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The Arms of the Dukes of Finland

The Arms of Finland

The Achievement

Armed Forces






During the 12th century territories east of the Gulf of Bothnia began to be incorporated into the kingdom of Sweden by peaceful infiltration, and by martial conquest.

However the Swedes had rivals in Finland. The Danes invaded Finland twice, in 1191 and in 1202. Furthermore the Novgorodians (from part of what is now Russia) hoped to control Finland and convert the people to the Eastern Orthodox Church. They fought the Swedes at the River Neva in 1240 and won a decisive victory. However the Swedes returned in 1249. Earl Birger led this second crusade. He succeeded in conquering Hame and built a castle at Hameelinna. Finally in 1291 a native Finn was made bishop of Turku.

The Swedes were keen to conquer Karelia. In 1293 they sent an expedition under Marshal Torgils Knutsson. At first they were successful but in 1318 the Novgorodians counterattacked. The two sides made peace by the Treaty of Nöteborg in 1323 by which a boundary was drawn along the river Systerbäck and across the Carelian Isthmus which crossed the river Vuoksen and continued to the northwest towards the gulf of Bothnia. Karelia remained in Novgorodian hands.

Originally Finland was the name used for the south-western part of the country, but it gradually became the name as a pars pro toto for all of the conquered swedish territories in the east.




Bengt I Folkunga,

1284 - 1291

Valdemar Folkunga

1302 - 1317

Bengt II Algotsson

1353 - 1356

Swedish Rule 1362-1809

Johan Vasa

1556 - 1581

Grand Dukes

Kings of Sweden

1581 - 1809

Russian Rule 1809-1917

Alexander I

1809 - 1825


1825 - 1825

Nikolay I

1825 - 1855

Alexander II

1855 - 1881

Alexander III

1881 - 1894

Nikolay II

1894 - 1917

Russian provisional government exercising grand-ducal authority 1917

Formal declaration of independence from Russia. 06.12.1917

Finnish S.S.R. 1918

Kingdom of Finland


Republic of Finland

1919 - present

Meanwhile Swedish colonists migrated to Finland in large numbers and after 1323 Finland became a province of Sweden. Swedish law came to be applied in Finland (although it was tempered by Finnish custom). In 1362 the Swedes allowed the Finns to participate in the election of a Swedish king. Then, in 1397, Finland became a part of the Union of Kalmar of Norway and Sweden. The Union broke up in 1523.

The reformation in Finland was led by Mikael Agricola who became bishop of Turku in 1554. When he died in 1557 Finland was firmly Lutheran. Then in 1581 Finland was made a Grand Duchy. Meanwhile Helsinki was founded in 1550.

The 18th century saw the Great Northern War of 1709-21. In 1713 the Russians invaded Finland and marched across it. The Swedish-Finnish army made a last stand at Storkyro but was defeated. The Russian occupation from 1713 to 1721 is known as the Great Wrath. Wealthy Finns fled to Sweden but peasants could not escape. King Charles XII ordered the Finns to start guerrilla warfare against the Russians, which naturally led to reprisals. In 1721 peace was made but Charles XII had to surrender the south-eastern part of Finland to Russia.

War broke out again between Sweden-Finland and Russia in 1741. The Swedes were defeated at Villmanstrand. The Russian army occupied the whole of Finland but the treaty of Albo, which ended the war in 1743 left the status quo unchanged except that Russia took a small part of Finland.

War broke out again in 1788. This time a man named Magnus Sprengporten led a separatist movement. However he attracted few followers and the war ended in 1790.

Finland was finally detached from Sweden in 1809. The Russians invaded Finland on 21 February 1808. The Russians captured a fortress at Sveaborg in May but the Swedish-Finnish army won a victory at Lapua in July. However in September 1808 the Russians won a decisive victory at Oravainen. Swedish troops then abandoned Finland and left to their own devices the Finns made peace with the Tsar. During the 18th century Sweden was declining and Russia was growing more and more powerful so the Finns bowed to the inevitable.

In March 1809 the Finnish Diet (a form of parliament) accepted Tsar Alexander as their ruler. He agreed that Finland would become a Grand Duchy rather than a part of Russia and he promised to respect Finnish laws. In 1812 the Tsar moved the capital of Finland from Turku to Helsinki.

In the late 19th century Finnish nationalism began to grow. As early as 1835 Elias Lonnrot published a collection of Finnish folk poems called Kalevala. After 1850 interest in the Finnish language and culture grew stronger. In 1858 the first Finnish speaking grammar school opened. By 1889 half of the grammar schools in Finland spoke only Finnish.

However at the end of the 19th century Tsar Nicholas II tried to clamp down on Finnish nationalism. In 1899 he issued a manifesto, which said he had the power to make laws for Finland, without the consent of the Finnish Diet if those laws affected Russian interests. In 1905 the Tsar withdrew the manifesto of 1899 and in 1907 a new assembly was elected to replace the old Diet.

In 1910 the Tsar severely restricted the power of the Finnish legislature. He declared that he had the power to pass laws for Finland if its effects were not limited to the internal affairs of that region.

But the reign of the Tsar was soon over. He abdicated in March 1917. In July 1917 the Finnish Diet declared that it had authority in all matters except foreign policy. Then on 6 December 1917 the Diet declared Finland an independent state.

Meanwhile in October 1917 a conservative government was elected in Finland. The far left decided to try and take power by force. The Red Finns seized Helsinki and other towns. On the other side General Gustaf Mannerheim led the White Finns. In April 1918 they captured Tampere. Meanwhile the Germans intervened and captured Helsinki. By the middle of May the rebellion had been crushed.

In October 1918 a German Prince, Charles Frederick of Hesse was made king of Finland but his reign was extremely short. After Germany had signed the armistice on 11 November 1918 Mannerheim was made regent. Shortly afterwards Finland became a rpublic by Constitution of 17 July 1919.

In 1939 Stalin feared to be attacked from the west. For that reason he wanted to take territory from Finland to protect his northern flank. He offered to give Finland other territory in exchange but the Finnish government refused so Stalin decided to use force.

The Winter War began on 30 November 1939. The Russians invaded north of Lake Lagoda but they were defeated at Tolvajari and Suomussalmi. Meanwhile along the Karelian Isthmus Finland was protected by the Mannerheim line, a network of forts and concrete bunkers and trenches. The Russians tried to break through but the Finns held them up for several weeks.

As the Russians penetrated the Mannerheim line on 14th February 1940,  Finland was forced to seek peace. The war ended with the Treaty of Moscow on 12 March 1940. Afterwards Finland was forced to hand over the southeast including the city of Viipuri (Vyborg) and more territory north of Lake Lagoda.

In June 1941 Finland joined with Germany in attacking Russia in the so-called Continuation War and quickly recaptured its territory. As a result Britain declared war on Finland in December 1941 and after the German defeat at Stalingrad in 1943 the Finns had to give up the war.

Negotiations with the Russians began in March 1944 and Finland made a cease fire with Russia on 5 September 1944.

After the war Finland was forced to hand over large amounts of territory to Russia and was obliged to pay reparations. A final peace treaty was made with Russia in 1947.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the treaty of 1947 was replaced by a new treaty in 1992 in which both sides agreed to settle their differences in a friendly manner.




Originally Finland was the name used for the south-western part of the country subsequently becoming known as Finland Proper. There too lay the duchy which Gustav Vasa (1523-’60) conferred upon his second son John III.

Administrators, who where sometimes called dukes, were sent to Finland from Sweden. But the lion which these “Dukes of Finland” occasionally bore in their personal arms was a personal emblem and had no reference to the country. [1]


Dukes of Finland



Bengt I


Duke of Finland and Bishop of Linköping 1283-1291


3rd son of Birger Folkunge (†1266), brother of Magnus I, king of Sweden.


Seal of 1279-‘82


 Arms: Three bends sinister, a lion rampant. Legend: X S. BENEDICTI BIRGERI FILII FRATRIS REGIS SWECIE (Seal of Benedict Birger, son and brother of the king of Sweden). [2]


Seal of 1282


31. Samma Bengt Birgersson (Jfr N.21). X S’ FILLI BIRGERI [QUON]DA DVCIS SWEOR. Herr Bengt, i ringpansar och rund, uppåt något hjelm, med skjöld och fana, på hvilka ses hans slägtvapen, sitter på en galoperande häst, på hvars sidt nedhängande täcke äfven ses Folkungelejonet gäende öfver 3 i väfnaden anbragte ränder, både på länden och på halsen af hästen. Kring kanten en krans af rosor.

Sv. Dipl. N. 744 utan kontrasigill; N. 758, 759 med kontrasigill (N32). Begagnades å 1282 och 1283. - Han”friga sigill anföras vid N. 21.


Seal of 1283-‘88


35. Bengt Birgersson, Herttig af Finland och Biskop in Linköping. (Jfr. N. 21.) SIGILLVM BENEDICTI DEI GRACIA DVCIS FINL[ANDIE]. Hertigen, i hjelm och pansar, med fana och skjöld, i hvilka ses Folkungavapnet, sitter på en häst, som reser sig.

Sv. Dipl. N. 767, 890 utan kontrasigill; N. 941, 964, 965 med Linköpings-biskoparnes sekret (2:dra Serien N. 39) som kontrasigill. Begagnades åren 1283-1288. - Hans öfriga sigill anföras vid N. 21.


Seal of 1288


39. Bengt Birgersson, Hertig af Finland och Biskop i Linköping. (Jfr Nr. 21). S. BENEDICTI [DEI GRAC]IA DVCIS [FINL]ANDIE. Hertigen, i ringpansar och fyrkantig uppåt spetsad hejelm med en fjäderbuske i toppen, samt met Folkungavapnet på skölden och fanan, sitter på en galopperande häst, hvars i veck nedfallande täcke är prydt met Folkungalejonet öfver hästens hals och länd. På fältet några skaftade blad och en lilja.

Sv. Dipl. N. 971, 972, 976, 987, 988, 1000, 1023, som kontrasigill till Heertigens stora biskopssigill (2:dra Serien N. 42’. Hans òfriga sigill anfòras vid. N. 21.





*before 1290-†1318



3rd son of Magnus I (*1240 -†1290)


Arms (1): Three bends sinister, a lion rampant.



48 Waldemar Magnusson, Hertig af Finland. + S’VALDEMA[R]I .......... Folkungalejonet (utan krona) öfver tre ginbalkar, utan skjöld.

S. Dipl. N. 1493, 1529, 1535, 1539, 1542. Utan kontrasigill. Nyttjades endast åren 1306 och 1307.


49. Samma Hertig Waldemar. S[V]ALDEMARI DI. GRA. DVC. FILAND. Folkungalejonet (utan krona) öfver tre ginbalkar, utan skjöld.

Sv. Dipl. N. 1563, 1596, 1699, 1958. Utan kontrasigill. Begagnades under 1307 och folgende åren, omvexlande met det nästföljande större sigillet.


Arms: Three bends sinister, a crowned lion rampant

Crest: A pair of horns set with ten pennons


The arms are on his shield, on the horse clothes and on his pennon.


50 Samma Hertig Waldemars större sigill. (Jfr. N. 48) S’WALDEMARI DEI GRACIA DVCIS FINLANDI. Hertigen till häst i ringbrynja under drägten, met 10 fänikor på den venstren armen en sköld med Folkungavapnet. Tvä dylika vapensköldar finnas på hästens fladdrande täcke. Alla lejonen bära krona. Sigillets botten rutad med en stjernformig ros i hvarje ruta.

Sv. Dipl. N. 1554, 1556, 1559, 2019, 2124 m. fl., met kontrasigill (N. 51) Ritningen har till nå del blifvid kompletterad ewfter en afgjutning i gips på ett i Lybecks archiv förvaradt original fän år 1312.


Arms (2):  Strewn with hearts three bends sinister and a crowned lion rampant.




51. Samma Hertig Waldemars kontrasigill X CLIPEUS WALDEMARI DEI GRACIA DVCIS FINLANDIE. Folkungaskölden met krönt lejon “fver tre ginbalkar. Fältet beströdt med hjertan. Sigilletrs botten kring skölden rutad med en stjernformig ros i hvarja ruta.

            Sv. Dipl. N. 1554. 1556, 1595, 2019, 2124 m. fl., på baksidan af N. 50.


Folding Table from Lüneburg, 1330 ca.


Arms: Or, three bends Argent a lion rampant Sable [Azure?]

Crest: A pair of horns Or decorated with peacock’s feathers proper.


Bengt II Algotsson 

* c.1330 - † 1360

Duke of Finland 1353-1356

Duke of Halland 1353-1356

Stadholder of Skåne


Seal of 1350 [3]


Arms: [Azure], a lion rampant [Argent]. Legend: X S’ BENEDICTI ALGVTS’


From the time of Bengt II Algotsson representations of the arms with the bends sinister and the lion are known.


Tristan Tapestry from Celle (NRW, Germany),

 1350 ca

Armorial Bellenville, fol. 27.

1363 ca [4]


These are probably the arms of Erik Magnusson (*1339), the later King Erik XII, who was king of Sweden by life of his father from 1356 and residing in Finland from 1357-13 June 1359.


King Olaf on horseback with the banners of  the rulers of Denmark, Norway and Finland

From the Mecklenburgische Reimchronik of Ernst von Kirchberg, fol. 19:9v. 1379 ca.


Arms: Or, three bends sinister Argent, a lion rampant Azure.


The three banners show the blazon of Waldemar (1st son of Birger Jarl) †1302; Magnus VI of Norway (†1280) and Bengt I (3rd son of Birger Jarl) †1291.


Bo Jonsson Grip

Lagman in Abo / Turku 1371-1386


After Erik Magnusson there were another two lagman (governors) in Finland who were succeeded by Bo Jonsson Grip in 1371.

Bo Jonsson Grip was hereditary senechal of Sweden and one of the few lagman of Finland of which the coat of arms is known. It is given in Bellenville Armorial fol 27v°, n° 17 and in Gelre Armorial fol 65v°, n° 726 His arms are:


Arms: Argent, a griffin’s head Sable

Crest: A griffin’s head Sable, a bunch of peacock’s feathers in its beak proper.


These arms prove that the governors of Finland displayed their personal coats of arms and that in this era there was no emblem or coat of arms of the territory of Finland.


Arms in Bellenville Armorial



Arms in Gelre Armorial

After Bo Jonsson Grip there were another 42 lagman amongst whom was Karl Knutsson Bonde who became king of Sweden 1448-’57. In 1557 the title of Duke of Finland was revived. The lagman were succeeded at the same time by a long series of governors, governors general and generals, often with very short terms of office, until 1917.


Johan III Vasa



King of Sweden 1568-1592

Grand duke of Finland 1581-1592


John III. He was the second son of King Gustav I of Sweden and his second wife Margaret Leijonhufvud. He was, quite autonomously, the ruler of Finland, as Duke John from 1556 to 1563. Because of his opposition to his half-brother Eric XIV of Sweden (1560–68) he was imprisoned in 1563. After his release from prison, probably because of his brother's insanity, John again joined the opposition, deposed Eric and made himself  king in 1568. In 1581 he assumed also the title Grand Prince of Finland.

Drawing Carol Hedberg

Reconstruction of the arms of John, Duke of Finland, 1557


By letter of 7 December 1557 the eldest son of Gustav Vasa, John, was appointed ‘Duke of Finland’ a title which was not used since 1356. In the same letter the king granted his


“käre sonn her Johann och hands effterkommende barn... till förbe:te furstendömes yttermere stadfestelsse och evigh bliffvende skiöldh, vapn och skiölhemercke, som ähr:

en fyrestyckett skiöld, thet öffre och ögre, så och thett nidre och venstre fiälledtt halfparthen blått, och ther udi två sölffverferghe siuudde stiärner, och niderdelenn förgyltt, och utöffver bådhe thesse färgher een biörn medh ett förgyltt dragett sverdh emellem bådhe främbre ramerne; hvilckitt vapn och skiöldemercke vij her medh tilägne Norre Finlandh och Kumegårdz länn. Thett andre öffre och venstre, så och thett nidre och högre fiälledt rödtt och udi hvartt aff thöm en open förgyltt tornerehiälm medh en chrone opå och två glaffvenstaker udi korsvijss baak för hiälmen, bådhe medh förgyltte udder, blå fänicker och förgyltte korss egenom, hvilckett vapn och skiöldemercke vij her medh tilägne Södre Finlandh, Rasborgz län och Ålandh; item offven opå förbe:te vapn tree öpne tornerehälmer, hvarthere medh enn chrone, och udi chronen på then högre hiälmen een halff biörn medh ett förgyltt dragitt sverdh emellem bådhe främbre ramern[e], och udi chronen på then venstre och tridhie hiälmen fem glaffvenstaaker, alle medh förgyltte udder, blåe fänicker och förgyltte kors udi (&c).


That is:

.....dear son lord John and his future children..... for the named principality also lay down an eternal remaining shield, arms and heraldic emblem, which will be:

a shield divided in four parts, the upper right and the lower left field with a blue half on which are two silver stars, the other halfbeing gold and over both parts a bear with a golden sword in his two forepaws; which arms and emblem will be from nowon of North Finland and Kumegard country (i.e. Satakunta). The other upper left and lower right field red with and open golden tournament helmet with a crown on two golden spears crosswise behind it, with blue pennons with golden crosses which arms and emblem will be from now on of South Finland, Rasborgz country and Aland (i.e. Finland proper); and on the said arms three open and crowned tournament helmets and on the right helmet a half bear with a golden sword in his both forpaws and on the crown on the left and third helmet five golden spears, each with blue pennons with golden crosses (&c).  [5]


In this grant of arms the description of the third crest is omitted and it is thought that there was the arms of Vasa on an inescutcon in the middle. [6]    


This coat of arms however, has never been used by John but instead he bore a coat of arms uniting the quarters of the royal arms of Sweden  and the newly designed arms of North and South Finland.

They are on a sculpture above the entrance of Åbo castle dated 1560 and on a manuscript dated 1561.

They are:


Arms: ¼: 1. Azure, three crowns Or 2 & 1 for Sweden; 2. Azure threen bends sinister wavy Argent, a crowned lion Or for Folkunge; 3. per fess Azure and Or, in chief two eight-pointed stars Argent and a bear rampant proper, a sword in his forepaws Argent hilted Or for North Finland; 4. Gules, two tournament spears Or, ensigned Azure, a cross Or in saltire charged with an open tournament helmet Or, for South Finland. And an inescutcheon in nombril point bendy Azure, Argent and Gules a sheaf Or for Vasa.

Crown: A ducal crown


Arms of John above the entrance of Åbo castle, 1560

Arms of John in a manuscript, 1561

Seal of John


Arms: The arms quarterly of John. Legend: IOHANNES D.G. DVX FINLANDIE


Grand Dukes of Finland


The Kings of Sweden, Grand Dukes of Finland always displayed their arms as a King of Sweden consisting of a quarterly of Sweden and Folkunge/Gotland with their dynastical arms in nombril point. No grand-ducal arms consisting of a combination of their dynastical arms and the arms of Finland, for example in a shield quarterly or per pale are known.

The same is true for the Emperors of Russia, Grand Dukes of Finland. No arms of the Grand Dukes are known from this era combining the arms of Romanov, occupying an unimportant place in Russian heraldry anyhow, with the arms of Finland. 




A Kingdom of Finland

The attempt to create a Kingdom of Finland in 1742 is a little-known chapter in the history of Finland. Following the Russian occupation in the Russo-Swedish War (1741–1743) and vague promises of making the country independent, general James Keith was presented at the lantag of Turku with the decision to ask Duke Karl  Peter Ulrich of Holstein-Gottorp, a sister’s son of Empress Elizabeth of Russia,  to be the King of Finland. It is not known how the lantdag reached that decision as no official records of the meeting have survived, but from Russians' internal correspondence it seems evident that it was on the Finns' initiative. Preparations to form a delegation to present the Empress with the request started. The Diet of October 1742, convened by Keith, soon proclaimed the then 14-year old Karl Peter Ulrich as King of Finland. But by then he had already been proclaimed successor of the Russian throne.  At his wedding with Sophia of Anhalt in 1745 he bore:


Arms in alliance of Karl Peter Ulrich and his wife Sophia of Anhalt

In Schloß Dornburg a/d Elbe.


The arms of Peter on the dexter are:

Arms: Quarterly enté en pointe of Norway, Schleswig, Holstein, Stormarn and Ditmarschen and an inescutcheon in nombril point of Oldenburg.


On the sinister are the arms of Anhalt


However, the political situation had outgrown the idea of Finnish independence and it quickly evaporated.

Old Finland (i.e. Russian Karelia or Vyborg and other territories with which it merged), was governed from 1743 to 1917 as a separate territory with its own administration, law system, governance and constitution, in many aspects similar to the principalities of Germany. After 1809 however, Finland was not made a kingdom but the status of Grand Duchy was maintained for which the Russian tsars bore the title ВЕЛИКІИ КНЯЗЬ ФИНЛЯНДСКІИ  (Grand Duke of Finland).


Æ See also: Karelia


Frederick Charles of Hesse (Väinö I)



Finland had declared independence from what was the former Russian Empire, at that time embroiled in the Russian Civil War, on 6 December 1917. At the time of the declaration of independence, monarchists were a minority in the Finnish Parliament, and Finland was declared a republic. A civil war followed, and afterwards, while the pro-republic Social Democratic Party was excluded from the Parliament and before a new constitution was adopted, Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse was elected to the throne of Finland on 9 October 1918 and abdicated 14 December of the same year.


Member of the Finnish Parliament Gustaf Arokallio suggested the monarchical designation

"Charles I, King of Finland and Karelia, Duke of Åland, Grand Duke of Lapland, Lord of Kaleva and the North" (Kaarle I, Suomen ja Karjalan kuningas, Ahvenanmaan herttua, Lapinmaan suuri-ruhtinas, Kalevan ja Pohjolan isäntä; / Karl I, Kung av Finland och Karelen, hertig av Åland, storhertig av Lappland, herre över Kaleva och Pohjola).


He is sometimes designated with his regnal name Väinö I (disputed).


A Crown for the Kingdom of Finland


Replica of the Crown designed for the Finnish monarch.


The crown which exists today was made by goldsmith Teuvo Ypyä in 1988, based on the original drawings of E.O.W. Ehrström, 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 separated by the roses from the arms. Above the circlet are two arches. On top of the arches is a globe crested with the Finnish lion. Inner diameter of the crown is approximately 58 cm and it weights ca. 2 kg.





Regent of Finland in the interim was Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim who served 12.12.1918-25.07.1919.

Standard of the Regent 1919





The presidents of Finland have an emblem of office although some have a personal coat of arms of their own. This, however is not displayed in connection with the excersizing of their office and has no official status.


Presidential Standard 10.05.1920-1978


Presidential Standard 01.06.1978-present


Presidential Seal


The President of Finland wears the Grand Cross of the Order of the White Rose of Finland with Collar (28.02.1919).


Presidential Personal Arms








Pehr Evind Svinhufvud 1931-‘37

Lauri Kristian Relander 1925-‘31

Kyösti Kallio 1937-‘40


Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim 1944-‘46


Juho Kusti Paasikivi 1946-‘56



Urho Kekkonen 1956-‘82

(Since the Consultation)

Mauno Koivisto 1982-‘94

(The Kingdom of the Best)


Martti Ahtisaari 1994-2000

(It’s Possible for who Dares)

Tarja Halonen 2000-‘12

(On behalf of the Common People)

Sauli Niinistö 2012-present






With the smaller Russian imperial arms, 1882


Symbol of the Senate of Finland 1917.

Manufactured by goldsmith Viktor Lindman who resided in Helsinki.

Photo: Markku Haverinen, The National Board of Antiquities.


The Arms of Finland


Grand Duchy of Finland

1581 -1917


A coat of arms for the entire area of the kingdom of Sweden lying to the east of the Gulf of Bothnia is first seen on the sepulchral monument which Erik XIV orderd to be erected to the memory of his father Gustav Vasa: a lion rampant with his hind feet trampling on a scimitar and with a bare sword in his mailed fore-paw. On ensigns the lion is yellow on a red ground. After King John, for reasons of prestige, conferred upon Finland the title of grand-duchy the shield is surmounted by a closed ducal crown. In this form the coat of arms of Finland continued to exist throughout the entire period the country was a part of the kingdom of Sweden, the trampling of the scimitar changed for the putting the scimitar in the left paw of the lion at the beginning of the 18th century.

The title of grand duke of Finland, which we find among those of the Swedish kings from John III (1568-’92) to Charles XII (1697-1718), was omitted during the succeeding period. The conception and name of the Grand Duchy of Finland however, continued to be used in official documents, in representations of the geography of the kingdom, etc. The step taken by Gustav IV Adolp to confer it upon his son Charled Gustab at his birt in 1802 gives the impression of a revival.

In the writing of Swedish history this title of grand-duke attract little attention, but thsi is not the case in the Finnish. When it was first introduced it was of defin8ite importane in negotiuation with the russian grand-duke czar, and after the rupture of 1809 it came to be of still greated importance for Finland. [7]


The arms of the Grand Duchy of Finland

on the monument to Gustav I Vasa in Uppsala Cathedral, thought to be completed in 1581


The arms are:

Arms: Gules, strewn with roses Argent, a lion rampant Or, his dexter paw in armor, swinging a sword proper and threading on a sabre also proper.

Crown: A crown of three leaves and two groups of three pearls.


Soon the crown was upgraded by adding two hoops, making it a royal crown


Funeral procession of John III, 1594

Detail from a drawing in the National Record Office


The coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Finland between the initials of John III:  I[ohannes] R[ex] on the ensign and horse clothes. The crown on the arms of two (three) hoops.


The arms with a new grand-ducal hat, 1st half 17th cent.


In this version the armor of the dexter paw is omitted and it did not return until 1889. On the arms is a grand ducal hat.

The arms with a grand-ducal hat

Embroidered for the funeral procession of Gustav II Adolf, 1633

Coll. Livrustkammaren. Inv. n° 3873:4b


The grand-ducal hat modified. The lion keeping the sabre in his sinister claw and standing on the blade with his dexter hind leg.


Arms of the Grand Duchy of Finland

Embroidered for the funeral procession of  Charles X Gustav on 4 November 1660.

Left: Coll.: Livrustkammaren Inv.nr. 24846 (60:5:b) Right: Coll.: Livrustkammaren 25236 (331:88)


In the second half of the 17th century the hat was modified again by replacing the leaves on the diadem by points of ermine and setting the hoops with pearls. This type of crown was maintained until the middle of the 19th century.

Arms of Finland by Erik Dahlberg, 1699  [8]


The lion standing with both hind legs on the sabre now. This position was also changed in the middle of the 19th century.


 Russian Rule 1809-1917


After the conclusion of peace at Frederikshamn in 1809 Finland acquired an extensive autonomy, retaining her fundamental laws and constitution from the Swedish era, as well as her coat of arms. This latter, it is true, was in the slightly distorted form which was given in Erik Dahlbergh’s Svecia Antiqua et Hodierna. It continued to be used as the inescutcheon in the imperial Russian coat of arms, but by itself too. In the course of the years a number of corrections were made, and from 1891 - according toreasearch by G. Granfelt and K.A. Bomansson - it was given the form which first appeared on the sepulchral monument to Gusyav Vasa in Uppsala Cathedral, taking into account however, the grand-ducal crown added during the reign of John III. The disastrous years of 1900 and 1917 alone are exceptions in this respect. [9]

The coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Finland,

silver embroidery. Made in Russia 1808.

National Museum of Finland. Photo National Board of Antiquities/Markku Haverinen.



Arms of Finland

in the larger achievement if the Russian Empire of  11.04.1857

                                         Arms of Finland

on the larger achievement of the Russian Empire, 1882


The lion keeping the sabre with his sinister forepaw and his dexter hind paw. On the shield the newly designed crown of Finland

Arms of Finland

in the medial achievement of the Russian Empire, 1882


The grand ducal crown slightly redesigned.


By decision of the diet of 1888 an armorial of the finnish knighthood and nobility was published. On the cover G. Granfelt, justice of the Court of Appeal, made a new design for the coat of arms of the Grand Duchy which fell back on the arms as on the monument of Gustav Vasa from 1581. In it the position of the sabre was restored by making the lion trampling it instead of keeping it in its sinister claw. The armor of the dexter paw was restored. Also, the shield was covered with a closed, grand- ducal crown of 17th century design.


Arms of the Grand Duchy of Finland

On  Finlands Ridderskaps of Adels Vapenbok, Helsingfors, 1889


Not long afterwards this version of the arms was generally accepted and came on the cover of the  Statskalender (State Directory) until 1923. [10]

It  was also noticed by the German heraldist Hugo Gerard Ströhl.


Arms of Finland by H.G. Ströhl [11]


In the year a Russian provisional government exercised grand-ducal authority (15.03.1917 -  07.11 1917)

the ancient version was restored.


Arms of the Grand Duchy of Finland

as on the cover of Finlands Statskalender, 1917


The arms are the arms of Finland as on the Greater and Medial achievement of Czar Alexander III, covered with the Finnish crown.


Formal declaration of independence from Russia 06.12.1917


The Finnish coat of arms was also adopted after the Declaration of Independence on 6 December 1917, and the establishment of the Constiotution for the Republic of Finland on 17 July 1919. In the folowing year however, the crown was omitted from the shield.

The story of this omission is as follows:

During the Russian era Finland was permitted to retain her coat of arms but had no flag of her own. Several fancy flags were used privately, some in the colours red and yellow, some in the combinations of white and blue introduced by the poet Zacharias Topelius. The official flag of the nation however, was exclusively the one of Russia. The flaring up of the idea of independence at the Russian pre-revolution of 1905 and the revolution of 1917 inspired the hoisting of  “the lion standard”, i.e. a red flag with the lion of the Finnish coat of arms. The present blue and white flag with a cross was esablished however, by Decree of 29 May 1918. The national flag was to bear the coat of arms of Finland in the centre of the cross, “taking into consideration” according to the Council’s Decree of 12 February 1920, “the fact that Finland by her constitution is a sovereign republic”, without a crown on the shield.  Among noteworthy recent designs which have been made for the coat of arms is an imaginative one from 1929 by the artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela.

A closed crown is a sign, not of a special constitution but of sovereignty. On the Finnish coat of arms it meant, during the Swedish era, that Finland partook of the sovereignty of the realm.

The lack of a law on the coat of arms and flag of Finland gave the Council occasion to appoint, on 15 October 1934, a committee to prepare a proposal for a coat of arms and a draft law for its protection. This comittee, under the chairmanship of Kaalo Blomstedt submitted its report on 9 June 1936, together with a draft concerning the coat of arms and flag of Finland. It was heraldically unassailable and based on historical tradition: the golden lion on a red shield surmounted by a closed crown. [12]

Fourty years after the submission of the report the coat of arms of the republic was officially adopted by decree n° 381 of 26.05.1978.


Finnish Socialist Soviet Republic

28.01.1918 - 25.04.1918


Finnish Socialist Conciliar ("Soviet") Republic in southern Finland during the civil war.



The People’s Commission (“The Red Senate”) had a five-penny copper coin struck with three fanfare trumpets on the reverse side in the spring of 1918. This was because they had only a red flag but no official seal or coat of arms.


Kingdom of Finland



Before a discussion began about the question if the arms had to be crowned or not the finnish lion appeared on a shield-shaped but uncrowned field on stamps.


Stamp Helsinki type, 1918-‘21

Stamp Vaasa type 1918


After the end of WWI on 11 November 1918 the Finnish government asked Prince Frederick to give up the crown, which he officially had not yet come to wear in Finland.

The king-elect Frederick renounced the throne on 14 December 1918. Republican parties won three quarters of the parliament's seats in the election of 1919 and Finland subsequently adopted a republican constitution.


Republic of Finland

17.07.1919 - present

The proposal of Eric O.W. Ehrström


The “State Seal Comittee” confirmed  the proposal of Eric O.W. Ehrström’s on 17.11.1919 but no legislature followed. Instead a flag of state was adopted on 12 February 1920 showing the ancient coat of arms, uncrowned, in the middle of the cross:


Arms of 12.02.1920


Shortly afterwards the arms were represented on paper money embellished with a tree for supporter.

The tree might refer to Tapio, "The Forest-Friend," and "The Gracious God of the Woodlands."

Tapio is an East Finnish forest spirit or god, who figures prominently in the Kalevala as the chief of the forest deities. Hunters prayed to him before a hunt. His wife is the goddess of the forest, Mielikki. He was the father of Annikki, Tellervo, Nyyrikki (the god of hunting), and Tuulikki. Fitting the Green Man archetype,  he is represented as a very tall and slender divinity, has a beard of lichen and eyebrows of moss and wears a coat of tree-moss, and a high-crowned hat of fir-leaves He also appears in the Nightwish song, Elvenpath, as Tapio, bear king, ruler of the forest.



Somewhat later the arms were surrounded by a garland of branches of fir:


Arms of Finland, 1926


Reverse of finnish coins 1928-1951





Proposal of Rudolf Ray [13]

Proposal of Akseli Gallen-Kallela, 1929


During the term of office of president P.E. Svinhufvudd (1931-’37) a committee was installed on 15 November 1934 to make a proposal for a coat of arms of the republic. The committee, consisting of prof. Kaarlo Blomstedt, prof. Eero Järnefelt, Väinö Blomstedt and the architect A.W. Rancken, reported on 9 June 1936 with the following proposal:


§ 1

The arms of the realm consist of the historical arms of Finland and is of two categories: the larger  arms of the realm and the smaller arms of the realm.

§ 2

The larger arms of the realm consist of a red shield with a upright standing, crowned golden lion trampling with its backfeet on a naked sabre and holding in his right paw in armor a naked sword. The armor and the blades of the sword and sabre are of silver, their hilts and the links of the armor of gold.

On the shield is a golden crown closed with four hoops set with pearls (of which three visible) and lined with purple

For supporters there are two brown bears reguardant with golden claws and tongues standing on a pedestal of branches of fir.

Over the pedestal a silver and blue ribbon is winded with the motto vapaa, vankka, vakaa (free, firm steadfast)

§ 3

For smaller arms of the realm the shield as described in § 2 1st sentence can be used. In some cases,  depending from the circumstances, the ancient historical crown as  in § 2, 2nd sentence can be placed on the smaller arms.

§ 4

The larger arms of the realm may be used by the president of the republic, by the diet, the councillors and in cases prescibed by ministerial decree, and by Finnish representatives in foreign countries by appointment of the councillor.

The permission of the use of the larger arms of the realm implies the use of the smaller arms.

The use of the arms in the official and civil intercourse depends of the given permission


In the sixties the question of the national arms was put on again by a State Flag Committee.


The Finish coat of arms drawn by Olof Eriksson for the State Flag Committee in 1970.


In 1978 a law about the finnish coat of arms. was approved.


It reads in finnish:



Laki Suomen vaakunasta

Katso tekijänoikeudellinen huomautus käyttöehdoissa.

Eduskunnan päätöksen mukaisesti säädetään:

1 §

Suomen vaakuna on Suomen historiallinen vaakuna, joka selitetään seuraavasti:

Punaisessa kentässä kruunupäinen leijona, joka pitää oikean etujalan sijalla olevassa haarniskoidussa kädessä iskuun kohotettua miekkaa ja polkee takajaloillaan sapelia, leijona kruunuineen ja varuksineen, aseiden kahvat ja käsivarsihaarniskan nivelet kultaa sekä aseiden terät ja käsivarsihaarniska hopeaa; kenttään sirotettu yhdeksän hopearuusua.

2 §

Suomen vaakunan käyttämisestä valtiolipussa ja viranomaisten sineteissä säädetään erikseen.

3 §

Joka pitää Suomen vaakunana kaupan vaakunaa, joka olennaisesti poikkeaa 1 §:n Suomen vaakunan selityksestä, on tuomittava säännösten vastaisen Suomen vaakunan pitämisestä kaupan sakkoon.

4 §

Tämä laki tulee voimaan 1 päivänä kesäkuuta 1978.


And in swedish:

Lag om Finlands vapen

Se anmärkningen för upphovsrätt i användningsvillkoren.

I enlighet med riksdagens beslut stadgas:

1 §

Finlands vapen är Finlands historiska vapen, som beskrives på följande sätt:

I rött fält ett krönt lejon som trampar på en sabel och vars högra ram ersatts med en harneskklädd arm svingande ett svärd; lejonet, dess krona och beväring, armharneskets ledplåt och vapnens fästen av guld, vapnens klingor och harnesket av sllver; fältet bestrött med nio rosor av silver.

2 §

Om användningen av Finlands vapen i statsflaggan och myndigheters sigill stadgas särskilt.

3 §

Den som saluför Finlands vapen i ett utförande, som väsentligt avviker från beskrivningen av Finlands vapen i 1 §, skall för saluföring av lagstridigt Finlands vapen dömas till böter.

4 §

Denna lag träder i kraft den 1 juni 1978.



The Achievement


An achievement for Finland was designed in the time of Alexander I. It is:


Arms: The arms of Finland.

Crown: A Grand-ducal crown

Supporter: The crowned two-headed eagle of the Russian Empire


Achievement of Finland on a 1 ruble note, 1824


Achievement of Finland on the ‘Stone of the Empress’ on the Market Square of Helsinki, 1833


'The Stone of the Empress' is the oldest public memorial in Helsinki. It was erected in the Market Square to commemorate the Empress Alexandra's - the German-born wife of Nicholas I, first visit to Helsinki. She visited the City in 1833. The Russian two-headed eagle on top of the obelisk is of the model of 1825.


Larger Achievement of Finland

On a 20 mark i silfver note, 1862


Arms: Or, the Russian two headed eagle Sable, crowned and with a sceptre and orb in his claws, on his breastan inescucheon with the arms of Finland.

Crown: The grand-ducal crown of Finland

Order: The collar and jewel of the Order of St. Andrew (Russia, 1698)

Supporters: The archangels Michael and Grabriel

Mantling: Or, strewn with Russian two-headed eagles, lined ermine, tasseled Or and vaulted of the mantling, imperially crowned.

Motto: СЪ НАМИ БОГЪ (God with Us) in red lettering on the vault`


Grand-ducal crown of Finland

As on the arms of Finland in the larger achievement if the Russian Empire of  11.04.1857


The achievement is after the achievement of the Russian Empire of April 1857, the gonfanon missing and the helmet of Alexander Newski on the shield replaced by the Finnish grand-ducal crown.


Achievement of Finland on a 500 Mark note, 1878


Reverse of Finnish Coins 1864-1917




On this armorial printed in 1888 an achievement is represented consisting of the crowned arms of Finland supported by a crowned lion reguardant and a crowned bear reguardant. The design is of G. Granfelt but, as the official supporter of the Finnish arms was the Imperial Russian Eagle, the new supporters suggesting an even greater autonomy or independence were not accepted.


Proposal for a larger achievement 1936


A proposal for an achievement of the republic was made in 1936. It was inspired by the achievement of G. Granfelt of 1888 but reserved a more prominent place to the Ursus Finlandicus (introduced in 1557 for North Finland) which was also adopted for the republic of Karelia and for a new design of the arms of Finland by Rudolf Ray. [14] The proposal reads:


§ 2

The larger arms of the realm consist of a red shield with a upright standing, crowned golden lion trampling with its backfeet on a naked sabre and holding in his right paw in armor a naked sword. The armor and the blades of the sword and sabre are of silver, their hilts and the links of the armor of gold.

On the shield is a golden crown closed with four hoops set with pearls (of which three visible) and lined with purple

For supporters there are two brown bears reguardant with golden claws and tongues standing on a pedestal of branches of fir.

Over the pedestal a silver and blue ribbon is winded with the motto vapaa, vankka, vakaa (free, firm steadfast)


But, as the whole project for a new coat of arms for the republic was cancelled, nothing came of it.




Æ Part 2


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© Hubert de Vries 2014-12-05



[1] Olsoni, Emerik: Finlands Vapen. In: Livrustkammaren. Journal of the Royal Armoury Stockholm. Vol. VIII: 7-8. December 1959, pp. 161-198.

[2] Fleetwood, Harold: Svenska medeltida kungasigill. Stkh., Tryckt med bidrag från längmanska kulturfonden..1936. Leks8vo. Orig. omsl. Uoppsk. 74 s. + 84 figurer. Ill.  n° 21, 1269; n° 30, 1279; n° 31, 1282; n° 32, 1282 n° 35, 1283; n° 39, 1288.

[3] From: Hans Hildebrand: Sveriges Historia från Äldsta Tid till Våra Dagar. Sveriges medeltid, senare skedet, från år 1350 till år 1521 (1877)

[4] Source: gallica bnf.fr. / Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

[5] The le tter of the appointment and grant of arms to Duke John are published in: Konung Gustaf den förstes registratur XXVII, Stockholm 1913 pp. 145-157.

[6] Hedberg, Carol: Finlands första vapen. In: Heraldica Fennica. Alati Hammar ed. Espoo, 1978. pp. 13-25.

[7] Olsoni, op.cit. 1959, p. 195-196

[8] Dahlberg, Erik: Suecia Antiqua & Hodierna. Bearbetad och kompletterad upplaga försedd med kommentarer huvudsakligen hämtade ur äldre källor. 1712

[9] Olsoni, op.cit. p. 196

[10] Olsoni, op. cit p. 183

[11] Ströhl, Hugo Gerard: Russisch-Europäische Wappenrolle. Die Wappen der Gouvernements in Russland, Polen und Finnland, das Wappen des Gebietes der Donischen Kasaken und die Wappen der Hauptstädte dieser Territorien. In: Jahrbuch des K.u.K. Heraldischen und Genealogische Vereins "Adler". 1902, pp. 163-186. VI Tafeln.

[12] Olsoni, op.cit. p. 197

[13] Degerman, Henrik: Finlands nationella vapen. In: Heraldisk Tidsskrift

[14] The ship with which John III went into exile to Poland in 1562 had a bear for figurehead and was called ‘Ursus Finlandicus’.

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