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Finnish nobility a dying breed

Finland’s class system of peasants, clergy and nobility was abolished over a century ago, but many old aristocratic families are still present in society today.

Mies osoittaa aatelisvaakunaa taulusta.
Image: Yle

With 4,000 people of aristocratic descent, Finland is home to just half the blue-blooded families it was centuries ago. Political and financial privileges may have faded, but old family tales still live on.

Pasi Blåfield’s ancestors were awarded noble rank and a family coat of arms in 1476. Hundreds of years ago, families like the Blåfields wielded significant political power.

“It’s something to be modestly proud about,” says Blåfield of his family’s long history.

The Finnish House of Nobles was born under Swedish rule. Position and titles are exclusively inherited by sons—a reason why Finland has just 148 noble families, half of the original number.

Roots in feudal system

During the Middle Ages, Swedish kings granted noble rank to those providing the crown with the means to exercise military rule. These faithful subjects were rewarded with tax exemptions.

“At one stage our family had over 100 manors, but now we don't have a single one,” says Blåfield.

Family legend says some of the wealth was lost to gambling.

Members of the Blåfield family have traditionally enjoyed long military careers. But today’s family members have regular jobs—few descendants of old elite families can expect to inherit estates.

The Finnish House of Nobility says that 90 percent of its current members are “regular people.”

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