Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Crown of Finland

Today is Independence Day in Finland - so it is an opportunity to send greetings to my regular reader and fellow Orielensis in Finland - and also to post about one of the might-have-beens of twentieth century dynastic history.

When on 6 December 1917 the Grand Principality of Finland (often referred to as a Grand Duchy although that was not the correct title) declared itself independent the future form of its government was unresolved. Following a civil war the cause of retaining a Finnish monarchy being in the ascendant the crown of the new Kingdom of Finland was offered to the Landgrave Frederick Charles of Hesse-Kassel in October 1918. He was the brother -in-law of Kaiser Wilhelm II, being married to Wilhelm's sister Princess Margaret of Prussia. The new King, about whose regnal name there remains some dispute - Charles I, Frederick Charles I or Vaino I (which appears altogether less probable than many sources might suggest) never managed to reach his kingdom before the German capitulation led him to renounce his claim in Decmber of the same year. His rather splendid array of titles - King of Finland and Karelia, Duke of Aland, Grand Prince of Lapland, Lord of Kaleva and the North (Suomen ja Karjalan kuningas, Ahvenanmaan herttua, Lapinmaan suuriruhtinas, Kalevan ja Pohjolan isäntä)- were not, alas, to become a reality.

The succession would today be with Landgrave Moritz of Hesse, and afer him his second son Prince Philipp of Hesse could be a theoretical claimant if the principle of the second son succeeding to te Finnish crown obtained - which is rather difficult to imagine as a regular system of inheritance. The links give more details and portraits. There is a similar account in the online Almanach de Gotha, with the appropriate heraldry.

Now one might very well regret that the Kingdom of Finland under another branch of the extended Scandinavian and German royal houses did not join them in providing a stable constitutional basis for government. What was surprising was to discover the existence of a crown for the King to wear, or at least symbolise his sovereignty and that of Finland. Moreover it was made in recent years.

The crown was designed in Finland in 1918 for the proposed King.The crown which exists today was made by goldsmith Teuvo Ypyä in the 1990s, based on the original drawings, and is kept in a museum in Kemi where it can be seen today. The crown, which is made of silver gilt, consists of a circlet and cap decorated with the arms in enamel of various provinces of the realm. Above the circlet are two arches. Topping the arches is not a cross and globe as in most European crowns, but a gold rampant lion in the form as found in the coat or arms of Finland.
The inner circumference of the crown is approximately 58 centimeters and it weight about 2 kilograms.

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