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2. Background and rise to prominence

  1. Family background & Marriage to Thutmose II
  2. Claim to the throne and succession: Divine Birth and Coronation reliefs
  3. Political and religious roles of the king and queen in the Seventeenth Dynasty and early Eighteenth Dynasty
  4. Marriage to Thutmose II

a. Family Background & Marriage to Thutmose II

The first king of the 18th Dynasty was Ahmose. He was succeeded by Amenhotep I. Hatshepsut was the daughter of his successor, Thutmose I and his chief wife, Queen Ahmose. There are several theories concerning Queen Ahmose’s family background. Most believe she was of royal blood being either related to Amenhotep I (sister or daughter) or some other member of his family.

Thutmose I on the other hand may not have been of royal blood. He could have been the son of Amenhotep I. Others suggest he was a military leader who had no royal blood at all. In the case of the latter it has been argued by historians such as Callender that he should be regarded as the first pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. The direct loyal line as a result was passed through the female side of Hatshepsut’s family.

Thutmose I had several children with Queen Ahmose including two sons named Wadjmose and Amenmose but only Hatshepsut survived. Thutmose I had another son named Thutmose II but he was born to a lesser wife. When Thutmose I died around 1518 BC he was succeeded by Thutmose II.

Thutmose II married his half-sister Hatshepsut. She was around 12 to 15 years of age. Together Thutmose II and Hatshepsut had one daughter named Neferure. Thutmose II had a son, Thutmose III, by a lesser wife named Isis.

During Thutmose II’s reign Hatshepsut was a traditional Queen. She used the titles of King’s Daughter, King’s Sister, God’s Wife of Amun and King’s Great Wife. She also began construction of a tomb in the valley of the Queens. There is a stele in the Berlin Museum showing, according to Tyldesley, Hatshepsut standing ‘in approved wifely fashion’ behind both Thutmose II and Queen Ahmose before the god Amun.

Thutmose II died in 1504 BC, his reign having lasted around 14 years. Thutmose III was his successor but was only aged around 9 or 10 years at the time. Hatshepsut became the young successor’s regent. It was customary for queens to do this until the child was old enough to make decisions on their own. It must be noted however that according to Tyldesley this was an ‘unprecedented’ situation in that Hatshepsut was acting as a regent for a child who was not her own physical son.

In the early years of his reign Thutmose III commemorated the Semneh temple and inscribed a dedication to the god Dedun without any reference to Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut seems to have accepted her position as a regent. She continued to use the title God’s Wife and King’s Great Wife. Furthermore she appeared in inscriptions standing behind Thutmose III.

However at some point Hatshepsut decided to become a pharaoh in her own right. Some scholars such as W. C. Hayes and Redford believe this occurred around year 2 of Thutmose III’s reign. They support their theory with evidence from Hatshepsut’s Red Chapel at Karnak. The inscription details a religious procession at Luxor Temple where Hatshepsut describes how an oracle from Amun proclaimed her king. There is some doubt concerning this inscription however because it does not identify the king.

It must be remembered that Thutmose III would still have been only 12 years old. It has been argued that Hatshepsut therefore had time to steadily assume the kingship by winning over the support of important officials including Hapusoneb and Senenmut. Tyldesley for this reason supports a later date by saying ‘hers was a gradual evolution’.

A pottery seal found in the tomb of Senenmut’s mother indicates that she was using her throne name, Maat-ka-re, by year 7. As a result her assumption of power is regarded to have occurred by year 7 and possibly as early as year 2 of Thutmose III’s reign.

Hatshepsut would be the dominant pharaoh in the co-regency until at least the 20th year of their reign. Her dominance in the co-regency is indicated in Ineni’s tomb inscription which refers to her settling the affairs of the Two Lands and Egypt being ‘made to labour with bowed head for her’ (adapted from Breasted). The statue of Inebni mentions Hatshepsut as the ‘mistress of the Two Lands’ and after her Thutmose as ‘her brother, the Good God, master of the ritual Menkheperre’ (adapted from Murnane).

Many reasons have been suggested for Hatshepsut becoming pharaoh. One of the most common theories is that she demonstrated an ambition for kingship very early on. Apart from the evidence from the Red Chapel described above, Robins maintains that Hatshepsut’s desire to be king was demonstrated during the early regency by her commissioning two obelisks at Karnak and using kingly titles such as Lady of the Two Lands instead of Lord of the Two Lands. Wildung also believes Hatshepsut saw herself as a ruler quite early on. The same stele mentioned earlier showing Hatshepsut standing behind her mother and Thutmose II refers to Queen Ahmose as the King’s Mother. One must remember that she was mother to Hatshepsut and not Thutmose II. Tyldesley, Robins, Gardiner, Steindorff and Seele all maintain that it is possible she may have enjoyed the power that went along with being regent and didn’t want to let it go.

Callender and Robins suggest she may have believed within herself that she had more right to the throne than Thutmose III given her royal blood. Tyldesley argues that at a time when infant mortality was high, she may have wanted to secure the throne for herself and Neferure just in case Thutmose III died. Callender and Tyldesley have suggested that she may have feared the young Thutmose III could be used as a political pawn by influential officials. Robins suggests she may have become pharaoh to protect the officials who had offered their support for her during the regency. Tyldesley asserts that she may have acted on wishes of Thutmose III who needed her continuing support and protection.

It has also been suggested that Hatshepsut may have wanted to create a line of female rulers and pave the way for Neferure to become a pharaoh. Murnane supports this view by referring to a stele from Sinai which shows Neferure as a traditional king or queen making an offering to the goddess Hathor. Redford supports this theory by drawing upon several statues showing Neferure as a crown prince wearing full regalia and the young princesses’ use of the titles Lady of the Two Lands and Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt. Ratié believes that Neferure didn’t marry and was given the titles Redford refers to because she was destined to become Hatshepsut’s successor.

There is no doubt Neferure is given a prominent role. In addition to the evidence discussed above she was given the title God’s Wife of Amun when Hatshepsut became king and offering scenes with her mother are recorded on the Red Chapel at Karnak. She is also shown with Hatshepsut and Thutmose III in the Upper Colonnade of Deir el Bahri.

Despite this, the theory is very controversial and still disputed by some historians including Robins and Tyldesley. They maintain that Hatshepsut needed a consort at ceremonies due to there not being a King’s Great Wife or King’s Mother. Furthermore they believe Hatshepsut was only being practical in preparing Neferure for the throne given the high infant mortality rate. Whatever Hatshepsut’s plans were for Neferure, they did not come to fruition. The young princess died before her mother at about the age of 13 (year 11 of her reign).

A more recent theory suggests that Hatshepsut became pharaoh to help legitimise Thutmose III’s reign. According to Roehrig ‘Hatshepsut may have had to declare herself king to protect the kingship for her stepson’. Petty explains this argument. The early 18th dynasty pharaohs were descendants of King Seqenenre Tao I. Hence they were part of the Taosids. Thutmose I however was not from this line but his wife, Queen Ahmose, was. Hatshepsut was from the Taosids because her mother was Ahmose but Thutmose II was not and neither was Thutmose III. Instead Thutmose I, II and III were from the Thutmosid line. Hatshepsut's claim was therefore more legitimate than Thutmose III’s. Petty maintains that at the time there may have been a number of Taosids who believed their royal blood made them more entitled to the throne than Thutmose III. Therefore Hatshepsut was protecting her stepson by becoming pharaoh herself as it would have silenced potential Taosid usurpers. It also very likely that to strengthen Thutmose III’s claim further, Hatshepsut had a plan for Neferure to marry the young boy.

While there are many opinions as to why Hatshepsut decided to become a pharaoh, the truth will probably never be ascertained.

Review questions

  1. Using the information above, draw a family tree of Hatshepsut’s family from King Ahmose to Thutmose III and Neferure.
  2. In what ways was Hatshepsut a traditional queen during the reign of Thutmose II?
  3. What was unusual about Hatshepsut acting as a regent to Thutmose III?
  4. What evidence is used to suggest Hatshepsut ascended to the throne between years 2 and 7 of the regency?
  5. Outline the reasons that have been suggested for Hatshepsut deciding to become a pharaoh.
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b. Claim to the throne and succession: Divine Birth and Coronation reliefs

Hatshepsut needed to justify her right to rule. She did this by using propaganda which emphasised her relationship with her heavenly father Amun and earthly father Thutmose I. Pharaohs often portrayed themselves as being the physical son of the predominant god of ancient Egypt. Hatshepsut’s Divine Conception and Birth account however was different in that it involved for the first time the birth of a female ruler. She chose to inscribe her Divine Birth reliefs on the Middle Colonnade at Deir el Bahri.

According to the reliefs Amun foretold the gods about the birth of Hatshepsut. While the queen slept in her chambers Amun took on Thutmose I’s human form and held an ankh to Ahmose’s nose so she could breathe in his essence and conceive Hatshepsut. Khnum was then instructed by Amun to make the khet and its ka on his potter’s wheel. The royal baby and its ka are shown as being male.

Khnum and Heket then led Queen Ahmose to give birth. She is assisted by the gods Bes and Taweret. Upon birth Hatshepsut is offered the symbols of life. She is then presented to Amun and suckled by the goddess Hathor. In the next scene Hatshepsut and her ka are held by Amun and Thoth while being presented to the gods. She is promised all the land and people of Egypt by Anubis.

The Coronation reliefs, also shown on the Middle Colonnade at Deir el Bahri, claim that Hatshepsut was chosen to rule Egypt by both Amun and her father, Thutmose I. In the first scene she is shown as a boy being purified and presented before the gods by Amun. The next scene shows her visiting the shrines of the gods with her father Thutmose I. The gods welcome her as a future king and promise her a successful reign. Then Hatshepsut is shown being crowned by the gods Atum at Heliopolis and Amun at Thebes. Finally, Hatshepsut is depicted in Thutmose I’s court where she is declared his successor.

Both Gardiner and Breasted give several reasons why this account must be fictional. Firstly it ignores the reign of Thutmose II and the fact that before the regency she was only referred to as the King’s Great Wife. Secondly the date of the coronation does not correspond with inscriptions on her obelisk and lastly the text was taken verbatim from the coronation of an earlier pharaoh named Amenemhet III.

There are several more examples of Hatshepsut using propaganda to justify her right to rule. Thutmose I is seen calling Amun, Mut and Khonsu to bless Hatshepsut’s reign on the southern pylon at Karnak. A Speos Artimedos inscription details how Amun granted her kingship. Hatshepsut ignored the reign of her husband Thutmose II and emphasised her right to rule as Thutmose I’s successor by celebrating her heb-sed (a festival aimed at rejuvenating the Pharaoh) thirty years after her father’s death. Two obelisks were constructed for this event.

Review questions

  1. Summarise the main aspects of the Divine Birth and Coronation reliefs.
  2. How did these reliefs justify Hatshepsut’s right to rule?
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c. Political and religious roles of the king and queen in the Seventeenth Dynasty and early Eighteenth Dynasty

The role of the traditional ancient Egyptian pharaoh has already been discussed. There were four types of queens during the 17th and 18th dynasties. There were queen regnants who ruled in their own right such as Hatshepsut.

The chief wife of the pharaoh was called the King’s Great Wife. They were regarded as a goddess and portrayed at ceremonies wearing either a uraeus or vulture headdress and carrying a sceptre of flowers. They were also linked closely to the goddesses Hathor, Mut and Maat. In fact the most important title given to queens during this period was God’s Wife of Amun.

The King’s Mother referred to the mother of the pharaoh who acted as regent until boys were ready to rule. A King’s Wife was a secondary wife who could produce an heir if there were no male children born with the King’s Great Wife.

Before Hatshepsut, there was already a tradition of very influential queens exercising various political, military and religious roles. Queen Tetisheri came from non-royal parents and was wife to Seqenenre Tao I and mother to Seqenenre Tao II and his wife Ahhotep. She died during the reign of her grandson King Ahmose. A limestone stele at Abydos illustrates Tetisheri’s strong influence on the throne. Ahmose is shown standing while dedicating goods to a seated Tetisheri wearing the vulture headdress. In the inscription Ahmose says he has built his grandmother a pyramid and chapel as a result of his love for her.

Queen Ahhotep II, daughter of Tetisheri, was probably more influential in her time as queen. She was probably the regent to her son King Ahmose following the death of her husband Seqenenre Tao II. Ahmose’s Karnak Stele indicates that she fulfilled an important political role. It says she made decisions on behalf of the people, united the nobles, looked after Egypt’s soldiers and supressed a rebellion. A gold pendant with three golden flies was found on her mummy. Soldiers who had shown courage in war were awarded with jewellery featuring a golden fly. This jewellery suggests she fulfilled a military role as regent. Further evidence of Tetisheri’s influence is reflected in her elaborate burial. Her decorated coffin is similar to King Seqenenre and most of the jewellery found with her mummy was given as a gift by King Ahmose.

King Ahmose’s wife, Queen Ahmose-Nefertari was also a respected, influential queen. She held the titles King’s Daughter, King’s Sister, Hereditary Princess, Divine Consort and Great King’s Wife. More importantly however she was the first queen to receive an important title called God’s Wife of Amun. Historians don’t know exactly what responsibilities went with this title but according to the Donation Stela at Karnak she was granted vast estates, labourers to tend to them and a steward to administer her land. She was also assisted in her role by a group of women called the harem of Amun. Ahmose-Nefertari outlived her husband and acted as a regent to her son Amenhotep I. She was given a separate mortuary temple at Thebes, buried with her son and deified.

Heiress theories have taken the line that the throne of Egypt passed through the female line and that the King’s Great Wife therefore determined royal succession. Queens either had to be the king’s sister or half-sister to legitimise his position or a descendant of Ahmose-Nefertari, the first God’s Wife of Amun. However this theory is debated as many pharaohs in the New Kingdom married non-royal women. Furthermore the title God’s Wife of Amun was only passed down on two occasions and became obsolete after the reign of Thutmose IV.

Review questions

  1. List the ways in which each of the following queens had been influential in the running of ancient Egypt: Queen Tetisheri, Queen Ahhotep II and Queen Ahmose-Nefertari.
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d. Marriage to Thutmose II

Hatshepsut was married to her half-brother, Thutmose II around 12 to 15 years of age. Thutmose II would have assumed the traditional dominant role in the marriage relationship. Hatshepsut used the titles of King’s Daughter, King’s Sister, God’s Wife of Amun and King’s Great Wife. She also began construction of a tomb in the valley of the Queens. There is a stele in the Berlin Museum showing, according to Tyldesley, Hatshepsut standing ‘in approved wifely fashion’ behind both Thutmose II and Queen Ahmose before the god Amun.

As pharaoh, Thutmose II crushed a minor rebellion in Year 1 of his reign to the south against the chief of some rebels in northern Kush. Later the pharaoh sent a force against some rebellious rebels in Palestine. However, there was no attempt to expand the empire in his short reign. Thutmose II’s only achievement in terms of building was a festival court in the front entrance of the pylons at the Temple of Karnak. Little else is known about the reign of Thutmose II. There is speculation about the exact length of his reign. On this issue, historians are divided into two camps. Some historians argue for a short reign of 3-4 years while others argue for a long reign of 13-14 years. There is no argument about the death of Thutmose. He died suddenly and unexpectedly. This is demonstrated by the lack of funeral preparations and his hasty burial in the Valley of the Kings. Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had only one child, a daughter named Nefurure. However, Thutmose II had another son, Thutmose III, by a lesser wife named Isis. Hatshepsut assumed the role of regent in her teens.


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