In the absolute monarchy, the king was the head of the kingdom. He could, if he so chose, reward those who aided him in matters of state by raising them to the peerage. In a society with a very basic economy, the king would grant his aides land, which allowed them to make a living through taxation and agriculture. The inhabitants living in these areas then paid their tax to the landowner rather than to the king. In exchange, the landowner was required to keep an army which fell under the king’s command. These landowners who didn’t pay tax to the king were called “frälse” (nobility). The necessity of maintaining an armed force led to the nobility being hereditary.
In the 18th and 19th Centuries commerce became more important to politics and the nobility’s responsibility to maintain troupes was diminished as many were raised to the peerage for reasons other than military prowess. Similarly, the benefits inherent to nobility decreased. It had long been a given that persons of noble birth took precedence for the higher offices.
During the Riksdag of the Estates, four Estates (nobility, clergy, burghers and peasants) represented the people. Every noble family had the right to have a representative in the Estate of nobility. The noble families of Finland got their special status from the king of Sweden until 1809 and thereafter by the Russian emperor. The Swedish king gave noble status to several German and French warriors and civil servants working in Sweden. At the end of the Russian time some Finnish speaking families also got noble status. Thus in the list of noble families in Finland there are families with Swedish, German, French, Russian and Finnish names. There are also families that later changed their name, usually to a Finnish name.
In the Noble House of Finland have been introduced one prince family, 11 duke families, 63 baron families and 282 other noble families. The number of the family tells in which order the families have been introduced into the House of Nobles. A great many of the introduced families have died out, which means that they are no more mentioned in the every third year by the House of Nobles published Noble Calendary, even if there still are children to daughters of the noble men. One of the families that have died out is the prince family, Menschikoff. Moreover there are several noble families living in Finland that of some reason never have been introduced in the House of Nobles. Before the name of many noble families there is used a preposition af, von or de which can by understood so that the family is decended from a mannor or place whith the family name.
When the Diet of Finland was abolished in favour of a unicameral parliament in 1906, the official position of the nobility was also abolished in Finland. However, because of their education and personal connections, many noblemen were still able to take part in developing the country late into the 20th century by virtue of their respective offices. This group of people includes several members of the Gripenberg family.
When the nobility has lost its prileges this means that those carryung the noble name no more can count on automatically geting good positions. On the countrary it is often awaited that such persons are doing better and having higher ambitions than other people in order to show that they are worth the noble name.
The family tree of a noble family starts from the oldest known male family member in contrary to modern genealogy which starts from a now living person and his or her ancestors on both the male and female line.