Hatshepsut claimed to have been chosen by her father. Thutmose I, however, never even mentions her. Why did she need to make such a bold claim?
King Thutmose I could never have imagined that his daughter, Hatshepsut, might one day rule over his empire.
Hatshepsut was a royal princess of the first order; the daughter of a warrior king and his Great Royal Wife, Ahmose. When Thutmose I died, it was with the knowledge that Thutmose II, his son by another wife in the harem, would take the throne. Hatshepsut was dutifully married to her half-brother, the royal pedigree was secure, and everything looked rosy.
However, Thutmose II would pass into the afterlife unexpectedly, leaving Egypt in a precarious state. The next royal male, Thutmose III, was a young boy, and Hatshepsut was required to adopt a new role, that of regent. Guided by palace advisors, she was to watch over the office of the kingship until her stepson could officially rule on his own.
However, as the harem child of a harem child, it may be that Thutmose III's claim to the throne was seen as less than legitimate. As a young child, it would have been difficult to defend against a plot to oust the pharaoh.
Enter Hatshepsut, who suddenly declares herself co-ruler, with full pharaonic regalia and powers.
In the past, the queen's actions were viewed as being driven by a lust for power. Today however, we realise that it wouldn't have been possible without the backing of the palace officials who really ran the show. Indeed, it may be that it was those same officials who urged Hatshepsut to make such an audacious move to protect the young king.
Having declared herself king, however, Hatshepsut didn't shy away from enjoying the prerogatives of kingship. This included securing a glorious afterlife by commissioning a graceful memorial temple at Deir el-Bahri, filled with statues of herself affirming her role as king, and connecting herself with Osiris, god of the Underworld.
Hatshepsut also claimed a royal birthright that didn't exist. In her inscriptions she declared herself to be the designated heir to the throne, hand-picked by her father, Thutmose I. This is highly unlikely, however. This was propaganda directed towards the gods. She wanted to secure her position as pharaoh in the afterlife.
Hatshepsut never replaced Thutmose III. She never established her own regnal years, and continued to use those of the rightful king, her stepson. However, many years after her death Hatshepsut's kingly role was set upon. Images, inscriptions and statues showing her in the role of king were broken. Although she queen likely secured the kingship for young Thutmose III, and paved the way for his long and successful reign, she was seen as an illegitimate ruler and her memory had to go.
The above statue was retrieved in pieces from the "Hatshepsut Hole", a dump near Hatshepsut's memorial temple, where much of her statuary was dumped after she fell from grace, many years after her death. The head ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, while the Rijksmuseum Van Oudheden—the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden—held the statue's torso. Once it was realised they matched, the pieces were reunited, and the Queen now shares her time equally between the two museums. At the moment she is in residence in Holland.
Photo: Rijksmuseum van Oudheden
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