Neferure (“The Beauty of Re”) was the only daughter of Hatshepsut and Thuthmosis II of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Her half-brother was Thuthmosis III (son of Thuthmosis II and a lesser wife). When her father died, her mother initially acted as regent for the infant Thuthmosis III but soon named herself as pharaoh.
Neferure was given a good education by a series of Hatshepsut’s most able advisers; Ahmose Pen-Nekhebet (who had distinguished himself in service to her father and grandfather), Senenmut (alleged by some modern commentators to be her father), and Senimen. Ahmose states in his tomb…
“Hatshepsut gave me repeated honours. I raised her eldest daughter, Princess Neferure, while she was still a child at the breast.”
Senenmut was clearly very proud of his role in her education and eight statues depicting the pair together have been discovered. In this typical example Neferure’s head emerges from his body as he curls his arms protectively around her. She wears the pleated sidelock and uraeus emblematic of a royal child, and her name (which is inscribed within the regal cartouche) is preceded by the title “god’s wife” (referring to Amun–Ra).
Neferure was given an unusually powerful position in the royal court because of her mother’s promotion to pharaoh. As Hatshepsut had adopted the male titles and regalia of a pharaoh, Neferure was often depicted and described as the Great Wife so that she could embody the female aspects of the ruler. For example, a relief in Hatshepsut’s “Red Chapel” (Karnak) confirms her as the “God’s Wife of Amun” (an important ritual title held by the queen consorts of the Eighteenth Dynasty) and an inscription found at Sinai names her as “King’s Daughter, King’s Wife” (sAt-niswt, hmt-niswt).
According to some Neferure was being prepared to take on the role of pharaoh herself. However, it is more likely that she was always destined to be the Great Wife of Thuthmosis III when he eventually took on the sole rule of Egypt and was merely providing this ritual service for her mother until that time. It seems that she did marry Thuthmosis III, as a relief depicting his other wife (Satiah) may have originally referred to her. This would have provided him with a further legitimate claim to the throne, as descent was matrilineal in Ancient Egypt. She is not recorded as his Great Wife, but this may be because she died before he became sole pharaoh.
Although she was usually depicted as a child, there are a few images of her as an adult. She appears with her mother (who is depicted as a pharaoh) in a relief in Karnak. Neferure is also depicted there with Amun and Hathor as princess Neferure. In both cases the text refers to her as God’s Wife of Amun (imn-hmt-ntr).
We do not know exactly when she died, but it is thought to have been between year 11 and year 16. She was depicted in Senenmut’s first tomb (TT353, built in year 7) and appears on an inscription in Serabit el Khadim dating to year 11 but is not mentioned in Senenmut’s second tomb (TT71, built in year 16).
A reference to her in Djeser-Djeseru has led some to suggest that she was still alive when Thuthmosis took over as sole pharaoh and that she was the mother of his firstborn son, Amenemhat. However, speculation that the defacement of Hatshepsut’s monuments by Tuthmosis and Amenemhat was centered around protecting the position of Amenemhat against rival claims would argue against this. After all, if he was the son of Neferure, he was also the grandson of Hatshepsut.
A tomb (Wady C of the Wady Gabbanat el-Qurud Valley of the Monkeys) which may have been intended for her was discovered by Howard Carter. Although there were signs that it had been used there were no remains to confirm that she had been interred there other than a disputed inscription which may partially represent her name.
- Dodson, A and Hilton, D. (2004) The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt
- Robins, Gae (1993) Women in Ancient Egypt
- Tyldesley, Joyce (2006) Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt
- Roerig, Catherine (editor) (2005) Hatshepsut from Queen to Pharaoh
- Van Dijk, Jacobus (2000) “The Amarna Period and later New Kingdom”, in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt Ed I. Shaw
- Wilkinson, Toby (2010) The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt
- Ziegler, Christine Editor (2008) Queens of Egypt: From Hetepheres to Cleopatra
Copyright J Hill 2010