Christina of Sweden was the daughter of King Gustav II Adolf and Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg. Her father died fighting in the Thirty Years' War, leaving the 6-year-old Christina his only heir. She received a princely education and and was known as a child prodigy. She became queen of Sweden on reaching the age of 18, and was a forceful and strong-willed leader. She transformed Stockholm into a center of cultural and intellectual activity that attracted foreign writers, artists, musicians, and scholars such as Rene Descartes. She kept up a voluminous correspondence in multiple languages, wrote essays, and composed maxims, verse, and drama. Queen Christina’s abdication from the throne at age 28 and her conversion to the Roman Catholic faith shocked and confused her compatriots and all of Europe. She chose her cousin Charles X Gustav as her successor, and left Sweden for Rome. From there she travelled -- usually incognito -- to Paris and other capital cities, meeting with monarchs and nobles. Returning to Rome, she assembled the greatest collection of paintings of the Venetian school ever created, as well as other notable works of art. Her palace became the meeting place for men of letters and musicians; she sponsored the composers Alessandro Scarlatti, who became her choirmaster, and Arcangelo Corelli, who directed her personal orchestra. She was renowned for her pioneering advocacy for personal freedom and for her charities. Her huge collection of books and manuscripts is now in the Vatican library.