All Queens of Egypt

All Queens of Egypt

Cleopatra was the last queens of Egypt, the most known, glamorous and admired. Only she wasn’t Egyptian, she was Greek. Before her, six other women held the headship of this millenary country that so fascinates us. But were they really monarchs or just consorts? Did they really exist or are they the fruit of legend?

Queen Cleopatra of Egypt

In Egypt, despite the equality between men and women, within a context that is absolutely dominated by the male gender, there were not many women who really ran the country either. Many royal wives, secondary wives and even concubines of Egyptian pharaohs are known, especially if they were the mothers of heirs, but only seven real queens of Egypt are documented.
These women led the country in periods of crisis or controversial succession to the throne, holding power because there was no other choice.
The best known is, without doubt, Cleopatra VII, the last queen of Egypt. Her origins, her lovers, her power, her beauty and her theatrical death have been the object of popular imagery to unsuspected limits.
Novels and films have described her as a fascinating woman who enraptured men with her beauty. However, Plutarch, the Greek historian, essayist and biographer (46-120 AD) in his biography of Mark Anthony in his work Parallel Lives, describes her in this way:
“As far as it is said, his beauty was not in itself entirely incomparable nor did it attract attention at first sight; but his conversation exerted an irresistible charm and the seduction of his word, together with a fascinating personality, was like a thorn in the heart”.
Cleopatra, though a queen of Egypt, was not Egyptian. She was Greek. Her lineage was traced back to Ptolemy Lagos, the former general of Alexander the Great who was appointed governor or satrap of Egypt on the latter’s death in 323 BC and who, after a period of internal strife between the heirs of the vast Alexandrian empire, proclaimed himself king of Egypt in 305 BC.
Cleopatra VII Philopator (69-30 B.C.) was named heir to the throne by her father Ptolemy XII. Even so, according to the lenga tradition, her husband must have been a brother, so she married first Ptolemy XIII and, on his death a few years later, Ptolemy XIV.
Ptolemy XIII and Cleopatra disagreed on the policy to be followed in Egypt, as Cleopatra was in favour of negotiating with Rome and her brother and husband were not.
The confrontations between the two led to numerous struggles with Rome, which caused Caesar himself to appear in Alexandria, the capital of Egypt at the time.
Whether he presented himself to Caesar inside a rolled-up carpet from which Cleopatra emerged, or whether he arrived in a blanket-wrapping sack on the shoulders of his faithful servant Apolodorus, we leave it to the reader’s liking. What is certain is that Caesar, who was 56 years old, was fascinated by a young woman in her twenties who knew Greek literature, knew about arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, medicine, music, history, political science and had a special aptitude for languages. In fact, she was the only one of her dynasty who knew and spoke the Egyptian language. She was the most Egyptian of the Greeks.
On her death, Egypt became a definite Roman province.

Queen Twosret (Tausert)

We have to go back to the 19th Dynasty (1295-1188 BC) in the so-called New Kingdom, to meet Queen Tausert (1196-1188 BC), monarch with whom this famous dynasty ended, where Ramses II and his father Seti I stood out.
Tausert was the second wife of Seti II, probably with the rank of great royal wife for having given an heir to the king. However, he died young and it was the son of a third wife who succeeded Seti II on the throne, Siptah. This king, apparently a young boy, was left under the tutelage of Tausert, who acted as the ruler’s regent for six years.
Around Siptah there is speculation as to whether or not he was a second son of Tausert, or whether he was the first wife of Seti II. In any case, his reign was left in the hands of his mother or stepmother, Tausert.
Siptah was a child of delicate health, with an almost immobile leg due to possibly suffering from polio, as has been deduced from the study of his mummy. Perhaps that is why his death was so premature, as he only ruled for six years.
TwosretIt was then that Tausert was proclaimed queen-pharaoh, a position he held for two years. These two years of solitary rule were of internal struggles against an opponent to the throne, Setnakht (Setnakhte), who finally overthrew her in 1188 BC.
There was also speculation about Tausert’s more or less intimate relationship with a high-ranking Egyptian official, Bay, who was said to have been her lover. Lover and accomplice. It seems that it was he who promoted the sick boy’s ascension to the throne so that Tausert would be the ruler of Egypt.
During his reign he had his tomb excavated in the Valley of the Kings, the KV14. He never occupied it, since his successor Setnakht usurped it. It’s not known where she’s buried. Both Tausert and Bay suffered a damnatio memoriae, and a black legend was created around them, where Tausert was the evil queen who put her lover on the throne.

Queen Hatshepsut

Queen Hatshepsut, ruled over Upper and Lower Egypt for almost 22 years. During her reign, palaces and temples were renovated and built as impressive as Deir el-Bahari. Hatshepsut defied all the laws and customs of the Egyptian state to realize her ambitions for power and became the great queen of the 18th dynasty.
Daughter of Thutmose I and his principal wife, Queen Ahmose-Nefertari, Hatshepsut’s marriage to her half-brother Thutmose II made her queen-consort and, after her husband’s untimely death, she assumed the regency until her stepson Thutmose III – son of Thutmose II and one of his secondary wives – reached the minimum age required to take over the government.
Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs dictated that the role of king could not be played by a woman, something that Hatshepsut did not seem to care much about. However, to combat this sacrilege and to assert her authority, the queen chose to disguise herself as a man and to dress up with the attributes of the male pharaohs: the headdress, the shenti skirt and the false beard, without feminine features, she also adopted the royal epithets of King of Upper and Lower Egypt and Lord of the Two Lands.
Today, Hatshepsut is consecrated in one of the two Royal Mummy rooms in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, with plaques in Arabic and English proclaiming her as Hatshepsut, “The Man Queen of Egypt”.

Queen Nefertiti

This was not the first time this had happened in Egypt. Two other queens were also erased from memory: Nefertiti (1370-1330 B.C.) and Hatshepsut (1510-1468 B.C.).
Who does not know Nefertiti? Beauty has arrived, it means her name. And so it seems, judging by the famous bust of her preserved in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. But besides her beauty, she had a great political influence. A great royal wife of Amenhotep IV, the heretic pharaoh, she was later and most certainly queen of Egypt by another name.
Daughter of a high official named Ay (who would become Tutankhamun’s successor a few years later) and of an indeterminate mother, she married Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton) (1352-1338) and had six daughters with him. The third of them would marry Tutankhamun.
The most important step in the career of Nefertiti happened when Amenhotep IV changed the religious policy of Egypt, eliminating the worship of all gods, except Aton, the solar disk of heaven. This king changed his name to Akhenaton (which is good for Aton) and had a new capital city, Akhetaton (Aton’s skyline), built in what is the current Amarna. The name change took place in the 5th year of his reign, at which time Nefertiti also changed his name to Nefernefruaton Nefertiti, becoming a true queen, not just a great royal wife, having the same rank as the king and acting as a coregent.
This is shown in reliefs where Nefertiti is seen wielding a sword or officiating alone, labours destined only to the sovereign of Egypt. She is also represented sitting on a throne of the same size as Akhetaton’s and with the same height.
After Akhetaton, the famous Tutankhamun reigned.
A king named Smenkhara, documented in the royal cartouches, is recorded and his reign is discussed; some researchers make him co-regent of Akhetaton and others make him king for a period of two years between him and Tutankhamun. Some researchers say that this Smenkhara was actually Nefertiti, who changed his name to rule. But this is not proven; this speculation occurs because after the fourteenth year of Akhetaton’s reign, Nefertiti is lost track of; his name does not appear as such in reliefs or documents.
However, the name of Queen Nefernefruaton Nefertiti does appear with her enthronement name, Ankh-kheperu-ra, and also as a coregent of Tutankhamun. That is, in all probability Nefertiti was the co-regent of two kings, Akhetaton and Tutankhamun. The reason for this second co-regency would not be unknown to us. The king who was enthroned was a young boy who would surely need support for the legitimacy of the throne.
It is not known when Nefertiti died, nor where his tomb is, and some research on the authenticity of his mummy is not fully verified.
After Akhetaton’s death and Nefertiti’s disappearance, his successors wanted to erase a stage in his history, erasing the faces and names of these two revolutionary rulers.
It is attributed to the construction of some buildings in the labyrinth of Hawara, named after Herodotus and which was actually the funeral complex of King Amenemhat III, located in the area of el-Fayum.
It is not known where she is buried, although it is possible that it is in the northern pyramid of Mazghuna, next to that of Amenemhat IV, south of Dashur. Although it is not confirmed that these two pyramids belong to these kings.
Their reign took place before the invasion of the Hyksos, the beginning of the Second Intermediate Period and the division of the country into several areas ruled by contemporary dynasties based in different capitals.

Nitocris and Merneith

It is in the Ancient Kingdom (2700-2200 BC) that the legend gains most strength. Two queens, Nitocris and Merneith, appear between reality and fiction and their existence is the object of the most diverse theories.
There is no archaeological evidence of the existence of Nitocris (2193-2191 B.C.); only references written in the Turin Papyrus, in the History of Herodotus and in the epitomes of Maneton transcribed by Julius Africanus and by Eusebius. In fact, she is the first woman to appear as queen-pharaoh in the Turin Papyrus with the Egyptian name of Neithikret.
This queen ruled possibly between six and twelve years, although in the ramesside lists of kings only one reign of two years is recorded.
The Greeks Herodotus and Eusebius describe her as a very beautiful woman, blonde and light-skinned: “There is a woman who reigned: Nitocris, the noblest and most beautiful of the women of her time, she was of blonde complexion and is said to have erected the third pyramid”.
As for the blond hair, which would make her a foreigner, it could be due to the Egyptian fashion of wearing wigs; in the Ancient Kingdom blond wigs were in fashion among women. The third pyramid is that of Menkaure, but this is not possible, perhaps he did some restoration in his funeral complex or some small building.
The reality is that all aspects of his reign are unknown, which has led to numerous assumptions and legends. One of them is that Nitocris was actually a courtesan named Rhadope, another one that he plotted revenge against his brother’s murderers by drowning them in the Nile, and then killed himself. There is also a legend that there is a woman’s ghost that roams the Giza plateau and watches over the pyramid of Khafra (Kefren) and that she is this queen.
It is even doubted that she existed; and, if she did, that she was a woman. There are investigations that say that there is a transcription error and that in reality the name is Nit-Iker, of masculine gender. In feminine it would be Neithikret, the final “t” indicates the feminine gender in the Egyptian language.
What may be true, as in previous cases, is that he reigned at a time of political transition; at the end of the Ancient Kingdom that gave way to the First Intermediate Period (2190-2052 BC), a time when Egypt disintegrated and was ruled locally by the nomarcas (governors) of the different nomos (administrative regions).

Queen MerNeith

We are still in the Ancient Kingdom, but in the First Dynasty, the one in which the legendary Scorpion King reigned, to meet the first queen-pharaoh of ancient Egypt, Merneith (3055 BC). Unlike Nitocris, at first it was thought that it was a king, named Mery-Neit, but in 1954 it was revealed that it was indeed a woman. This discovery was made by Walter Brian Emery, an English archaeologist, contradicting what was discovered by his colleague Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie in 1900.
There is archaeological evidence of her existence, since her name is mentioned in the Palermo Stone as the mother of King Den and in numerous objects and royal seals of Abidos and Saqqara. We also have her grave, a large mastaba in the royal necropolis of Saqqara, where her son Den buried her. Both the mention in the Palermo Stone and the burial in a royal cemetery would indicate that she was a real pharaoh-queen.
Before taking the throne, Merneith must have been the great royal wife of king Djer (3100-3055 B.C.) and the mother of the two sons of the latter who later became kings of Egypt: Djet (or Uadyi, 3055-3050 B.C.) and Den (or Udimu, 3050-2995 B.C.). The circumstances of their coming to power could be due to Djet’s young age, acting as a coregent until he was old enough to rule alone. This could have been made difficult by the short time of Djet’s reign, five years, during which she was able to exercise absolute sovereignty over Egypt. Of course, this point is not proven, since archaeological evidence does not give us any reliable proof.
What does seem certain is that she, Merneith, was the first queen-pharaoh of ancient Egypt.

Queen Sobekneferu

Queen Sobeknefru was a half-sister of Amenemhat IV. Some have suggested that she was his wife and others that she was a rival, but there is no evidence to support any claim. It is possible that she began as a regent for a newborn son before she claimed the throne in her own right.
Unfortunately, we know very little about her beyond the fact that she actually began to reign, if only for 3 or 4 years. Manetho mentions her in his list of Egypt’s rulers and she also appears in the Turin Canon. A Nubian Nilometer dates from the 3rd year of his reign and a cylindrical seal bearing his name and title. Three headless statues of her were found in the Fayum, and a part of the Amenemhat III labyrinth can be attributed to her.
Manetho reported that it had been decided long ago in the 2nd dynasty that a woman could be king, but it is clear that it poses problems for the Egyptians. They were used to thinking in terms of opposites: light and darkness, good and evil, order and chaos, men and women. You couldn’t very well have one without the other. A king needed a queen, but what can you do with a reigning queen? If she married one she could assume her husband would become king, if not, where was the male component – the opposite, without which nothing could exist.
Queen Sobeknefru seems to have had doubts as to how to solve this problem. Some artifacts have female and male titles than others. One of the statues shows her wearing a male skirt over a female sex change. Unfortunately, neither shows his head and since neither his mother nor his burial site has been found we have no way of knowing what he looked like.

Some thinks that feminist and defending women’s rights is new trend or some movement that appeared in the 20th century. In fact, the case is deeper and goes way back to thousands of years ago, when ancient Egyptian women fought to rule Egypt as rightful queens to the heir, trying so hard to prove themselves and rule the country as pharaohs. Equality between men and women concept was not accepted in antiquity and through ancient history. They thought that women cannot be qualified and rational as male rulers, but the Egyptian queens have proved the total opposite by thriving and bringing prosperity to the kingdom of Egypt during their reign.

Now that after you read recommended some of the famous landmarks in Egypt, you just have to choose the ones you prefer and plan your trip in detail. Plan your holiday from here.

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