From Queen to King: The Story of King Hatshepsut
In Ancient Egypt, a young girl did something unprecedented: she declared herself Pharaoh, King of Egypt. This young girl is King Hatshepsut. Her architectural and economic achievements are prolific, but were nearly lost in the annals of history.
Hatshepsut was born circa 1508 BCE; she was the daughter of King Thutmose I and his Great Royal Wife, Queen Ahmose. Hatshepsut grew up in a world of privilege and held great power and influence. She held the religious title of God’s Wife, which meant she was a link between the people and Amen-Re, the chief god in Egyptian theology.
Disease and pestilence were rampant in Ancient Egypt and King Thutmose I succumbed to an untimely death. As the inheritance for the throne was patrilineal (which meant only sons could become the pharoah), Hatshepsut did not qualify to become King. Instead her half-brother, Thutmose II, the sickly son of Thutmose I and Mutnofret (a minor wife), was declared King. Thutmose II’s claim to the throne was strengthened by a marriage to Hatshepsut. With this marriage, Hatshepsut became the most powerful woman in Egypt: her blood was of pure Thutmoside lineage, she was God’s Wife and the King’s Great Wife. All that was left to secure her power as Queen was to produce a male heir to the throne.
Although Hatshepsut did not produce a male heir, she and Thutmose II’s union did produce a daughter: Neferure. Thutmose II died fifteen years into the marriage, leaving Hatshepsut a young widow. The closest male heir was Thutmose III, the son of Thutmose II and Isis, his wife who was part of his harem. Thutmose III was a small boy when he ascended to the throne. After Thutmose II’s death, Queen Hatshepsut took on the role of managing Egypt.
Around Year 7 of Thutmose III’s reign, Queen Hatshepsut declared herself King and Thutmose III’s co-regent. Exactly why and how this declaration occurred is unclear. In a world dominated by men, Hatshepsut was able to make a political power play and align her father’s prior advisors to support her position. She even wore the trappings of the King and is depicted with the traditional false beard worn by all of the pharaohs.
King Hatshepsut’s regency as pharaoh was one of the most successful reigns in Egyptian history. Her policies favored peace and the expansion of the Egyptian empire by building temples and monuments in lieu of war and conquest. Her greatest architectural achievements include the temple Djeser-djeseru and a pair of obelisks at Karnak Temple.
After King Hatshepsut passed away in 1458 BCE her legacy was almost eradicated by someone who defaced and destroyed her monuments and inscriptions. Some hypothesize that this may have been a political maneuver concocted by Thutmose III, but there is no clear evidence to solidify this position.
Written for Sheroes of History by Aspen B. Mock who is an English teacher and writer. Please visit her website and blog “An Aleatory Imaginarium” at www.aspenmock.com or follow her on twitter @AB_Mock.
Year 7 is a one-act play written by Aspen for the 365 Women a Year Project about Hatshpsut. The compelling play resurrects an Ancient world in which oracles made predictions that influenced nations, life was harsh, and political power plays changed the course of history. Most importantly, the play writes Hatshepsut, a heroic and preeminent leader, back into our cultural consciousness.
Find out more:
There is a biography about Hatshepsut called The Woman Who Would be King by Cara Cooney
Find out more about Hatshepsut & other ancient Egyptian rulers on the Mummies2Pyramids page!
There are lots of videos about Hatshepsut that you can watch online, here is just one of them which is quite good!