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Great Royal Wives of Pharaoh Ramses II

Great Royal Wives - The People

So why did Pharaoh Ramses II have so many Great Royal Wives?
When analysing the numerous secular, administrative, diplomatic, regal and visual roles a Queen Consort labelled as Great Royal Wife undertook it can be understood why Pharaoh Ramses II divided up the role between more than one wife with the Egyptian state forever growing in power and territory.

Given the Title of Great Royal Wife elevated the Queen’s status from those other of Pharaoh’s wives who took their place in the Royal Harem and Court.

 

But why were some of the Great Royal Wives his own daughters?
Although it may seem unorthodox today, the Pharaohs found the marriage of a daughter to her father to continue a Great Royal Wife’s role as keeping within the religious and moral roles as well as offering continuity to Egypt as a whole.

Logically, a family member was better than an outside wife to be entrusted with this highly visual role. A daughter would be bound not just through marriage but as a child to a parent and be honour bound to follow the Pharaoh’s directions.

 

 

Who were the Great Royal Wives of Pharaoh Ramses II?

Queen Nefertari-Meryenmut, “Beautiful Companion, Beloved of Mut”

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.

Great Royal Wife Nefertari epitomised the queenly art of female diplomacy on the international stage and is depicted in one of the scenes in her Tomb as wearing a diplomatic gift of a pair of Labrys designed Silver earrings from the Greek Court. For further details about Nefertari, click here. 

Queen Iset-Nofret, “The Beautiful Isis”

Iset-nofret’s parents are not known, but it is clear that she married Ramses before he was a Pharaoh. Together they had 3 sons and 2 daughters, including the Crown Prince who would become Pharaoh after Ramses II, despite being 13th in line to the Crown, Pharaoh Merenptah. Her daughters would replace her in her royal as Great Royal Wife after her death, namely Queen Bintanath and Queen Nebettawy.

Queen Bintanath, “Daughter of Anat”

Named after a Goddess of War from Canaan called Anat. Eldest Daughter of Pharaoh Ramses II and Queen Isis-Nofret. She was married to her father after her mother died and his other Great Royal Wife, Queen Nefertari had also died, around year 25 of her father’s Reign. She gave birth to a Princess although it is not known what this Princess was called and whether the father was Pharaoh Ramses II. Queen Bintanath outlived her father and was part of her brother’s Royal Court before her own death. https://historyofegypt.net/?page_id=4935

Queen Meritamen, “Beloved of Amen”

Eldest Daughter of Pharaoh Ramses II and Great Royal Wife, Queen Nefertari. She was married to her father when her mother died around year 25 of her father’s Reign and when her mother’s role as Great Royal Wife was vacated. To learn more about Great Royal Wife Meritamen, click here. 

Queen Nebettawy, “Lady of the Two Lands”

Daughter of Pharaoh Ramses II and probably Queen Isis-Nofret. She married her father when then Queen Meritamen died and vacated the role of Great Royal Wife. She is known to have held this Title when her father entered into the diplomacy marriage with the Hittite Princess Ma’athorneferure in Year 33 of his Reign. To understand more about her life, click here. 

Queen Henutmire, “The Lady is like Re”

Daughter of either Pharaoh Ramses II and one of his wives, or Pharaoh Seti I and perhaps Great Royal Wife Tuya which would mean that she was a sister of Pharaoh Ramses II. It is unknown exactly when she was married to Pharaoh Ramses II, but it may well have been after the deaths of Queen Meritamen and Queen Nebettawy. Due to the fact that she is depicted with Great Royal Wife Bintanath with no mention of the 2 other Great Royal Wives. Basing the evidence that the position of one of two Great Royal Wives of Pharaoh Ramses II was usually replaced after her death, it can be asserted that Queen Meritamen and Queen Nebettawy were now deceased. For more information about how Queen Henutmire’s Tomb was plundered by a Priest of Amun, click here. 

Queen Ma’athorneferure, “One who sees Horus, the invisible splendor of Ra”

Daughter of King Hattusilis III and Queen Puduhepa of the Hittite Kingdom. She was married to Pharaoh Ramses II in a diplomatic marriage and was therefore given the Title of Great Royal Wife. It is believed that this was a diplomatic title was she did not hold the same number of roles as her counterparts, Queen Nebettawy and Queen Henutmire.

Her marriage into Egypt was the final part of the Peace Treaty enacted between the countries 13 years beforehand.

Queen with an Unknown Name

Daughter of the ruling family of the Hittites. It is believed that Pharaoh Ramses II married another Hittite after the death of his previous Hittite bride, Queen Ma’athorneferure. She would have inherited the diplomatic title of Great Royal Wife. Regrettably her name has not been located on anything found in Egypt to date.