Duke of Finland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Duke of Finland (in Finnish Suomen herttua; Swedish hertig av Finland) was an occasional medieval title granted as a tertiogeniture to the relatives of the King of Sweden between the 13th and 16th centuries. It included a duchy along with the feudal customs, and often meant a veritably independent principality. The title was gradually replaced by a nominal royal title Grand Duke of Finland by the early 17th century and has not been in usage since.

Medieval dukes[edit]

Bishop-Duke Kol[edit]

In the late 15th century, historian Ericus Olai claimed that bishop Kol of Linköping (d. 1196?) had been the Duke of Finland (Dux Finlandiae).[1] In the late 12th century, the title "dux" was still used in the meaning of jarl and came to mean duke only hundred years later.[according to whom?] Ericus Olai's claim is not supported by other sources. However, some historians date the small Stenberga Castle in Masku to the late 12th century,[2] when the Novgorodian wars reached Finland and may have resulted in temporary Swedish military presence in the area.

Noteworthy is also that the Bishops of Linköping had an unexplained connection to eastern activities during the 13th century. Pope used him in 1229 to assist the Bishop of Finland to organize the diocese, and the first known Duke of Finland, Benedict, was soon after his nomination elected also as the Bishop of Linköping. Bishop of Linköping had also accompanied the Swedish ledung on their unsuccessful Estonian expedition.

Bishop-Duke Bengt Birgersson[edit]

Bengt's seal from 1288.

Bengt Birgersson (1254–91), also known as Benedict, an eccleasiastic, the youngest brother of king Valdemar I of Sweden and Duke Magnus of Sweden (later king Magnus III), was about 1284 granted the Duchy of Finland by his elder brother king Magnus. Bengt's appointment ended a 35-year-long period of episcopal rule in Finland, effective since the Second Swedish Crusade around 1249.

Bengt's reign did not last long. Soon thereafter, the duke, a consecrated priest and the chancellor of the realm, was elected in 1286 bishop of Linköping. As far as is known, he bore revenues from Finland until his death but did not attempt any independent rule. He was the first known holder of the appanage of Finland.

Duke Valdemar[edit]

Valdemar's seal from 1307, with the Bjälbo lion.

The youngest son of the late king Magnus III of Sweden (1240–90), Valdemar (1280s-1318), was given his late uncle Bengt's Duchy of Finland at the coronation of his eldest brother King Birger I of Sweden in 1302. Valdemar's elder brother Duke Eric was in the 1310s establishing a truly independent principality in Western Sweden, duke Valdemar being his ally. There is no evidence that duke Valdemar succeeded in having as independent position as his brother, but it is obvious that Valdemar used his ducal revenues to assist Eric's campaign against the king and kept his Finnish appanage and administration under Eric instead of the king.

In 1315, in alliance with Eric, Valdemar gained Turku castle and Häme Castle together with their provinces, i.e. most of Finland, as well as Stockholm Castle, most of Uppland and Borgholm with Öland, as the result of their civil war against the king. On December 10, 1317 he was imprisoned in Nyköping together with his brother Eric by their brother Birger. Sometime in 1318, Duke Valdemar (and Duke Eric) died while incarcerated.

With his second wife Ingeborg of Norway, Duke Valdemar had a son, born in 1316, who presumably died young.

Duke Bengt Algotsson[edit]

Bengt Algotsson (1330–60), whom his alleged homosexual lover King Magnus IV of Sweden (nephew of Duke Valdemar, above) had already in 1353 recognized as Duke of Halland (an originally Danish principality) as the heir of its earlier dukes, Dukes of Estonia and Reval, was in 1353 or 1354 given the duchy of Finland, too.

The duke apparently did not make any bigger efforts to establish himself as ruler in Finland, being satisfied to bear revenues from the duchy. He had his seat in Southern Sweden, where he acted as Viceroy of Skane.

The duke was trampled under certain nobility's opposition against the king. He was exiled in 1357, and killed without an heir in 1360. In 1357, his holdings, including Finland, were given to Eric. Eric was co-ruler of the king, and did not need the ducal title which was left aside for almost 200 years.

Duke John: From duchy to grand duchy[edit]

Main article: John III of Sweden
Borders of John's duchy on the contemporary map of Finland. These are the first known political borders for Finland.

In 1556, two hundred years after it was vacated by deposition of Duke Bengt Algotsson, King Gustav I of Sweden (reigned 1523–60) gave the duchy of Finland to his second son, the then 18-year-old John (1537–92). John was the only holder of the title to establish a real princely rule in Finland. The duchy included the Finland Proper, Raasepori together with Western Uusimaa, and Lower Satakunta. The duchy thus formed was given extraordinarily independent feudal rights by the king. Additionally, John was appointed as Governor-General of Finland, meaning all the other areas beyond Gulf of Bothnia and up to the eastern border. These additions he however did not hold by feudal right but as a royal appointee.

Together with Catherine Jagellonica (pictured), John established a Renaissance court in Turku.

Duke John settled in Turku, where he created a cultivated princely court at the Turku castle. John was an enthusiastic patron of arts and architecture, and he decorated the castle to splendor never before seen in Finland. Before his marriage, he had a Finnish mistress, Kaarina Hannuntytär. Several Finnish and Swedish families claim descendancy from their bastards. After the death of his father, John drove his own foreign policy which at times was at odds with his elder brother King Eric XIV of Sweden (reigned 1560–68). Also in domestic affairs, John soon opposed the king, together with a party of high nobility who all opposed the increasing centralization of the government. On October 4, 1562, John married his first wife Catherine Jagellonica (1526–83), daughter of Sigismund I of Poland (1467–1548), against the wishes of his elder brother. Eric regarded his conduct as a rebellion. John and Catherine were imprisoned to Gripsholm Castle in 1563, after a siege of the Turku castle and its conquest by king's troops. The imprisoned duke kept his title, but the duchy itself became administered by royal officials.

Eric was deposed by leaders of nobility in 1568, and John, recently released, ascended the throne of Sweden. He reigned until his death in 1592 as King John III. Apparently he made, in 1589, arrangements to grant the Duchy of Finland to his youngest son Duke John (see below).

In 1581, King John III assumed the subsidiary title Grand Prince of Finland and Karelia.[3] "Karelia" was soon dropped from the title and assumed a part of Finland, which thus started to have its later eastern extent. The title became established in Latin renderings, and later in the 19th century also in English, as the Grand Duke of Finland, however using the Finnish (ruhtinas) and Swedish (furst) names for a crowned or sovereign prince in its local renderings.

Late titular use[edit]

Before fully demolished, there was a brief titular use of Duke of Finland among the royal family.

John the Younger[edit]

John, Duke of Finland from 1590 until 1606.

Shortly before his death, King John III, the previous Duke of Finland, gave his old Duchy and its title as a royal duke to John the Younger (1589–1618), his newborn son from his second marriage with Gunilla Bielke (1568–97). King Sigismund III, child John's half-brother, seems to have confirmed this appanage.

Royal chancellery administered the duchy on behalf of the underage duke, and provided him his allotted revenues. However, when young Duke John approached adulthood, his duchy was in 1606 changed to that of Östergötland, previously held by King John's brother, the late Duke Magnus. Duke John the Younger married his first cousin Maria Elisabeth of Sweden (1596–1618). They died childless.

During 1590-1599, John's father and half-brother continued to call themselves Grand Dukes of Finland.[4]

Gustav Adolf[edit]

Crown Prince Gustav Adolf (1594–1632), elder son of Charles IX of Sweden, the heir-apparent, was in 1606 made Duke of Finland, upon assigning Östergötland to Duke John the younger, and started to receive ducal revenues from Finland.

Gustav Adolf ascended the throne of Sweden in 1611 and readopted[5] the Grand Duke of Finland among his titles. He was the last to have a real feudal principality of Finland and revenues therefrom.

List of Dukes and Duchesses of Finland[edit]

Includes Swedish Lords of Finland by other titles.

No duke of Finland has left descendants in marital lines which survive to our time. Except John III's legitimate descent (kings of Sweden and Poland and totally extinct since 1672), lineage of all the others went extinct upon their own death or at the death of an only surviving legitimate child.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Suomen Museo 2002. Suomen Muinaismuistoyhdistys. 2002. p. 66. ISBN 978-951-9057-47-7. 
  2. ^ Virrankoski, Pentti (2001). Suomen historia I. SKS. p. 66. ISBN 951-746-321-9. 
  3. ^ Klinge, Matti (1999). Suomen sinivalkoiset värit. Kansallisten ja muidenkin symbolien vaiheista ja merkityksestä (Third ed.). Otava. pp. 246–247. 
  4. ^ "Titles of European hereditary rulers". 
  5. ^ The title had not been used by his father King Charles IX, who had added "King of the Finns" to his long list of titles in 1607.