the palace by personally appearing at the top of the castle's outdoor stairs with a steely-eyed presence - she was able to calm the crowd: "My business is governing and I have the knack of it as you have yours for your trade by inheritance. My father was a king, and his father before him. My father died for Sweden and I live for her. Now my good people, go home to your work and leave me to mine. My blessing on all of you"
  • after Don Antonio had been ordered to leave Sweden for his own safety, late at night, Christina grew tired with being Queen, and asked for advice from her Chancellor: ("All my life, I've been a symbol. A symbol is eternal, changeless, an abstraction. A human being is mortal and changeable, with desires and impulses, hopes and despairs. I'm tired of being a symbol, Chancellor. I long to be a human must live for oneself. After all, Chancellor, one's own life is all one has")
  • in a powerful and shocking abdication scene, rather than announcing her expected marriage to cousin Prince Charles, she decided to entirely give up the throne for her love of Don Antonio: ("I am resolved, therefore, here and now, to place in your hands my abdication from the throne of Sweden"); she appointed Prince Charles as her successor ("...he is the man best fitted for the government of this kingdom") and then removed the "emblems of power" - her sceptre, the heavy, burdensome crown from her head, and her regal robe
  • the delivery of her sad farewell words to her court: "And now, farewell. I thank Almighty God who caused me to be born of a royal stock and raised me to be a Queen over so large and mighty a kingdom. I thank too, those nobles who defended the state when I was a child and all of you for the fidelity and attachment you've shown me. Let me look at you once more. And so, let me remember you with love and loyalty till memory is no more. God bless you. Farewell"
  • Queen Christina's plan was to catch up to the departing Don Antonio, and to rendezvous with him and sail to "the islands of the moon...a place I've never been"; however, ambitious, vindictive and jealous courtier and ex-lover Count Magnus destroyed her dream of love; a fencing duel had already been challenged - it commenced in a forest setting between the vindictive Count and Don Antonio - the outcome was left unknown until the liberated Christina arrived on the deck of the ship and discovered Pedro (Akim Tamiroff) and Don Antonio's courtiers standing around her mortally-wounded lover from Magnus' sword; the Spanish envoy was optimistic: "When the wind is with us, we sail...Spain. My home is on a white cliff overlooking the sea. You'll never leave me, will you?...Your Majesty" - and then he tragically expired in her arms
  • in the bleak finale, Christina was exiled from Sweden forever, but she optimistically mused to Aage that she would still sail on: "The wind is with us"; off-screen, a crew member shouted out the last words of the film: "All hands on deck. Let the gangway fall"
  • in the concluding sequence, she abandoned Sweden forever - leaving behind both her Queenship and her dead lover to continue on to Spain; as the sails bloomed out, she moved to the curved bow of the ship and stood mutely and pensively as a figurehead; there was a lengthy, slow-tracking-in final image ending with a close-up of the proud, unblinking Queen's enigmatic face, gazing into nothingness, as she proceeded to Spain to face her unknown destiny - before a final fade to black
The Enigmatic Close-Up Ending at the Bow of the Ship

First View of Adult Queen

Affair with Count Magnus (Ian Keith)

Arrival of Prince Charles Gustavus From the Battlefield

Two Bi-Sexual Kisses for Countess Ebba

"I shall die a bachelor"

Often Dressed in Young Men's Clothing with Her Hunting Dogs

First View of Spanish Ambassador Don Antonio (John Gilbert) in Disabled Coach

Together in the Inn

"The Queen Has Had 12 Lovers This Past Year..."

Reunited with the Spanish Ambassador in the Court: Another Double-Take

The Antagonistic and Jealous Count Magnus

Rekindling Their Love

"Evidently, my people who are said to love me, do not wish me to be happy"

Confronting the Mob on the Palace Stairs

On the Throne: The Announcement of the Abdication of the Queen and Appointment of a Successor


Fencing Duel Between Magnus and Don Antonio

Death Scene of Don Antonio

"Yes, Aage, we will sail...The wind is with us"


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