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Queen Nefertari

Great Royal Wives - The People

Queen Nefertari-Meryenmut

“Beautiful Companion, Beloved of Mut”

Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Ramses II of the 19th Dynasty

Titles:
“Great Royal Wife”, “Wife of the Strong Bull”, “Great of Praises”, “Great King’s Wife”, “Lady of Grace”, “Lady of the Two Lands”, “Lady of all Lands”, “His Beloved”, “Sweet of Love”, “Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt”, “God’s Wife” and “
The One for Whom the Sun Shines”

Her Story:
Nefertari and Ramses marry when he was Crown Prince of Egypt, although Nefertari appears to be of a non-royal origin herself. From this stance and the knowledge of how Ramses treated Nefertari throughout their marriage it can be reasonably assumed that their match was one of love rather than of necessity or for any political alliance.

Together they had 4 sons and 2 daughters:

  • Prince Amunherkhepeshef: Crown Prince and Commander of the Troops
  • Prince Pareherwenemef: First Brave of the Army, Superintendent of the Horse & First Charioteer of His Majesty
  • Prince Meryatum: High Priest of Re in Heliopolis
  • Prince Meryre
  • Princess Meritamen: becomes Great Royal Wife after her mother’s death
  • Princess Henuttawy: becomes Great Royal Wife after her mother’s and sister’s death

They may have had another 2 Daughters together, namely, Nefertari & Baketmut. The thinking behind this is that Nefertari and Ramses are portrayed as the Great Pharaoh and Great Royal Wife with these 8 children on their gigantic Temples at Abu Simbel. For more information about Abu Simbel Temples, click here. 

She is one of only two Great Royal Wives who were granted their own individual Temples showing Pharaoh’s love. The other being Great Royal Wife Nefertiti. Nefertari’s Temple at Abu Simbel is the only one which remains standing today.

Image to Left: Inside the Main Pillared Hall in Nefertari’s Temple at Abu Simbel

It is known that Nefertari was highly educated in a manner of areas, including being able to read and write hieroglyphs which was an extremely rare skills to have mastered. Her husband appears to have leant on her skills for use in Diplomacy with other states and he has these recorded in Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple.

In fact, it seems as though Pharaoh Ramses II left his Great Royal Wife as Regent in charge of Egypt, with the assistance of his mother and Viziers, whilst he was trying to regain the Hittite Fortress and City of Kadesh (now in western Syria) in only Year 5 of his reign.  It can be postulated that Queen Mother Tuya’s supporting role would have been extremely useful to Nefertari at this time and it would seem that the two royal women working together would have been a formidable force.

After Pharaoh’s “victory” and subsequent signing of the Peace Treaty with the Hittite’s in Year 21 of his Reign, it is known that both Nefertari and Queen Mother Tuya corresponded with the Royals within the Court of the Hittites in order to retain cordial and useful diplomatic ties between the two empires.

Her diplomatic role is further cemented by Archaeologists who have recovered Tablets – the equivalent of a letter or an email today – from the Hittite Capital City between Great Royal Wife Nefertari and her counterpart, the Queen of the Hittite’s, Puduhepa. In the Tablets it is proved that Nefertari sent diplomatic gifts to Puduhepa and Puduhepa sent her own in return to Nefertari, one of which was a Gold Necklace which had 12 bands in it 

She is also shown in her Tomb wearing a diplomatic gift of a pair of Labrys designed Silver earrings from the Greek Court. A Labrys is a Greek Axe of the period. See Image to the Left.

In Egypt itself, images of Nefertari are shown on numerous statues throughout Egypt but specifically in Luxor and Karnak Temples where Pharaoh Ramses II contributed much to the building works. She is also found in statue form in Deir el-Bahri and Deir el-Medina on the Theban West Bank.

In Luxor, Great Royal Wife Nefertari is depicted leading the Royal Children whilst she is shown giving a speech at the Festival of the Mast, where Pharaoh accompanies her to seemingly open a new Temple by erecting a Mast before God Amun-Ra. Her speech is directed at the God Amun-Ra directly:

“Your beloved son, the Lord of Both Lands, Usermaatre Setepenre, has come to see you in your beautiful manifestation. He has erected for you the mast of the Temple. May you grant him eternity as King, and victory over those rebellious against His Majesty”

Please note: Usermaatre Setepenre is one of Pharaoh Ramses II’s Throne Names. Setepenre means elected by the God Ra.

Her husband also honoured her in the same space as his mother, Queen Tuya, by building them a joined Temple Chapel which was attached to his own Mortuary Temple of the Ramesseum. Ensuring that their memories would be kept alive along with his own by his own Mortuary Temple Priests.

Pharaoh’s mother died around Year 22 of Ramses II’s reign and you can reasonably conclude that Great Royal Wife Nefertari would have had a role in her Funerary preparations and burial in Tomb 80 in the Queen’s Valley. Click here for more details about her Tomb. 

Nefertari is depicted at the opening of the Temples of Abu Simbel in Year 24 of her husband’s reign but it is thought that she may have already been suffering from health issues as her daughter, Princess Meritamen, is seen to be completing Nefertari’s role in some scenes. The name Nefertari is not mentioned in official court records after Year 30 of Pharaoh’s reign. Her daughter, Princess Meritamen is subsequently married to her father to become Queen and Great Royal Wife in the place of her mother.

Pharaoh Ramses II buried his first love in Queen’s Valley Tomb 66. Widely considered to be the most beautiful and among the largest of the Tombs in this Valley.

Great Royal Wife Nefertari’s Tomb

Layout:
The Tomb resembles those of Pharaoh Seti I and Pharaoh Merneptah’s in the King’s Valley.
The descending Entrance Corridor leads into the First Hall which has an Ante Chamber off to the right-hand side.
Moving on there is a further descending corridor which leads into a 4 Pillared Hall which has its own Ante Chambers to the left-hand and right-hand sides.
The last room at the very end is the Burial Chamber.

Decoration: The amount and quality of the reliefs and paintwork is second to none. In it Nefertari appears alone as a figure throughout the Tomb, with no husband or other figure to assist her in the tasks of making the necessary Offerings to the Gods and Goddesses.

The Tomb use the following

  • Spell 182: Book for the Causing God Osiris to endure
  • Chapter 17: Identifying Nefertari with the God Atum and allowing her to have the power to be reborn and pass out into the land of the living
  • Chapter 94: ‘For obtaining water-bowl and palette from Thoth in the Necropolis’
  • Chapter 148: ‘For initiating the spirit into the mind of Ra’

Burial Goods: Unfortunately, her Tomb was ransacked of all valuables in antiquity. Remains that were found on the tombs rediscovery in more recent times were:

            34 Shabti

            Box Lid with the name of Pharaoh Ay on it

            Parts of Gold Bracelets

            Sceptre Head with the name of Pharaoh Ay on it

            Protective Amulet

            Small piece of either a Pendant or an Earring

            Granite Sarcophagus

            Sandals

            Gold foil embossed with the Nefertari’s name