Denmark’s New Queen Is a Real Rags-to-Riches Story

By: Carol Kingston | Published: Jan 20, 2024

Denmark’s long-serving Queen Margrethe II abdicated the throne after 52 years this month, allowing her son Frederik to become king.

Mary Donaldson, wife of Frederik, will now become his queen in a story that many have deemed a true rags-to-riches story after her family’s tough history.

Frederik Becomes King of Denmark

King Frederik ascended to the throne on Jan. 14 after his mother, Queen Margrethe, signed the abdication papers inside Christianborg Palace in Copenhagen.

Crown Prince Christian and King Frederik X of Denmark photographed together

Source: Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

With the transfer of power, King Frederik took to the balcony of the palace and made his first speech as Denmark’s new monarch.

Denmarks New Queen

The King’s wife, Mary Donaldson, officially became the nation’s queen on the same day. The pair will now live at the luxurious Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen (via MSN).

Mary Donaldson was photographed wearing a pink jacket and hat that matches

Source: @Dhanush2602/X

Kept safe by guards, servants at their beck and call, and people to take care of all life’s troubles, the new queen will truly be living a life many can only dream of. Yet, it’s incredibly different from that of her ancestors.

From Rags to Riches

Like very few queens of history, Mary doesn’t descend from nobility. Instead, her ancestry is traced back to Marion Horne, who lived in a small cottage in Eastern Scotland.

Homeless person wearing tattered clothing begs for money on the streets

Source: Freepik

According to reports from The Daily Mail, Marion lived during the 19th century and was widowed by age 40 after her husband died at sea.

Marion Begs Others For Change

A mother of four with no central heating nor a husband to help provide, it would have been a harsh existence for Marion and her family.

A person pictured counting small coins in their hat

Source: Freepik

According to an entry in the 1861 national census, Marion was listed as a “pauper,” or someone whose sole income came from extended family, friends, and possibly even former co-workers of her deceased husband.

Comparisons With the Princess of Wales

Comparisons have been made between the life of Marion and the family history of Catherine Middleton, the Princess of Wales.

Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales, attends the Christmas Morning Service at Sandringham Church

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Middleton, who married Prince William in 2011, traces her family history back to coal miners.


Tough Life in the Mines

Kate’s ancestors worked in some of the toughest conditions imaginable during the 19th century in the northeastern portion of England.

A mine worker wearing a yellow hard hat is pictured holding a light inside a tunnel

Source: Freepik

The same can be said for the fishing communities of the same era in places such as Prestonpans and Port Seton in Eastern Scotland. Neither Marion’s nor Kate’s families would have ever been considered even partially wealthy during the era.


Marion Reveives Money Once A Year

Marion would patiently await each fall as she would be gifted money from the local fisherman.

A woman is given a coin as she stands on a street corner begging for money

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Once a year, the local fisherman would collect up all the money they could spare and hand it out to townspeople such as widows and those who could no longer work.


Family Luck Began to Change

Eventually, Marion’s ancestors, through hard work and determination, managed to transform their future.

A wooden ship sets sail towards the setting of the sun on a calm day

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Marion’s daughter married Peter Donaldson in 1871. His grandson eventually emigrated to Tasmania in 1963, becoming a prosperous merchant marine captain.


Taking On A Career In Higher Education

Peter’s son, John, continued on course and further evolved the family’s fortunes by taking a job in higher education teaching mathematics in Tasmania.

A mathematics professor dressed in a white shirt observes his blackboard

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The young immigrant kept his Scottish roots and even married a local girl before moving to Tasmania. He later became a professor and taught at various universities, including Oxford and Houston.


Pauper Tag Removed From Family Name

John finally cleared the “pauper” tag from his family’s name after his daughter married Crown Prince Federick in 2004.

Crown Prince Frederik and Mary Donaldson during their wedding in 2004

Source: Lalo Yasky/WireImage/Getty Images

He proudly walked Mary Donaldson down the aisle dressed in a traditional Scottish kilt. John and his daughter were both gifted a Danish coat of arms, which signified the elevation of their social status.


The Beauty of the Coat of Arms

The gifted coat of arms contained an image of a boat and an eagle, both of which represent their ancestral home of Scotland.

A sculptor carved the British coat of arms into a slab of stone in 1936

Source: European/FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images

It also bore a lion from a traditional Scottish coat of arms, which John found endearing as it also appears on Tasmania’s coat of arms.