Home | Our Mission

Queen Hatshepsut - Egypts Queen Who Would Be King

Thutmose II married Queen Hatshepsut who was his half-sister. As the new Queen she started to build her royal tomb in a remote area called Wadi Sikkat Taka El-Zeida on the west bank of Thebes (Luxor). She had a quartzite sarcophagus inscribed with a prayer to the Goddess Nut. This tomb was later abandoned before the burial shaft could be completed.

Queen Hatshepsut had one daughter Neferure, but no sons. Thutmose II reigned for 13 years and when he died a son born to Lady Isis from his royal harem was crowned King. As he was an infant and his mother was not considered royalty, Queen Hatshepsut was asked to rule on behalf of her stepson. Queen Hatshepsut allowed the young King to preside in all activities. By the 7th year of his reign Queen Hatshepsut acted as and was crowned King, and her new titles were engraved on her monuments.

Thutmose III was not forgotten, he was acknowledged as a co-ruler and the regal years we counted from his accession to the throne. There was not doubt that Queen Hatshepsut was the dominant King of Egypt, however towards the end of her life Thutmose III acquired equal status.

Queen Hatshepsut against tradition commissioned a pair of obelisks to stand in front of the gate to Karnak Temple. Difficult to cut, transport, and erect Obelisks are tall, slim, tapered shafts of hard stone with pyramid-shaped tops, coated with gold foil. They shone in the sunlight and were meant to represent the first rays of light shining on the world as it was created.

Queen Hatshepsut's journey to King can be seen in a series of images. A stela in the Berlin Museum shows the royal family shortly before Thutmose II's death. The Red Chapel at Karnak shows Queen Hatshepsut and Thutmose III standing together. Both appear identical with male bodies, wearing the kilt and blue crown, both carrying a staff and an ankh. Their cartouches show Thutmose standing behind the Queen in the more junior position.

There is no explanation why Queen Hatshepsut took on the role of King we can only assume that a crisis occurred requiring an adult King and there appears to have been no opposition to her taking on the role. She does offer some justification and claims to be entitled to the throne because she was the intended heir of the revered Thutmose I and also the daughter of the God Amun. According to a series of images in her Mortuary Temple, the God Amun fell in love with her mother and chose her to bear his daughter Queen Hatshepsut. In an oracle revealed to Queen Hatshepsut Amun apparently proclaimed his daughter King of Egypt.

As Queen Hatshepsut she was portrayed as a regular woman, slender, pale and passive. As a King she needed to find an image that would reinforce her new position while distancing herself from her role as a Queen. She evolved into an entirely masculine King, with a man's body, male clothing, male accessories and male ritual actions. It appears that the appearance of a King mattered more than her gender.

Queen Hatshepsut was careful to behave as a conventional King of Egypt right from her coronation. A Queen was then needed to fill the feminine role of the monarchy and she turned to her daughter Neferure to act as Queen. Egypt's royal children normally remained hidden in their nurseries throughout their infancy and Neferure was no exception, but after her mother's coronation Neferure began to play the role of Queen. Scenes on the walls of the Red Chapel at Karnak show Neferure as an adult woman. She disappears towards the end of her mother's reign. The assumption is that she died and was buried in a tomb near that built for her mother.

Gradually Queen Hatshepsut picked advisors, many were men of humble birth like Senenmut. She realized these self-made men had an interest in keeping her on the throne because if she fell, they fell with her. Senenmut, tutor to Princess Neferure rose quickly through the ranks sparking speculation over the nature of their relationship. Were they lovers? They certainly never married. The fact that he carved his image into the Queen's mortuary temple and that his tomb encroached upon the area of her tomb infers a close bond between them, as he would not dare to do this without her permission.

As the King she launched an assault on chaos. Foreigners were subdued, the monuments of the ancestors were restored, and the whole of Egypt took on temple building projects. She then turned to trade missions to the Lebanon for wood, increased work in the copper and turquoise mines in Sinai and a successful trading mission to Punt. The land of Punt, the location of which is now lost, had many exotic treasures, precious resins, unusual animals, ebony, ivory and gold. Reliefs in the Queen's mortuary temple suggest Punt might be along the Eritrean/Ethiopian coast.