Hatshepsut (Hatchepsut) was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty and one of the few female rulers of Ancient Egypt. Her name means “Foremost of Noble Ladies”, and on her accession as pharaoh she took the throne name “Ma’atkare” (“truth is the soul of Ra).

Family Background

Hatshepsut copyright Keith Schengili-Roberts

Hatshepsut was the daughter of the pharaoh Thuthmosis Akheperkare (Thuthmosis I) and his great Wife Queen Ahmose. She had only one full sibling, her sister Akhbetneferu (Neferubity) who died in infancy. Her father was also married to Mutnofret (possibly the daughter of Ahmose I) who bore four sons; Wadjmose, Amenose, Thuthmosis Akheperenre (Thuthmosis II), and Ramose. Both Wadjmose and Amenose died before adulthood.

When her father died, her half brother Thuthmosis Akheperenre (Thuthmosis II) was named as pharaoh and she became his Great Wife. As descent was matrilineal, marrying Hatshepsut (the daughter of the king) confirmed his right to rule despite the fact that his mother was not the Great Royal Wife. Thuthmosis II ruled Egypt for either 3 or 13 years (the records are unclear). They had one daughter, named Neferure, who was often depicted wearing the royal false beard and the side lock of youth. Thuthmosis II also had a son named Thuthmosis who would later become Thuthmosis Menkheperre (Thuthmosis III) by a member of his harem named Isis.

When Thuthmosis II died, his son was too young to take power and so Hatshepsut was named as his regent and her daughter Neferure took on the role of the Queen in religious and civil rituals. Neferure became the wife of Thutmose III in order to confirm his right to rule (as his mother was not of noble blood). She may have been the mother of his eldest son, Amenemhat (who died before his father). However, this is not accepted by all scholars.

From Queen to Pharaoh

Hatshepsut as Osiris at her Mortuary Temple at Deir el Bahri copyright Steve FE Cameron

Her early career was not out of the ordinary. Many Queens had acted as regent to their infant sons, in particular Hatshepsut’s famous ancestors Queen Ahmose Nefertari and Queen Ahhotep. The role echoed the protection that Isis gave to her son Horus after the murder of Osiris and so was clearly acceptable to the gods. Hatshepsut was not Thuthmosis´s mother, but she was the daughter of the king and so had a better claim to rule than the mother of Thuthmosis. Hatshepsut´s actions as regent were also perfectly normal and she initially acknowledged Tuthmosis III as pharaoh. Co-regencies were very common during the Middle Kingdom as they avoided successional difficulties and allowed the junior pharaoh to be trained into his role.

A passage in the tomb of Ineni (a court official) notes …

He (Thuthmosis II) went forth to heaven in triumph, having mingled with the gods; His son (Thuthmosis III) stood in his place as king of the Two Lands, having become ruler upon the throne of the one who begat him. His sister the Divine Consort, Hatshepsut settled the affairs of the Two Lands by reason of her plans. Egypt was made to labour with bowed head for her, the excellent seed of the god, which came forth from him.

It is not clear exactly when Hatshepsut progressed from the role of co-regent to pharaoh, but it was sometime before or during her seventh year of rule because pottery jars with labels dating to that year were discovered in the tomb of Senenmut´s parents which name her as “The Good Goddess Maatkare”, the name she took as pharaoh.

Hatshepsut, New Museum, Berlin copyright Keith Schengili-Roberts

On becoming pharaoh Hatshepsut gradually assumed all of the symbols that went with the job including the Khat (a head scarf with an uraeus), the Nemes headdress, the shendyt kilt and the traditional false beard. She ocassionally amended her name to “Hatshepsu”, removing the feminine ending. Yet, she was also depicted in feminine clothing and continued to refer to herself as a woman. As her reign progressed she was more often depicted as a traditional male pharaoh. She stopped using the titles of a Queen, in particular “God´s Wife of Amun. This was an important title first given to Queen Ahmose Nefertari and had a ritual significance. This title was passed to Neferure.

She was a fairly conventional pharaoh in all other respects. She is often described as a peace loving pharaoh partly because of her gender. There were a few military expeditions but there seems to have been little dissent from Egypt’s neighbours (an indication that her rule was seen as strong). She expanded the temple complex at Karnak, built her Mortuary Temple at Deir el Bahari and expanded Egypt´s trade. Hatshepsut died after a rule of twenty-two years and was buried with full honours beside her father in the Valley of the Kings.

Pharaoh’s Names

Hatshepsut prenomen Ma'atkare

Nomen; Ma’atkare

copyright J Hill 2010