Väinö I
Reign October 9, 1918 – May 28, 1940
Predecessor title created
Successor Väinö II
Spouse Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt
Prince Friedrich Wilhelm
Prince Maximilian
Philipp, Landgrave of Hesse
Väinö II, King of Finland
Prince Christoph
Prince Richard
House House of Hesse
Father Alexander Frederick, Landgrave of Hesse
Mother Princess Anna of Prussia
Born May 1, 1868
Gut Panker, Plön, Kingdom of Prussia Flag of Prussia
Died May 28, 1940 (age 72)
Helsinki, Finland Flag of Finland

Väinö I (Prince Fredrick Charles of Hesse, born Frederick Charles Louis Constantine) of Finland (May 1, 1868, Gut Panker – May 28, 1940, Helsinki) was the King of Finland following the Finnish civil war from October 9, 1918 until his death on May 28, 1940. His reign saw Finland become a fully independent nation narrowly avoiding becoming another puppet state to Germany after World War I. He also managed save Finland from occupation by the Soviet Union in the Winter War by signing the Moscow Peace Treaty in March 1940.

Early life

Born as Prince Fredrick Charles at his family's manor, Gut Panker, in Plön, Holstein. He was the third son of Frederick William of Hesse, the then Landgrave of Hesse, and his wife Princess Anna of Prussia, daughter of Prince Charles of Prussia and Princess Marie Louise of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. The elder Frederick, a Danish military officer, had been one (and perhaps the foremost) of the candidates of Christian VIII of Denmark in the 1840s to succeed to the Danish throne if the latter's male line died out, but renounced his rights to the throne in 1851 in favor of his sister, Louise. The elder Frederick was of practically Danish upbringing, having lived all his life in Denmark, but in 1875, when the senior branch of Hesse-Kassel became extinct, he settled in northern Germany, where the House had substantial landholdings.

Seventeen days after his own birth, the baby Frederick's first cousin, the then Tsarevna Maria Fyodorovna of Russia, daughter of his aunt Queen Louise of Denmark, gave birth in Saint Petersburg to Nicholas II of Russia, who would become Frederick Charles' predecessor as the monarch of Finland (1894–1917).


Prinzessin Margarethe von Preussen und Prinz Friedrich Karl von Hessen

Prince Frederick Charles and Princess Margaret of Prussia in 1893.

On January 25, 1893 Frederick married Princess Margaret of Prussia, the youngest daughter of the late Frederick III, German Emperor and Victoria, Princess Royal, eldest daughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and her consort Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. They had six children, including two sets of twins:

Upon their father's death in 1884, Frederick's eldest brother Frederick William became the head of the House of Hesse, and afterwards his next brother Alexander.

Reign as king of Finland

Early rule

King of Finland's crown2

The crown used by Väinö I as the first king of Finland

Frederick Charles was elected as the King of Finland by the Parliament of Finland on October 9, 1918. Frederick Charles accepted the throne and arrived in the country on January 5, 1919. He took the regnal name of Väinö to show his support to cause of Finnish independence from foreign rule. Väinö was crowned as the first King of Finland on July 26, 1919 and took up residence in the Royal Palace.

As the first national king, Väinö had to form various royal precedents and interpretations of how the royal powers were conducted. His early reign was also marked by a succession of short-lived governments. During this time, Väinö nominated and appointed eight governments. These were mostly coalitions of the Agrarians and the National Progressive, National Coalition and Swedish People's parties, although Väinö also appointed two caretaker governments. Importantly, Väinö generally supported all the governments that he nominated, although he also sometimes disagreed with them.

He forced Kyösti Kallio's first government to resign in January 1924, when he demanded early elections to restore the full membership of Parliament - 200 deputies - and Kallio disagreed. The Parliament had lacked 27 deputies since August 1923, when the Communist deputies had been arrested on suspicions of treason. Landgrave Alexander Frederick of Hesse abdicated as the head of the House of Hesse on March 16, 1925 and was intended to be succeeded by Väinö, his younger brother. However Väinö renounced his rights to the Landgravite in 1920 in favor of his eldest son Philipp.

Väinö supported moderate social and economic reforms to make even the former Reds accept the monarchy. He pardoned most of the Red prisoners, despite the strong criticism that this aroused from many right-wing Finns, especially the White veterans of the Civil War and several senior army officers. He signed into law bills that gave the trade unions an equal power with the employers' organizations to negotiate labour contracts, a bill to improve the public care for the poor, and the Lex Kallio bill which distributed land from the wealthy landowners to the former tenant farmers and other landless rural people.

In foreign policy Väinö became markedly reserved towards Sweden, largely as a consequence of the Åland crisis, which marked the early years of his reign. He was also cautious towards his nation of birth Germany, and generally unsuccessful in his attempts to establish closer contacts with the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and France.

Political intervention

Väinö continued to intervene in politics when he allowed the Social Democrats to form a minority government (1926–27), appointed Finland's first female Cabinet minister, Miina Sillanpää (as Assistant Minister of Social Welfare), dissolved Parliament twice (in 1929 over a dispute on the civil servants' salaries, and in 1930 to have the Parliament outlaw the Communist Party, which required a constitutional amendment and thus a two-thirds majority), and generally speaking supported the far-right Lapua Movement, until it started to kidnap various political opponents. He developed a professional relationship with the Social Democratic leader, Väinö Tanner.

In 1931 Väinö appointed Baron Kustaa Mannerheim as Chairman of the Defence Council, not least of all as an answer to the Lapua Movement's fear of having fought the Civil War in vain.

He resisted both communist agitation and the Lapua Movement's exploits. All Communist members of parliament were arrested. In February 1932 there was a so-called Mäntsälä Rebellion, when the Suojeluskunta-Militia and the Lapua Movement demanded the Cabinet's resignation. The turning point came with the king's broadcast radio speech, in which he called on the rebels to surrender and ordered all Civil Guard members who were heading for Mäntsälä to return to their homes:

"Throughout my reign, I have struggled for the maintenance of law and justice, and I cannot permit the law to now be trampled underfoot and citizens to be led into armed conflict with one another.... Since I am now acting on my own responsibility, beholden to no-one, and have taken it upon myself to restore peace to the country, from now on every secret undertaking is aimed not only at the legal order but at me personally as well - at me, who have myself came to this country as an upholder of social peace.... Peace must be established in the country as swiftly as possible, and the defects that exist in our national life must thereafter be eliminated within the framework of the legal order." His speech stopped the rebellion before anything serious happened.

Although a supporter of many democratic means Väinö was not a full supporter of Parliamentarism, or to put it differently, he believed that the king had a right to choose the Cabinet ministers after first consulting the parliamentary parties. Väinö strongly supported it, because he believed that it could effectively fight the Great Depression (which it did, generally speaking), he believed that Kivimäki had a strong personality, and possibly because he hoped that the Agrarians and Swedish People's Party would let the Kivimäki government remain in office as a lesser evil, the greater evil being an Agrarian-Social Democratic government.

On the other hand, when a right-wing Conservative member of Parliament, Edwin Linkomies, proposed in 1934 that Finland abandon parliamentarism in favour of a government led by the Prime Minister and that the Prime Minister be given an absolute veto power over the laws passed by the Parliament, Väinö opposed his ideas. In Väinö's opinion, the Finnish President had enough power to lead the country, provided that the king had a strong enough personality. He was realistic enough to admit privately to his German relatives, that he would be unable to keep the Social Democrats in the opposition. They were, after all, Finland's largest political party with over 40 % of the deputies.

Later life

On the eve of the Winter War, when Marshal Mannerheim threatened to resign from his post as chairman of Finland's Defence Council due a schism with the Cabinet, Väinö convinced him to stay. During the war he resisted the idea of giving up any territory to the Soviet Union, but was forced to agree to sign the Moscow Peace Treaty in 1940. His health begun to fail – his right arm was paralyzed – and he was not active in the dealings with Germany leading to the Continuation War. On May 12, 1940 he suffered a serious stroke. Crown Prince Väinö took over his duties. Väinö's died on May 28, 1940.

Titles and styles

  • 1 May 1868 – 14 October 1888: His Highness Prince Fredrick Charles of Hesse
  • 14 October 1888 – 15 March 1925: His Royal Highness The Hereditary Prince of Hesse
  • 9 October 1918 – 14 December 1918: His Majesty The King of Finland

Monarchical styles of
Väinö I of Finland
Kingdom of finland coat of arms by fenn o manic-d5dz9c9
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sir
Väinö I of Finland
Born: 1 May 1868 Died: 28 May 1940
Royal titles
Preceded by:
Grand Duke Nicholas II of Finland
King of Finnland and Karelia
October 9, 1918 – May 28, 1940
Succeeded by:
Väinö II