Fredrik II
King of Finnland
Reign 28 May 1940 – 12 July 1989
Predecessor Kaarle I
Successor Henrik
Spouse Princess Marie Alexandra of Baden
House House of Hesse-Kassel
Father King Kaarle I of Finland
Mother Princess Margaret of Prussia
Born 6 November 1896
Offenbach, Hesse, Germany Flag of the German Empire.svg
Died 12 July 1989 (aged 92)
Helsinki, Finland Flag of Finland.svg
Religion Evangelical Lutheran Church

Fredrik II (Wolfgang Moritz; 6 November 1896 – 12 July 1989) was the King of Finland from 1940 until his death in 1989. A member of the House of Hesse, Fredrik was the second son of King Kaarle I of Finland and Princess Margaret of Prussia. He became heir apparent when his father was elected king in 1918. He served as the commander of the Army of the Isthmus during the Winter War and the interim peace that followed. Succeeding to the Finnish Throne in 1940 upon his father's death, he led Finland during the Continuation War and oversaw peace time reconstruction of his country. He pioneered an “active neutrality” policy, under which Finland retained its independence while maintaining extensive trade with members of NATO as well as those of the Warsaw Pact. He was Finland's longest reigning monarch of 50 years.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Born as Prince Wolfgang of Hesse-Kassel, he was the second-born of a pair of twins, the fourth child and son born to Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse (future King of Finland) and Princess Margaret of Prussia. His maternal uncle was the German Emperor William II. Wolfgang's father Frederick Charles of Hesse was elected King of Finland on 9 October 1918, to replace his first cousin once removed, the deposed Russian emperor, Nicholas II, who was titled Grand Duke of Finland. His elder brother, Prince Philipp was serving on the Russian Front and incommunicado at the time. Shortly before the new Finnish Royal Family left Germany it was agreed that Prince Philipp would eventually succeed his father as Head of the House of Hesse, while Prince Wolfgang would be heir to the Finnish throne.

When his father was elected king, he took the regnal name name Kaarle I, and on the day his father was inaugurated, Wolfgang adopted the Finnish sounding name Fredrik.

During the interwar years, Fredrik joined the Finnish Army rising to the rank of eversti or colonel. He worked for the Finnish Red Cross, was member of the board of the International Red Cross, and lent extensive support to the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare. Fredrik quickly adopted many of the customs and traditions of Finland becoming very popular across the country. Despite his German ancestry, he always strived for "Finnish solutions to Finnish problems". He became close friends with C.G.E. Mannerheim who personally mentored the Crown Prince for many years in his military career.

In late autumn 1939, Fredrik urged his father to declare war on the Soviet Union, but he was refused. However, when the war he desired broke out on 30 November, Fredrik was given command of the Army of the Isthmus with Lieutenant General Hugo Österman as his chief of staff. Fredrik concentrated on a realistic analysis of the situation, instead of pessimism or over-optimism. While he was at the front politics in Helsinki would cut the war short.

At the beginning of the war, the Soviet Union formed a puppet government and cut connections with the Helsinki government. The Finnish Army fought defensively in battles during December 1939 and January 1940. The Soviet Union was forced to drop the Terijoki Government and accept negotiations via Stockholm. The British declaration of war over the Sovie attacks on Finland influenced the Soviet government to seek an agreement. Prime Minister Ryti persuaded the rest of the cabinet to settle for peace and signed the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940. The peace agreement, in which Finland lost large land areas and faced the burden of resettling 400,000 refugees, was generally considered crushing, and personally humiliating for the Crown Prince.

Reign[edit | edit source]

King Kaarle suffered a stroke in March, so the heavy responsibilities of state leadership were shared by Fredrik as Prince Regent, Field Marshal C.G.E. Mannerheim, industrialist and general Rudolf Walden, and Tanner. Considering this and the fact Fredrik hated the peace treaty, he became an acceptable figure for the throne in December 1940 when his father was clearly not going to recover. On 28 May 1940, King Kaarle suffered a fatal heart attack. Fredrik succeeded his father as King of Finland and would reign for a very long time.

Towards German orientation[edit | edit source]

Finland's changed policy from a Scandinavian orientation up to, and during, the Winter War, to a German orientation after the Winter War, was not in the least pursued by the new King Fredrik II. He had no illusions about the true nature of Germany. Traditionally Finland had been associated with Britain by stronger commercial ties, but as the Baltic Sea was dominated by the Germans and Soviets, lost markets had to be found elsewhere, and the Germans were willing to trade.

The relatively limited space given to Nazi German propaganda and ideology, or their domestic sympathizer fringe groups in Finland, can probably be seen as one of the many important joint contributions of Fredrik, Tanner, and Mannerheim. Government's during Fredrik's reign must also be credited for the fact that Finland remained a genuine democracy unlike any other continental European country from that time.

In August 1940 the King also agreed to secret military cooperation with Germany, in order to strengthen Finland's position vis-à-vis the belligerent Soviet Union. Over time it became increasingly likely that the war between the two great totalitarian powers would end in an Axis victory, and the experts' opinion - even among the enemies of Germany - was that in case the Soviets were pushed out of Eastern Europe, they could not stop the German war machine from entering their country. Fredrik apparently turned, step by step, to being in favour of seizing the opportunity to secure Finnish claims to areas he saw to be in the country's interests, in case the great realignment of ownership of East European territory by force were to materialize.

Thus the cooperation begun in late 1940 ultimately developed in 1941 into preparations for re-annexation of the territories lost after the Winter War, in case Nazi Germany were to realize the rumoured plans for an assault into the Soviet Union. The Continuation War, when it commenced, would also come to include occupation of East Karelia, which nationalist circles had championed since the 1910s.

Continuation War[edit | edit source]

Success[edit | edit source]

When Germany's assault on the Soviet Union began in June 1941, Finland remained formally neutral until Soviet air raids gave an expected reason to fulfill the invasion plans some days later. Fredrik made a radio speech after the outbreak of the Continuation War where he announced that Germany would win the war against the Soviet Union.

Finnish troops soon regained the territory lost in the Winter War and a substantial buffer zone beyond. A considerable number of members of parliament were not excited by the idea of crossing the old borders, but obviously Fredrik convinced Tanner and the Social Democrats to remain in the cabinet despite their opposition to the conquest of East Karelia. Fredrik's ability to thus maintain a broad coalition government strongly contributed to morale and perceived national unity. In fact, from January 1941 to March 1943, even the far-right Patriotic People's Movement (IKL) participated in the government.

Attempts at peace negotiations[edit | edit source]

Fredrik wanted the government of Jukka Rangell to continue in office. However, the time had arrived for a "peace government", and it was formed after long negotiations by the chairman of the National Coalition Party, Professor Edwin Linkomies. He started preparations aimed at achieving peace with the Soviet Union in spring 1943. The Patriotic People's Movement was excluded from the government. Finland was able to regain lost territory but little more, in a situation when Finland's relations with Germany were strained due to Finland's prior separate peace with the Soviets. There were speculations that a change of both government would ensue, but Marshal Mannerheim was unwilling to take the job of post-war prime minister even temporarily.

Marriage[edit | edit source]

Titles and styles[edit | edit source]

Monarchical styles of
Fredrik II of Finland
Kingdom of finland coat of arms by fenn o manic-d5dz9c9.png
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sir
  • 6 November 1896 – 9 October 1918: His Highness Prince Wolfgang of Hesse-Kassel
  • 9 October 1918 – 28 May 1940: His Royal Highness The Crown Prince of Finland
  • 28 May 1940 – 12 July 1989: His Majesty The King of Finland
Fredrik II of Finland
Cadet branch of the House of Hesse
Born: 6 November 1896 Died: 12 July 1989
Finnish royalty
Preceded by
Kaarle I
King of Finnland and Karelia
Succeeded by
Kaarle II
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