Marty Helgesen and an Amazing Co-Religionist in the Realm of the Mind

By John Hertz: (reprinted, mostly, from No Direction Home 23) It’s been a while since I’ve heard from or about Marty Helgesen (“All syllogisms have three parts. Therefore, this is not a syllogism”). I miss him.

Besides contributing to APA-L and MINNEAPA (APA = amateur press, or publishing, association), and publishing Radio Free Thulcandra which I still hope to see more issues of, he sparked good conversation at Christian Fandom parties I found at science fiction conventions. I’m not a Christian, but I’m not in fandom to be agreed with.

Just the other day I saw a storefront with a sign The Chiro Man. Helgesen would have understood why I was disappointed to find this was only a chiropractor and not a church.

I thought of him when I happened to meet (on paper) a remarkable co-religionist of his. She died 330 years ago. That’s not too many.

I’ve warned you I’m becoming a man of maxims. I feel it coming over me. My grandfather was a man of maxims, for instance “If it weren’t my fool, I’d laugh.” The two of us pale in comparison to

Queen Christina of Sweden, 1626-1689

Here are a few of hers, from Maxims of a Queen, Birch tr. 1907.

Conscience is the only mirror which neither flatters nor deceives. p. 22

To praise anyone either more or less than he deserves is to betray truth. p. 23

Nature seldom makes a hero and Fortune does not always proclaim those that she makes. p. 24

Reading is part of the duty of an honest man. p. 25

We should always try to surpass ourselves. This occupation will last our lives out. p. 33

And a few more, from F. Bain, Christina, Queen of Sweden (1890).

One is, in proportion as one can love. p. 358

There is a star which unites souls of the first order, though ages and distances divide them. p. 359

He who loses his temper with the world has learned all he knows to no purpose. p. 361

I had to learn about her.

When her father King Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632) died at the Battle of Lützen, she became Queen at the age of 6. He had been 37. Until she was 18 the regent was Lord High Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, Count of Södermöre (1583-1654). She was happy to study ten hours a day; she learned Arabic, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Spanish. Oxenstierna discussed Tacitus (56-120) with her.

She assembled a great library, including treasures collected by Rudolph II (1552-1612; Holy Roman Emperor) which came to her when her armies took Prague Castle in 1648. At her death connoisseurs were impressed by her taste in antiques, enamels, engravings, pictures, statues.

She fenced, rode – astride, at a gallop – hunted, and was a crack shot, but “I never killed an animal without feeling pity for it.” Ambassadors treated only with her, never being passed to secretaries or ministers. She never drank anything but water. She never married.

“She collected savants as she collected art” (W. & A. Durant, The Age of Reason Begins p. 503, 1961; v. 7 of The Story of Civilization); she invited Grotius (1583-1645) to become her librarian, but he died on the way; Pascal (1623-1662) sent her one of his calculating machines (“pascalines”) with a letter complimenting her on being a queen in the realm of the mind; she brought Descartes (1596-1650) to organize a scientific academy (1649).

She founded the Regular Mail Times (1645), still the oldest currently published newspaper in the world (merged with Domestic Times, 1821; alas, Internet-only since 2007).

She built a college at Dorpat and gave it a library; she founded six more colleges. She made the college at Åbo (Swedish name of Turku, Finland) into a university, endowing it with money and books (moved to Helsinki 1827, now known as U. Helsinki); she gave the Finns their first translation of the Bible.

She brought in an Italian opera troupe and a Dutch theater troupe.

She made Georg Stiernhielm (1598-1672; historian, jurist, linguist, mathematician, poet; Fellow of the Royal Society of London, 1669; when on his deathbed he asked his friend Samuel Columbus 1642-1679 to write his epitaph, Columbus cried “What shall I write?” and Stiernhielm said “Oh, just a few words, for instance ‘He lived merrily, while he lived’”, which was done) court poet (1649); that year his masque The Captured Cupid was performed with Christina dancing the lead role of the goddess Diana.

She made the French soprano Anne Chabanceau de La Barre (1628-1688) court singer (1653).

“The unanimous testimony is that in government she did her own thinking, made her own decisions, ruled as well as reigned” (Durant, p. 504). But she dreamed of abdication – and of reconciliation with the Catholic Church.

A Catholic could not then hold the throne of Sweden.

She negotiated with the Diet to protect the hereditary character of the monarchy.

In 1654 “the final ceremony was almost as moving as the abdication of Charles V [her grandfather] ninety-nine years before. She took the crown from her head [the Lord High Steward, Count Per Brahe the Younger 1602-1680, was supposed to do that, but did not move], discarded all regal insignia [ceremonially removed one by one], removed her royal mantle, stood before the Diet in a dress of plain white silk, and bade her country and her people farewell in a speech that brought taciturn old nobles and phlegmatic burgesses to tears” (Durant, p. 505).

She left Sweden in man’s clothes and rode through Denmark under the name of Count Dohna (Count and Burgrave Christopher Delphicus of Dohna & Carwinden 1628-1668, Major General of her Royal Guard); a former Swedish queen could not have traveled there safely. Pausing in Ducal Holstein, Hamburg, Leiden, Utrecht (visiting Anna Maria van Schurman 1607-1678, calligrapher, engraver, musician, painter, papercutter, poet, who knew Arabic, Aramaic, Dutch, English, Ethiopic, French, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Persian, Syriac, and had corresponded with Christina in Latin), and Antwerp, she arrived in Italy with a queen’s entourage of 255 persons and 247 horses, announced her conversion, met Bernini (1598-1680) who became a lifelong friend, and was fêted by Pope Alexander VII.

In 1656 she went to France hoping to mediate between France and Spain over Naples. She returned to Rome in 1659. She made three more visits to Sweden, Hamburg again, France again, Rome. She established Rome’s first public opera house (1671). She was the patroness of Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) and Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725); Corelli dedicated his first publication to her (12 Church sonatas for two violins and basso continuo, 1681).

She rebuked King Louis XIV of France for revoking the Edict of Nantes and abolishing the rights of French Protestants; she made Pope Clement X prohibit the chasing of Jews through the streets during Carnival, and she issued a declaration that Roman Jews were under her protection (1686).

She had asked for a simple burial, but she was given the Grotto Vaticane, one of only three women to receive this honor. Pope Clement XI commissioned a monument for her (1702).

Queen Christina (R. Mamoulian dir. 1933; Greta Garbo as Christina; written by S.N. Behrman and Ben Hecht) is famous but inaccurate – unless, as has been suggested, her fictional love for a Spanish ambassador is an allegory for her real love of the intellect and her embrace of the Catholic faith.


One of the symbols of Christianity is the first two Greek letters of Christ (a Greek word), chi and rho (or ro).

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10 thoughts on “Marty Helgesen and an Amazing Co-Religionist in the Realm of the Mind

  1. In addition to the APAs that John mentioned, Marty Helgesen was also a long time member of FLAP (Fannish Little Amateur Press). In the latest quarterly mailing (#192), FLAP’s O.E. wrote “Marty Helggsen is in assisted living, doing well and enjoying music and other things there. Unfortunately, he has memory problems and is no longer interested in fandom or even looking at the mail that his sister brings him, so at her request I have removed him from the roster.”

    I believe that Marty’s last contribution to FLAP appeared in the 181st mailing, dated September 2016.

  2. Another interesting thing is when they tried to force her to marry her cousin Count Karl Gustav. She refused with the words “that Her Majestys eyes and nose are placed too high for her to give herself away into the power of a man in the state she now stands are in.”.

    Her refusal to marry was foremost that she, having been the regent, didn’t want to see the man she married to have the right to rule over her.

    There’s been a lot of gender discussions about Kristina in Sweden, as she showed a lot of contempt towards other women, they were “wrong by nature” and only a few managed to correct this wrongness. She spoke about having a male soul and partly a male body. This lead to widespread speculation later on if she had been a hemaphrodite and in 1965, they even opened her grave to check. It was an ordinary female body inside.

  3. @Hampus Eckerman: how could they tell, 3 centuries later? Was she embalmed, or is the soft-tissue variation reliably reflected in the skeleton?

  4. I honestly have no idea. There’s a book written about the grave opening, but I haven’t read it. They opened the grave again in 2001 to get DNA from her, I think there were still hair remains. Supposedly there was nothing unusual with it. But the gender aspect is interesting and it is not unusual with swedish articles calling her a transmale and there’s been at least one play on the theme.

    If people are interested more, there are several good swedish articles online that I can link to, but not sure how readable they will be after a google translate.

  5. There is also substantial evidence that Christina had intense romantic relationships with women (and gossip that some of those relationships were erotic). This problematizes speculations on her gender identity because in that era it was common for gender to be assigned to align with obligatory heterosexuality. Which isn’t meant to erase the potential that—given modern frameworks—she might have identified as trans. Only to point out that her era completely bought into the notion that (to paraphrase a feminist quote I can’t trace authorship of at the moment) people were either human beings or women, and when women acted like full human beings they were accused of trying to be men.

    But in any event, any time you see a woman’s personal life summed up as “she never married” ask what other things might have been going on in her life other than failure to marry.

  6. Oh, yes. There are letters from her to Lady of the Court Ebba Sparre, proclaiming love, worship ans talking about thousands of kisses.

  7. people were either human beings or women, and when women acted like full human beings they were accused of trying to be men.

    Simone de Beauvoir

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