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This is the page for the biography of Hortense McDuck, Donald Duck's mother, as can be reconstituted from as many sources as can be compiled into a mostly consistent whole. It is ever a work in progress, and you are welcome to add to it; however, all sources must be mentioned.
Childhood and Youth (1876-1896)
Hortense McDuck was born in 1876 in Glasgow, Scotland, the daughter of Fergus McDuck and Downy O'Drake. According to some family trees, her father was actually a certain "Old Scotty" McDuck, though another family attempts to clear this genealogical inconsistency by proposing that Fergus and Old Scotty are one and the same. Hortense had at least four older siblings: Scrooge, Scrooge's twin brother, Gideon, and Matilda. Though it is unclear if she ever learned of this, Hortense also later had a half-brother, Rumpus McFowl, born through a temporary union between Fergus and another woman. A certain Evelyn might have also been a sister of Hortense's.
In 1877,[note 1] young Hortense had a habit of sucking her thumb and was only capable of saying, "Glxblt!". She lived in a small home in Glasgow with her parents, Scrooge, Matilda, and her uncle, Jake McDuck, who seems to have lived with his brother and his family at the time. The family was very poor.
In 1880,[note 2] Hortense's older brother Scrooge left Scotland either to live along the Mississippi River with their uncle, Pothole McDuck, or to live along the Mississippi River with another uncle, Catfish McDuck. Hortense remained in Scotland with Fergus, Downy, Jake, and Matilda. As Scrooge was boarding the cattle boat which would take him to America, Hortense, looking sadly on her departing brother, uttered a heartfelt farewell, "Glxblt! 'Bye, Scrgy!" This was the first time that her father had ever heard her say anything other than just "glxblt."
Over the next five years, Hortense became taller, more verbose, and the holder of a nasty temper. In 1885,[note 3] Sheriff Fenton Whiskerville, a member of the Whiskerville family which had maintained a rivalry with the Clan McDuck, of which Hortense was a member, for many years, served a notice that Dismal Downs and the Castle McDuck which sat upon it would be sold as its owners, Hortense's father and her uncle Jake, had failed to pay taxes on it. Because of this, Fergus sent a telegram to Scrooge, who was still living in the United States, asking him to return to Scotland with money to help pay the family's debts. While awaiting the arrival of Scrooge, Hortense, Fergus, and Jake stayed at the Castle McDuck to defend it from the Whiskervilles. Hortense chased three members of the clan, including Sheriff Fenton and Argus Whiskerville, with a broom. Though she was only nine years old, she was fiery enough to chase them into a peat bog.
After this heroic act, she was sent to stay in a nearby town with Jake, Downy, and Matilda for the night as Fergus and Scrooge, having just returned from America and reunited with his family, attempted to settle the matter with Fenton and Argus. Though he nearly permanently lost his life in a duel with Argus, Scrooge did manage to get the taxes on the Castle paid, thereby saving the ancestral home of the Clan McDuck. Following this, it seems that Fergus, Downy, Jake, Matilda, and Hortense made the Castle McDuck their permanent residence. Scrooge, on the other hand, did not stay with his family or his sister very long, instead pursuing a career as a gold prospector in South Africa.
Very little is known about what transpired in Hortense's life from 1885 to 1896.
Young Adulthood (1897-1917)
By 1897, the McDuck family began to struggle financially again. Jake’s whereabouts at this point are unknown; he could have still been living with his brother, he could have been living elsewhere, or he could have even passed away. Downy had become sickly and weak, stating that she had “felt so tired lately…” Scrooge’s gold prospecting had taken him across the globe, leading him to Dawson City, Yukon Territory. However, he had failed to make enough money to send to help pay the taxes on Castle McDuck. Thus, in order to keep their home, Fergus, Matilda, and Hortense, now about twenty-one, began seeking forms of employment. Shortly afterwards, Downy died. She was laid to rest in the cemetery adjacent to Castle McDuck.
Amidst these hard times, good news soon arrived as Scrooge had finally found a gold nugget in the Yukon. Within the next five years, he built businesses and became a billionaire. He returned home to Scotland to finally stay with his now smaller family. Hortense, now about twenty-six, had become an excitable young lady with a belief in supernatural things such as ghosts, a lust for American cowboys, and a willingness to tease her older brother, Scrooge. She shared the last two traits with Matilda, who took ghost stories less seriously.
Upon his return, Scrooge was berated by the residents of the nearby village of MacDuich and realized that, after twenty-two years of globetrotting, he was completely unfamiliar with Scottish culture. He revealed to his family that he owned some land in the American village of Duckburg, Calisota and offered to move with them to there. Matilda and Hortense, excited by the prospect of moving to a land of, in Hortense’s words, “Cowboys and Indians and cowboys and skyscrapers!”, eagerly agreed to this proposal. Fergus, citing his age, opted to stay in Scotland, though he encouraged his children to pursue their dreams in the United States. Though Hortense cried at the thought of leaving her father, she still followed her elder siblings to America the very next day. Fergus died in his sleep the night before they left, and the castle was left under the care of Scottie McTerrier.
In Duckburg, Scrooge, Matilda, and Hortense met members of the local Duck family, first meeting farmer Dabney Duck, who directed them to Scrooge's property on Killmule Hill. The three attempted to drive up the hill, but, in his thriftiness, Scrooge neglected to buy any brakes for the car, sending them down the hill and into Dabney's corn fields at full speed. In the aftermath of the wreck, the McDuck siblings met Dabney's wife Elvira, sons Quackmore and Eider, and daughter Daphne.
Quackmore, a short-tempered young drake, began yelling at the sight of the wreck. Not willing to stand back and just listen to his fussing, Hortense yelled back at him, asking, "Aw, who cares about all your stupid corncobs!" The two engaged in a brief shouting match before they calmed down and realized that they were attracted to each other. Hortense quickly began flirting with him, giving him the cutesy nickname "Quackiepoo."
On Killmule Hill, now deemed Killmotor Hill for Scrooge's car accident, Fort Duckburg, the clubhouse for the three-member scouting troop, the Junior Woodchucks, stood. Scrooge quickly forced the Woodchucks to leave, but they, skeptical of him, called the local officials. A week later, as Scrooge was bathing in a barrel of money, much to the disappointment of the significantly less money-obsessed Hortense, the fort received visitors, local livestock thieves Blackheart Beagle and his sons, who had previously met Scrooge when he first immigrated to America in 1880. As Scrooge was too busy lying in a barrel of cash, Hortense and Matilda were the first ones to greet the guests. Hortense assumed that they were there for romantic purposes and was ecstatic at the sight of the "lone strangers." She and Matilda were disappointed and shocked to learn that they were actually there to attack and rob Scrooge for getting them arrested years ago.
One of Blackheart's sons roughly hung Hortense and Matilda on a couple of boards sticking out of the fort as they trapped Scrooge inside one of his own barrels and began stealing for him. Their heist did not last long, as the fort was soon attacked by new foes, the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, the United States Navy, the United States Marine Corps, the Rough Riders, and the Junior Woodchucks. As it turns out, the Junior Woodchucks' complaints to local officials had reached Roosevelt, who heard that "a billionaire from Scotland has seized a military installation on the coast" and decided to handle the matter personally.
During the attack, both Scrooge and Hortense displayed a common bravery, passion, temper, and determination to defend themselves at all costs. The clever Scrooge pushed parts of the crumbling fort onto the attackers, who were charging up Killmotor Hill. The more brutish Hortense used an old tactic she had employed since her childhood; she chased the Rough Riders with a broom, sending them back down Killmotor Hill as they determined that they couldn't shoot this "unarmed lady" who was threatening them. She apparently managed to catch a few of them and hit them with her broom. Luckily, Quackmore arrived and kept her from seriously injuring any of them. As soon as her "Quackiepoo" came on the scene, Hortense seemed to have quickly forgotten both the Beagle Boys and the Rough Riders, instead falling into a state of bliss as she walked back up Killmotor Hill, holding the hand of her love.
The battle between Scrooge and his various foes ended as President Roosevelt realized that he and Scrooge had actually met decades earlier in the Dakota badlands and that Scrooge had purchased Fort Duckburg honestly and was not a foreign invader. The United States ceased its attack, and the Beagle Boys were arrested. That evening, Matilda and Hortense watched as Roosevelt and Scrooge sat around a campfire and reminisced about past adventures.
Over the next six months, Scrooge's "Money Bin" was constructed. Meanwhile, Hortense and Quackmore's relationship grew more serious. By the end of the six months, they were already discussing names for potential children, with Quackmore suggesting "Donald", a name which Hortense was not keen on and which sent her into a tantrum about "Donald" being "a stupid name for a kid."
In 1906,[note 4] Hortense and Matilda accompanied Scrooge on a trip to Panama, where he planned to excavate the legendary Gold Hill for profit. As this trip progressed, Hortense became more keenly aware of the extent of her elder brother's greed, remarking to Matilda that "our brother is getting too greedy." His plans for Gold Hill put him in direct conflict with an old friend of his, President Theodore Roosevelt, who needed to destroy Gold Hill to build the Panama Canal. He showed up to Scrooge's camp with two members of the Canal Zone Police. These two officers, coincidentally, were two of the Rough Riders who were attacked by Hortense roughly four years earlier when they charged on Fort Duckburg. When they saw Hortense, they were immediately struck with fear, but she and Matilda were struck with lust, with Hortense playfully calling, "C'mere, big boy! Don't be shy!" Whether this means that Hortense's relationship with Quackmore at the time had temporarily ended or that she was just willing, whether with or without his permission, to have flings or even mere dates with other men is unknown. At any rate, the officers were not receptive of the McDuck sisters' flirting and fell off of a cliff just to get away from them.
Scrooge, Matilda, and Hortense were invited to Railcar One to further discuss the Gold Hill issue with Roosevelt. Hortense spent her time there once again flirting with members of the Canal Zone Police. When Scrooge chided her for this, she retaliated by yelling at both him and the President, insisting that the President had no right to so much as speak to her until he gave women the right to vote in America.
That night, Scrooge, Matilda, Hortense, and Roosevelt met to borrow a steam shovel so that Roosevelt, as part of the secret "McDuck-Roosevelt Treaty," could help Scrooge quickly extract the gold he desired from Gold Hill and then sell the property to the U.S.A. so the canal could be built. They realized, however, that they could not access the shovel without a key. Hortense and Matilda devised a clever plant to get a key; Matilda stood on top of Hortense, and the two covered themselves in a long black cloak to appear as one tall woman who could use her feminine ways to distract a guard and steal his keys. The plan mostly worked, as they successfully stole the guard's keys, but their cover was blown when Hortense erupted into a temper tantrum when the guard began talking about a "holy terror" in Duckburg, a clear reference to Hortense. Fortunately, members of the Secret Service prevented the guard from harming Matilda and Hortense. The sisters then went to stay with the First Lady, President Roosevelt's wife, as the men excavated Gold Hill.
The next morning, the four met again to discuss what Scrooge would gain in exchange for selling Gold Hill to Roosevelt. Scrooge toyed with the ideas of demanding all rights to produce the newly-invented aeroplane or to ask to own the motion picture camera he had seen at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Before he was able to settle on a price, he fell asleep under the influence of the powerful drink chicha, leaving it up to Matilda and Hortense to name a price. Their decision? The United States government could own Gold Hill in exchange for the first Teddy bear ever made. Scrooge would regret this deal for the next forty-seven years until he realized the value and novelty of the first ever Teddy bear.
A few years later, in Africa, Scrooge became too dishonest and burned down valleys, because the inhabitants wouldn't sell their plantations. The sisters couldn't forgive that, so they come home to the bin.
Scrooge just carried on traveling, and after 17 years, in 1930, he finally came home. In all that time, Hortense and Matilda were working in the Money Bin. All his family was waiting for him. Hortense had with Quackmore two twins, Donald and Della. But when Scrooge just ignored the party and the family, Hortense swore she would never see him again. We don't know what happened to Hortense after that, but Matilda later take a job on the Castle McDuck.
Notes & References
- Don Rosa's Duck Family Tree Sketch
- Don Rosa's Duck Family Tree, Michel Nadorp's Duck Family Tree, and Don Rosa's second Duck Family Tree
- Carl Barks's first Duck Family Tree, Mark Worden's Duck Family Tree
- Chris Moreno's Duck Family Tree
- Paperino e l'uomo del West (INDUCKS: I AO 55034-A
- Shellfish Motives
- Feline Felony
- The Last of the Clan McDuck
- Once Upon a Dime
- The New Laird of Castle McDuck
- The King of the Copper Hill
- The Billionaire of Dismal Downs
- A Letter From Home
- The Terror of the Transvaal
- King of the Klondike
- The Invader of Fort Duckburg
- The Sharpie of the Culebra Cut
- The Empire-Builder from Calisota
- This date is implied by the portrait of Scrooge McDuck accompanying The Last of the Clan McDuck (INDUCKS: ARC US 285A)
- In addition to being implied by the portrait of Scrooge McDuck accompanying The Master of the Mississippi (INDUCKS: ARC US 286A), this date is indicated by the statement in The Master of the Mississippi that Scrooge arrived in America shortly before the Sixth Annual Kentucky Derby, which, in the real-world, took place on May the 18th, 1880.
- This date is indicated by the portrait of Scrooge McDuck accompanying The New Laird of Castle McDuck (INDUCKS: ARC US 289A), the calendar in The King of the Copper Hill dating the beginning of the story to 1884 and the implication by the changing of the seasons that the story ends in the next year, and by Scrooge's statements in both The King of the Copper Hill and The New Laird of Castle McDuck that he had been away from Scotland for five years before returning. He first left in 1880 according to his portrait accompanying The Master of the Mississippi (INDUCKS: ARC US 286A) and the statement in The Master of the Mississippi that he arrived in America shortly before the Sixth Annual Kentucky Derby, which, in the real-world, took place on May the 18th, 1880.
- 1906 was stated to be the year in which The Sharpie of the Culebra Cut takes place by its author, Don Rosa, in his commentary in The Don Rosa Library Vol. 9. This date is also given in an official illustration (INDUCKS: FC PM 349D) for the story. This date can also be determined from real-world history, as the real Theodore Roosevelt inspected the Panama Canal in November of 1906, as is mentioned by online sources such as Politico and History.