Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Frederik VII’s secret son revealed

A Danish friend has made me aware that Jyllands-Posten on Sunday had an article about an upcoming book of memoirs by an elderly lady called Gete Bondo Oldenborg Maaløe. In the book, which has the odd title Getes erindringer – Slægtshistorie, erindringer og beretning om et jævnt og (for det meste) muntert, (altid) virksomt liv (“Gete’s Memoirs: Family History, Memoirs and a Tale of an Even and (Mostly) Merry, (Always) Active Life”), Maaløe documents that King Frederik VII of Denmark was her great-grandfather.
Frederik VII, who died in 1863, was the last of the Oldenburg dynasty, which reigned over Denmark for more than 400 years. It has until now been believed that he was unable to beget children as he were married three times without begetting an heir and no illegitimate children have been known.
Mrs Maaløe says that her great-grandmother Elsa Maria Guldberg Poulsen probably met the Crown Prince in Copenhagen, but that the actual circumstances are unknown to her. The relationship resulted in a child who was given the Crown Prince’s full name, Frederik Carl Christian, and his mother’s surname. She quotes one of four letters in her possession from the Crown Prince to Miss Poulsen: “My own good Maria! Please accept my thanks for the son you have given me [...]. I look forward to giving him a father’s kiss when I come to Copenhagen. [...] Let me now see that you take good care of the lad, so that he will come to resemble his father and I can see my counterfeit in him. [...]”.
Maaløe adds that Frederik VII had intended to make his illegitimate son his private secretary, but died before he had completed his education. The King’s morganatic wife, Countess Danner, did however stay in touch with him and provided for him in her will.
Given that the letters are genuine and that Miss Poulsen did not have other relationships at the same time, this proves that Frederik VII was indeed capable of having children and that other explanations for the end of the Oldenburg dynasty must therefore be sought.
The story is mentioned in passing in Jan Møller’s biography Frederik 7. – En kongeskæbne (1994), where the author states that Marie Poulsen, as he calls her, was a servant at Christiansborg Palace and that the relationship was apparently a short-lived one. He gives the boy’s date of birth as 21 November 1843.
(The picture is a detail of Vilhelm Gerntner’s 1861 portrait of Frederik VII, which hangs at Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen).


  1. I am not sure whether the child was that of Frederik VII or another man. Perhaps DNA testing might prove to be the answer. It does seem strange that no other children happened with three relationships. I tend to think it might not have been Frederik's child.

  2. I recently heard a rumor, from a fairly reliable source, that a friend of mine from many years ago was the illegitimate child of Olav V. He would now be in his 50's and I guess that would have been after Märtha passed away.

    The same source also said that Olav V was involved with other women and this was fairly well known at the time.

    Would this be consistent or inconsistent with your knowledge of Olav V?

    Apologies if this query is beyond the scope of decent discourse about royalty of recent vintage and I understand if you choice not to respond.

  3. Crown Princess Märtha died in 1954 and by all accounts King Olav never came over her death, so fathering a child shortly thereafter would be very uncharacteristic of him. We have his own words for that he only had relations with one woman during his entire life.
    The "fairly well known" relationships with other women were by all accounts false rumours based on common gossip. It was commonly said that he had a relationship with a woman who owned a fashion store in Oslo, rumours which she herself were keen for people to believe. This woman even began stalking the King, but later signed a legal document stating that she did not have a relationship with the King.
    So I am afraid the rumours of your friend's paternity seem very unlikely to be true.

  4. Trond,
    Thanks for your serious response to what may well be a flimsy rumor.

  5. Trond,
    My dad just passed away this morning. His name was Richard Allen Petersen, son of Elsie K. Petersen and Earl R. Petersen. My dad always told us that we were decendents of the last king of Denmark. Is there a way for us to trace back and confirm this?
    Just curious. It would be fun to know.
    Thanks for any direction you can provide on this.
    K. Dane Petersen

  6. I am afraid such things tend to be difficult to proove, as there are so many such stories around that most of them cannot possibly be true. But if you want to look into it, my first piece of advice would be for you to try and find out what king your father claimed descent from. It cannot possibly be "the last King of Denmark", as Denmark is still a monarchy.

  7. Dear Sir,
    In my family there has always been rumor that one of my great grandmothers was a maid in waiting to "the Queen of Denmark." We never knew which Queen. I researched back to a woman named Dora Pederson, who I believe was the sister of Else Maria Guldberg Poulsen. In refernces on this web page, Else Maria may have been a servant at the 2nd Christiansborg Palace. Would there be any way of finding who the other servants were at the time of Else, and / or whether she had a sister Dora? Also, I am curious as to whether Mrs Maaløe has ever had her DNA tested to establish her connection to Frederik VII. Thank you, especially for your wonderful information on the Monarchy.
    Susan Lounsbury - USA.

  8. I cannot recall having heard that Gete Maaløe has had a DNA test (I can imagine the current royal relatives of Frederik VII might be reluctant to provide DNA samples), but Frederik VII clearly acknowledged the child as his in the letters now in Maaløe's possession.

    For both genealogical information about Else Maria Guldberg Poulsen's potential siblings and information about who were employed by the court in the early nineteenth century I would suggest you contact the Danish National Archives, where one would probably be able to assist you by suggesting which records might be consulted in order to find the information you are looking for.

  9. Here is our family story.
    Fred Johnson

  10. To add to the above rumors, I have one that I would love an opinion on. Let me see if I can explain this clearly. My grandmother tells this story. The geneology goes like this:
    My grandfather > his grandfather (John August Fischer) married Christina Wihelmina Beck (born Jan 20, 1859 in Kolding Denmark). Christina related a story to my grandmother. She tells of being a young girl playing in her front yard when a man rode up on a large white horse. Her mother (Anna Christine Norgoard, born Oct 7,1833 in Odense, Denmark) came from the house to talk to this man. The man asked to take Christina and raise her as his own. Anna told the man when he disowned her, he gave up right to Christina as well. This man, Christina claims, was "The King of Denmark." From the birth and marriage dates, King Fredrick VII would be the king at this time. From the very limited research I have done, I can find geneological record on my family line through Anna Christine Norgoard. I cannot locate parents for her, which would fall in line with the claim of being disowned. I also found a few sources that said King Fredrick VII's second cousin's (who some sources say he was married to from 1828 to 1837) name was Wihelmina Maria. These dates would coincide with her being the mother of Anna Christine. I have nothing more than a family story passed down, but would love to know if there would be any possible way to discover a child if they truly were disowned. Any thoughts appreciated.

  11. I have hqnd writen letters that shows the family chain from King Frederick 7th illigit son. His name was Hans Peter Outsen. He changed the name to Hansen.
    This would make Frederick the 7th my great, great, great, great grandfather.
    I'd be more than happy to show them, they are very old and written by the Hansen fanily.
    Not sure how to contact those interested, maybe this will get it all started, thanks.
    More than happy to share dna.
    Thomas N. Foster


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