On 1 May 1868, Prince Friedrich Karl Ludwig Konstantin of Hesse was born at the family manor of Gut Panker in Holstein. Friedrich Karl was the third son and fourth child of Landgrave Friedrich Wilhelm of Hesse (1820-1884) and his second wife Princess Anna of Prussia (1836-1918).

Prince Friedrich Karl of Hesse and Princess Margarete of Prussia in 1893

On 25 January 1893 at Berlin, Prince Friedrich Karl married his second cousin Princess Margarete of Prussia (1872-1954). Margarethe was the daughter of the German Emperor Friedrich III and Empress Victoria. The princess was the youngest sister of Emperor Wilhelm II and a granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. They had six children, all sons, including two sets of twins: Prince Friedrich Wilhelm (1893-1916), Prince Maximilian (1894-1914), twins Prince Philipp (1896-1980; eventual Head of House Hesse) and Prince Wolfgang (1896-1989), as well as twins Prince Richard (1901-1969) and Prince Christoph (1901-1943).

The six sons of Friedrich Karl of Hesse and Margarete of Prussia

In the waning days of World War I, Wilhelm II found an opportunity for his brother-in-law to attain a regal status. On 9 October 1918, Prince Friedrich Karl of Hesse was elected as King of Finland by the parliament of the country, which had declared independence from Russia on 6 December 1917. During his brief reign, Friedrich Karl became known as HM King Frederik Kaarle I of Finland. The last Finnish king renounced his throne on 14 December 1918, having never set foot in his country.

King Frederik Kaarle I of Finland

In 1925, Friedrich Karl’s elder brother Alexander Friedrich abdicated as Head of House Hesse-Kassel – Friedrich Karl succeeded him in this role. When Friedrich Karl died on 28 May 1940 at the age of seventy-two, he was succeeded by his eldest surviving son Philipp, who was married to Princess Mafalda of Savoy (1902-1944), the daughter of King Vittorio Emanuele II and Queen Elena of Italy.

Philipp of Hesse and Mafalda of Savoy on their wedding day in 1925

Although the last Kingdom of Finland lasted for barely two months, a crown was designed for its monarch. Since the final product was never realised, a replica of what the regalia would have looked like resides in the Kemi Gemstone Gallery.

A prototype of the crown planned for King Frederik Kaarle I of Finland

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