King of Finland

What if Finland had become a monarchy? Although Finland declared itself an independent republic in 1917, the parliament elected Friedrich Karl, or Fredrik Kaarle in the localised form, as king of Finland in October 1918. The battle for the system of government for the young State of Finland is one of the more colourful periods of Finnish political history. Was the pursuit of monarchy for Finland a dalliance with the idea of royal reign, or simply a case of Realpolitik? The exhibition at Museum Milavida explores the background for the project that the opposers of Finnish monarchy derogatively called a ‘royal adventure’.

The Great War, which resulted in more than 20 million people losing their lives, still raged in parts of Europe in 1918.After the war, the map of Europe was redrawn as the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman empires fell. A civil war was going on in Russia, and there were fears in Finland that the Bolsheviks would be victorious. Protection was sought from Germany, as it had earlier supported the government side in the Finnish Civil War. Finland needed a strong government, and a constitutional monarchy, not a republic, would be the easiest way to achieve this.

After a battle with many twists and turns to finalise the system of government for Finland, an election for a king was held. The victorious candidate was Prince of Hesse Friedrich Karl (1864–1940), brother-in-law to German Emperor Wilhelm II. The newly elected king only ‘ruled’ his country for two months, because he refused to accept the crown in December 1918 due to changes in the political situation. Germany had run out of luck in the war and the emperor had lost his power. Friedrich Karl never once visited Finland.

The King of Finland -exhibition explores the background and preparations for the Finnish monarchy. On display will be objects obtained for the would-be royal palace that belong to both private and museum collections. In collaboration with the Serlachius Museums, a crown for the king of Finland will be crafted for this exhibition, following designs never previously used, created by Eric O. W. Ehrström and kept at the National Archives and the archives of the Serlachius Museum. The crown will be made by Tuomas Hyrsky.
Exhibition is open 9.2.-28.10.2018