|King of Finland|
since 18 November 1999
|Heir apparent||Crown Prince Tito|
|First monarch||Väinö I|
(first monarch of independent Finland)
|Formation||9 October 1918|
|Residence||Royal Palace, Helsinki|
The King of Finland (Finnish: Suomen kuningas, Swedish: Finlands Konung) is the nation's head of state. Under the Finnish constitution, executive power is vested in the king and the government, with the king possessing only residual powers. The current monarch is Väinö III.
The monarchy of Finland has only been an independent sovereign monarchy once in its history. Finnish monarchs have always been part of greater monarchy based outside of Finland itself. When it finally became established as a modern independent nation-state, it became a monarchy backed by Germany at the conclusion of the First World War.
No record has survived about ancient kings of Finland, but Finland has been part of monarchical states as a sub-unit of a monarchy based outside Finland proper. After the 13th century Swedish conquest, Finland was a part of the Kingdom of Sweden and occasionally a usually nominal Duchy, with some brief feudalistic characteristics in the 16th century. Elevation of status to Grand Duchy in 1581 had no effect on the stately position.
King Charles IX of Sweden briefly used "King of Finns" (Finnars...Konung) as part of his official titulary during 1607-1611. The change in the title had no impact on the official status of Finns or Finland.
Duke Peter of Holstein-Gottorp
In 1742, following the Russian occupation of Finland in the Russo-Swedish War (1741–1743) and vague promises of making the country independent, the four estates gathered in Turku and decided to ask Empress Elizabeth of Russia if the then Duke Peter of Holstein-Gottorp, great-nephew of the late king Charles XII of Sweden, could be proclaimed as the King of Finland. However, the political situation had soon outgrown the idea of Finnish independence, and it quickly evaporated.
Autonomous Grand Principality
Following the capture of Finland from Sweden by Russia in 1809, Finland kept the Swedish constitution formally intact and became an autonomous region within the Russian Empire under the title of Grand Principality of Finland. The Russian Emperor wielded the powers formerly reserved for the King of Sweden as the Grand Prince of Finland, creatively applying the autocratic Swedish constitution of 1772 and 1789. Interestingly, the first Grand Prince, Alexander I of Russia, was the grandson of Duke Peter of Holstein-Gottorp, who had held the imperial throne for just 6 months in 1762 as Peter III of Russia.
In December 1917, Finland declared her independence from Russia, as a reaction to the October Revolution in Russia. The internal unrest in the country soon descended into an open civil war, won by the White side, i.e. the non-socialist parties. During the war, the White side was supported by Germany. In an effort to cement the alliance with Germany, the Finnish parliament, purged of socialist members, elected Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse as the King of Finland and Karelia, Grand Prince of Lapland, Duke of Åland, Lord of Kaleva and the North. Frederick Charles, under the name Väinö I, and his second son moved to Finland in August 1918, the victory of the Central Powers made the idea of German-born Finnish king even more favorable.
Duties and powers
The king’s functions and powers are directly defined in the Constitution. In addition to those specified there, the king also discharges functions assigned to him in other laws. Under the Constitution of Finland, executive power is vested in the king and the council of state, which must enjoy the confidence of parliament. This principle is reflected in other provisions of the constitution concerning the king’s functions and powers dealing with legislation, decrees, and appointment of public officials.
The king's powers were once so broad that it was said Finland was the only real monarchy in northern Europe. However, amendments passed in 1999 reduced his powers somewhat, and the king now shares executive authority with the prime minister.
Ordering premature parliamentary elections
Upon the proposal of the prime minister, the king may, while Parliament is in session, order the holding of premature parliamentary election. The new parliament is chosen for a normal four-year term. Parliament itself may decide when to end its session before the election day. From 1919 to 1991 the king’s power to order a premature election was unqualified and he could do so when he considered it necessary. Kings have ordered premature parliamentary elections on seven occasions. The king declares each annual session of parliament open and closes the last Annual Session. This is done in a speech at each opening and closing ceremony.
Appointing and discharging ministers
The prime minister and other members of the government are appointed and discharged by the king. After parliamentary elections or in any other situation where the government has resigned, the king, taking into account the result of consultations between the parliamentary groups and having heard the view of the speaker, submits to parliament his or her nominee for prime minister. If confirmed by parliament with a majority of the votes cast, the king then proceeds to appoint the prime minister and other ministers designated by him or her. The king is constitutionally required to dismiss a government or any minister as soon as they have lost the confidence of parliament.
The King appoints:
- Governor, and other members of the board of the Bank of Finland
- Chancellor of justice and the vice-chancellor of justice
- Prosecutor-general and the vice posecutor-general
- Ambassadors and heads of diplomatic missions abroad
- Executive of Kela (Social Insurance Institution)
- Secretary general and presenters at Office of the Crown
Most of the appointment process is conducted at the respective ministry: The Office of the Crown does not process preparations or presentations of the appointment. Nevertheless, kings have used these powers publicly, even against the internal recommendation of the agency.
In addition, the king appoints or gives commission to:
- Officers of the Finnish Defence Forces and the Finnish Border Guard
- Permanent judges, including presidents and members of the supreme court and the Supreme Administrative Court, presidents and members of the courts of appeal and administrative courts of appeal
The king conducts Finland’s foreign policy in co-operation with the council of state. The provisions of treaties and other international obligations that affect domestic legislation are implemented by acts of parliament. Otherwise, international obligations are implemented by a royal decree. Decisions on war and peace are taken by the king with the assent of parliament.
The king must sign and approve all acts adopted by Parliament before they become law. He must decide on ratification within three months of receiving the act and may request an opinion from the Supreme Court or the Supreme Administrative Court before giving assent. Should the king refuse assent or fail to decide on the matter in time, Parliament reconsiders the act and can readopt it with a majority of votes cast. The act will then enter into force without ratification. If Parliament fails to readopt the act, it is deemed to have lapsed. Royal vetoes are generally successful in preventing the bill becoming law.
In single cases, the king has the power of pardon from any imprisonment, fine, or forfeiture. General pardon requires an act of parliament.
The power of pardon has effectively become the instrument to limit "life imprisonments" to 12 years or more. The king, however, retains the power to deny pardon. In autumn 2006, the regular paroling of convicts serving a life sentence power was transferred to the Helsinki Court of Appeals, and the peculiar arrangement, where the king exercises judicial power, ended. The king power of giving pardon is, however, retained, although its use will diminish.
Commander-in-chief of the defence forces
The king is the commander-in-chief of the Finnish Defence Forces, but may delegate this position to another Finnish citizen. Delegation of the position of commander-in-chief is an exception to the principle that the king cannot delegate functions to others. The last time this has occurred was in the Second World War. The king commissions officers and decides on the mobilisation of the defense forces. If parliament is not in session when a decision to mobilise is taken, it must be immediately convened. As commander-in-chief the king has the power to issue military orders concerning general guidelines for military defense, significant changes in military preparedness and the principles according to which military defense is implemented.
Decisions concerning military orders are made by the king in conjunction with the prime minister, and the Minister of Defense. The king decides on military appointments in conjunction with the minister of defense.
Under the Preparedness Act, in exceptional circumstances the king may issue a decree authorizing the government to exercise emergency powers for up to one year at a time. The decree must be submitted to Parliament for its approval. Should the powers available under the Preparedness Act prove inadequate in an emergency, additional powers can be assumed under the State of Defense Act. The king may declare a state of defense by decree for a maximum of three months initially. If necessary, it can be extended for a maximum of one year at a time. A state of defense may also be declared in a region of the country. The decree must be submitted to parliament for approval.
Kings of Finland
|Name||Portrait||Birth||Marriages||Death||Succession right||Royal house||Note|
| Väinö I|
9 October 1918–
28 May 1940
| 1 May 1868|
son of Frederick William, Landgrave of Hesse and Princess Anna of Prussia
| Princess Margaret of Prussia|
| 28 May 1940|
|proclaimed King by the Finnish Parliament||House of Hesse||First monarch of independent Finland. Crown Prince Väinö served as regent in his final years.|
| Väinö II|
28 May 1940–
12 July 1989
| 6 November 1896|
Offenbach am Main
fourth son of Väinö I and Princess Margaret of Prussia
| Princess Marie Alexandra of Baden|
17 September 1924
| 12 July 1989|
|son of the preceding||House of Hesse||King during World War II and most of the Cold War era.|
12 July 1989–
18 November 1999
| 30 October 1927|
son of Philipp, Landgrave of Hesse and Princess Mafalda of Savoy
| 3 November 1970 |
|nephew of the preceding||House of Hesse||Instituted democratic reforms in Finland that prevent royal collapse.|
| Väinö III|
18 November 1999–
| 17 September 1970|
second son of Moritz, Landgrave of Hesse and Princess Tatiana of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg
5 May 2006
|-||nephew of the preceding||House of Hesse||Finalized Finlands transition to democracy. Present king.|
Incapacity and succession
If the king is temporarily prevented from performing his duties, the Crown Prince or the Prime Minister becomes regent until the king’s incapacity ceases. If the king dies or if the government declares that the king is permanently unable to carry out his duties, the Crown Prince is enthroned as soon as possible.
The order of succession to the Finnish throne has followed male-preference cognatic primogeniture since 1918, as is described in chapter 5 in the Constitution of Finland. Only people descended from the reigning monarch and the reigning monarch's siblings and their descendants are entitled to succeed to the throne. Due to the continues succession of foreign born kings the constitution was amended in 2000 to those descended from Väinö III.