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News, 12/23/2008

Foreign Ministry maker of a King in 1918


After the Civil War, Finland was making plans for turning the country into a kingdom, and the men of the Foreign Ministry were involved in the project with enthusiasm. Finland's first Foreign Minister Otto Stenroth was a convinced monarchist. The Ministry was pursuing the selection of a future king and planning his training and reception.

Under the Declaration of Independence, Finland was a republic, but in the chaos of the Civil War, a view was gaining ground in bourgeois circles that monarchy would be the best safeguard for the country's stable development. Otto Stenroth, who was to become Foreign Minister, signed his name in a petition in support of monarchy. The first Ambassadors posted abroad, too, Edvard Hjelt in Berlin, Alexis Gripenberg in Stockholm and Armas Saastamoinen in Copenhagen, were convinced of the merits of monarchy.

Intrigues in the selection of King

Swedish and Danish princes, even German generals were proposed as candidates for King, but the ones favoured the most were Germany's numerous princes. Within Finland's foreign affairs administration, a number of candidates were supported.

As early as in May 1918, the Finnish Ambassador in Berlin, Edvard Hjelt, a man to take swift action, had contacted Duke Adolf Frederick of Mecklenburg enquiring his desire to become Finland's King. In Foreign Minister Stenroth's view the actions of the Ambassador were ”a definite mistake”, and he forbad the Embassy to pursue searching for a king. The deputy of the Embassy Adolf von Bonsdorff, in turn, acted behind Hjelt's back to obtain the acquisition of Emperor William's son Oscar to Finland. Indeed, Counsellor of Foreign Affairs assigned to Berlin Rafael Erich complained that Berlin was full of secretive Finnish diplomats buzzing around, getting in each other's way. Oscar was the favourite of Finland's Government, too.

However, the Emperor and the German Foreign Ministry put an end to such dreaming once and for all: no son of the Emperor's should be sent off to Finland. Toward the end of the summer the Embassy in Berlin had come up with a new candidate: Prince Frederick William of Prussia. Finally, the Germans and Finns reached an understanding that the best man to Finland's throne would be the Emperor's brother-in-law, Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse. The Finnish Parliament made a formal decision in the matter on the 9th of October 1918.

Queen and KingQueen and King

Enlarge a photo 

Foreign Ministry as the King's schoolmaster

The future King was to know his kingdom and his subjects. Counsellor of Foreign Affairs Hjalmar J. Procopé and the Foreign Ministry Archivist Harri Holma were sent to Schloss Frederickshoff in the vicinity of Frankfort to serve as teachers.

They were to familiarise Frederick Charles and his family in Finland's social life, history, administration and political life, and teach them Finnish. The latter, rather challenging task was entrusted to Holma.

The World War and the challenges of a forthcoming kinghood distracted the pupil's thoughts away from the cases of the Finnish language. "Today, we studied Finnish for 1,5 hours... we did reading exercises and paradigms. He does not have any bad pronunciation habits, but try teaching a 50- year-old pronunciation..." wrote Holma to his supervisors in Finland.

Protocol put to the test - the Great Reception

At the same time, Helsinki was preparing for the arrival of a King. Artist Eric O. Ehrström made proposals for a crown and Court uniforms, and courtseys were being learnt. Rumours had it that Counsellor of Foreign Affairs Procopé was expected to receive the title of baron.

The Imperial Palace on the Market Square was planned to become the Royal Castle (currently Presidential Palace). Chancellor Charles Müller who had been borrowed from Germany to the Finnish Foreign Ministry as an Advisor watched the herring and potato trading before the Castle with slight repulsion.

Under Müller's supervision, a protocol programme was being prepared in the Foreign Ministry for the reception of the King. The Foreign Minister was to fetch the King from Tallinn by boat. The King would arrive in Hietalahti with canons booming and church bells ringing. The programme contained speeches, flowers, hurrays, and the Soldiers' Band playing Our Land. Foreign Ambassadors posted in Helsinki were to be presented in connection with the reception as well. Before the evening festivities, a luncheon was fitted into the King's programme accompanied only by the Regent, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

pdfInstructions on the King's arrival 1918 (PDF)

Lord of Schloss Frederickshoff

Germany lost the World War, so it could no longer protect Finland. Frederick Charles never arrived in Finland. In the week before Christmas, the Prince wrote a letter to the Finns in which he declared abdication. In his view, this was best for Finland and her future.

Frederick Charles retired in the peace of Schloss Frederickshoff. He kept a close eye on everything that happened in Finland and took pleasure in talking about Finland with the people closest to him. The official Finland kept its distance vis-à-vis Frederick Charles. Harri Holma, who served in Berlin as Ambassador in 1920-1927 met his former pupil only a handful of times. Frederick Charles died in May 1940.

A couple of weeks after the funeral, attaché Tauno Sutinen from the Embassy, following the Foreign Ministry's instructions, visited the Prince's casket and placed a wreath on it on behalf for the Finnish State. The Lord Chamberlain of the Castle was the only man to witness this modest event. The text on the wreath was short:" Landgrave Fr. Charles / Government of Finland".

Text: Head of Information Service Jyrki Paloposki, Ministry for Foreign Affairs

* * * * *

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs marks the 90th anniversary year of its establishment in 2008. During the jubilee year, the Ministry will present its history and treasures from its archives, among others in a series of articles.

In this series Ministry has earlier published the articles:

  • 90 years ago - the ministries were given their names (Jyrki Paloposki, MFA) 12/1/2008
  • The beginnings of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs during the year of foundation 1918 (Jyrki Paloposki, MFA) 8/1/2008
  • The Finnish flag (Jussi Pekkarinen, MFA) 6/5/2008
  • Establishment of a mission and appointment of an envoy (Jussi Pekkarinen, MFA) 5/7/2008
  • Åland - To Finland or to Sweden? (Jussi Pekkarinen, MFA) 3/19/2008
  • Negotiating solo - Councillor of State Edvard Hjelt and Finland's first treaty with a foreign State (Antti Vuojolainen, MFA) 3/10/2008
  • Vying foreign services (Jussi Pekkarinen, MFA) 2/1/2008
  • Finland's independence is recognised by European states - vivat, floreat,crescat (Jyrki Paloposki, MFA) 1/11/2008
  • New Year’s Eve at Smolna, St. Petersburg – Recognition of Finland’s independence on 31 December 1917 (Jyrki Paloposki, MFA) 12/27/2007
  • Declaration of independence raised Finland “among free and independent nations” (Jyrki Paloposki, MFA) 12/5/2007

All the articles can be read on the website MFA 90.

This document

Updated 1/21/2009

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