The Harem ConspiracyNew Kingdom Queens - Great Royal Wives - The People
Setting the Scene:
At the Court of Pharaoh Ramses III, Second Pharaoh of the 20th Dynasty in Egypt in approx. 1156 BC. Pharaoh has defeated 3 large incursions into Egypt in his 30 plus years on the Throne. He has recently had to deal with the first recorded Workers Strike in history. To learn about all of these historical events and more about Pharaoh Ramses III, click here.
All Royal Palaces had rooms within them for the use of the Royal Harem. During the time of this conspiracy, the Harem Palace was lodged inside the Palace at the Capital City of Pi-Ramses. To learn more about Pi-Ramses, click here.
Inside the Harem lived the majority of the Royal women and children with a strict hierarchy in place. We have no records of any problems being caused inside the Harem, unlike some stories that have illuminated Historians to the devious ministrations of the Court in Istanbul. But one of the wives was not content, a plot was being hatched.
The name of the chief plotter was a minor queen named Tiy. She wished to put her son Prince Pentawere on the Throne, assassinating the Pharaoh, her husband and father of her son, and grabbing the power of ruling all Egypt. The Plot unfolded with her co-conspirators preparing to kill Pharaoh at the annual Opet Festival which took place in Thebes, by stirring up an insurrection using Egyptian Magic waxed images and poisons which Tiy had smuggled into the Harem. One of the Conspirators was a Palace Servant who was involved in the handling of Pharaoh’s food so conjecture allows us to assume that the Pharaoh may have been poisoned with a snake’s venom at the very least to weaken him before the fatal attack was due to take place.
The Conspiracy is recorded to have failed and the 40 named Traitors were arrested. These Traitors to the State included Harem Officials and Officials that were close to the Pharaoh in their proximity and favour; these included Pharaoh’s Chief of the Chamber called Pebekkamen, 7 Royal Butlers, 2 Army Standard Bearers, 2 Scribes, 2 Treasury Overseers and a Herald. The Conspirators were tried in three Groups and in the recording papyrus, the Judicial Papyrus of Turin, the Traitors are given names to depict the heinous nature of their Plot in accordance with the rule of Ma’at. One such was named “Mesedsure” meaning “Re hates him”.
The First Group of Conspirators had 28 individuals and included those closest and in the centre of the Plot. The Second Group of Traitors was made up of 6 people and the Third Group of Conspirators had 4 individuals in the group, one of whom we know was Prince Pentawere. All the Traitors, but one, were found guilty and enforced by law to commit suicide, endangering their Ka or Soul. For more details on the importance of the Egyptian Ka, click here.
The now deceased queen Tiye and prince Pentawere were buried in impure Sheep skins, un-mummified and then condemned in their Afterlives by their names being thoroughly erased from their Tombs and from all official documents. Historians only know of their names from the Trial documents that have survived. To understand how burying them un-mummified in impure skins would not allow the deceased Ka (Soul) to reunite and removing their names would condemn them to live their Afterlife in the Duat, click here.
The Mummy of prince Pentawere has recently been identified. He is the, “Mummy of the Screaming Man” which was found in the Royal Mummy Cache at Deir el Bahri, Thebes. This has been proven by Dr Zahi Hawass and the scientific team of the Egyptian Mummy Project, using CT scans and DNA. Perhaps a fitting way for the traitorous prince to be depicted as and known as in modern times.
What was not made clear in the Judicial Papyrus of Turin was that Pharaoh Ramses III was almost certainly killed in the Conspiracy Plot, and that the Plot was only considered unsuccessful because, firstly, the succession passed to Pharaoh’s chosen Crown Prince, who became Pharaoh Ramses IV, son of Queen Titi; and secondly, the conspirators were all caught, tried and sentenced to death.
As Pharaoh Ramses III was deceased by the time of the Trials, it is almost certain that it was his son, and the new Pharaoh, Ramses IV who was the Pharaoh in charge of ensuring justice was carried out during these trials and to emphasise this point it appears that there were questionable relationships between the chosen Judges for the Trials and some of the female conspirators involved. Pharaoh Ramses IV therefore set up a Fourth Trial during which 3 Judges and 2 Officers were charged. 1 Judge was found innocent and the others were sentenced to having their nose and ears amputated.
2012 heralded the scanning of Pharaoh Ramses III’s Mummy by Dr Zahi Hawass and Dr Sahar Saleem. The discovery, Pharaoh’s oesophagus and trachea were deeply cut, almost through to his spine at the very rear of his neck, and this would have killed him instantaneously. But not only had this awful fate ended Pharaoh’s life. It appears from the scan that Pharaoh was attacked by multiple attackers who inflicted multiple wounds simultaneously. The main other injury was that they had managed to hack off one of Pharaoh’s toes.
His Mummy showed that Embalmers had:
- Added a prosthetic toe to replace his missing one and placed Amulets around the Feet and Ankles to allow the healing process to continue for Pharaoh
- Packed the wound at his throat so his wound was not seen or noticeable for his journey to the Afterlife
- Included Amulets to protect Pharaoh from Snakes. As Embalmers never added anything to the deceased’s body that they would not need in the Afterlife, we can safely conclude that Pharaoh was poisoned as well with snake venom.
Remember, the body that the Embalmers produced was the one which the deceased’s Ka (Soul) needed to recognise to allow their reuniting. The Embalmers were hugely and highly skilled at ensuring that any missing or irregular marks on the body, as in this case, were not prevalent enough to prevent this recognition.
Unlike his Traitorous wife and son, Pharaoh Ramses III was buried with the highest care and attention in King’s Valley Tomb KV11 which is one of the largest Tombs in the Valley.