The Mannerheim family has its roots in Holland. The ancestor of the family came to Sweden via Germany in the 1640's. The family was raised to the nobility in the 1690's and at the same time the original family name of Marhein was changed to Mannerheim. In the 18th century members of the family became soldiers and rose to baronetcy. The Marshal's great-grandfather Carl Erik came to Finland as a young officer at the end of the 18th century.
Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim was born on June 4, 1867, at the Louhisaari mansion in Askainen in southwest Finland. His father was a groom of the chamber, Count Carl Robert Mannerheim, and his mother Hélèn bore the maiden name of von Julin. Gustaf spent the main part of his early youth at the Louhisaari mansion. He was first taught by a Swiss governess. When he was seven years old he was sent to school in Helsinki, where he lived with his father. He attended secondary school in Hamina for two years.
In 1892 Gustaf Mannerheim married Anastasia Arapova, the daughter of a wealthy Russian general. It was not a happy marriage and in practice ended as early as in 1903, although they were not officially divorced until sixteen years later. Two daughters were born in the marriage, Anastasie and Sophie, who after their parents' divorce lived unmarried in England and France, where Anastasia Arapova had also moved.
Having lost the 1919 presidential election to K.J. Ståhlberg, Mannerheim withdrew to private life. However, this did not mean that he lost interest in foreign policy. He was particularly engaged in what happened in Russia. In domestic politics he was independent of any party. He spent much time in Paris and London. He also had time for his hunting hobby and made several hunting trips in Finland, Central Europe and Asia.
From the beginning of the 20's Mannerheim was engaged in humanitarian activities. He established the Mannerheim Child Welfare Association and was Chairman of the Finnish Red Cross. He was an honorary scout and honorary member of many associations. He was also Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Union Bank and later of the Helsingin Osakepankki.
In the 20's and 30's Mannerheim was a person widely trusted by the citizens, irrespective of their background in 1918. He was seen as the leader to be relied on if Finland was threatened by danger.
In his four last years of life, Mannerheim first spent as much time as possible at the Kirkniemi mansion in Lohja, which he had purchased in 1945. From 1948 he spent most of his time in the Sanatorium of Val-Mont close to Montreux on the shore of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. There he wrote his memoirs together with his assistants.
C.G.E. Mannerheim, Marshal of Finland, died in Switzerland on January 28, 1951. His funeral in Helsinki on February 4 was an unparalleled national mourning ceremony. The funeral procession from the Cathedral to the Hietaniemi cemetery was two kilometres long. More than 11 000 people formed a guard of honour along the streets. Some 100 000 people followed the funeral and the procession. The Finnish people wanted to pay their respect to their great man. The Marshal of Finland and the former President of the Republic had passed to eternity.