Queen TiyeGreat Royal Wives - The People
Great Royal Wife, Queen Tiye
Joint Ruler with Pharaoh Amenhotep III for nearly 40 Years
Mother to Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, later Pharaoh Akhenaten; Grandmother to Pharaoh Tutankhamun; Sister to Pharaoh Ay
Much is known about the parents of Queen Tiye due to the discovery of their Tomb with their disturbed but intact Mummies and many of their Funerary Goods.
Her mother, the Lady Thuya, was a Royal Family member through her ancestress, Queen Ahmose Nefertari, who, with her husband Pharaoh Ahmose I, were the founders of the 18th Dynasty. Her Titles included “Singer of Hathor”; “Chief of the Entertainers”; and “Superintendent of the Harem”. Click here for further information about the life of Lady Thuya.
Her father, the Noble Yuya, was a wealthy Landowner as well as a Priest, Commander of the Chariotry and Superintendent of Oxen from the Upper Egypt town of Akhmim. He later received further Titles from Pharaoh as he attended him at Court. Click here for further information about the life of Noble Yuya.
A brother called Anen who her husband rose to positions of Second Prophet of Amun; Chancellor of Lower Egypt; Sem Priest of Heliopolis and Divine Father. For more details about Anen, click here.
A second brother called Ay. He was born in Akhmim and inherited Yuya’s Titles after his death which is highly suggestive of this family link. If this is correct, then Tiye’s younger brother went on to become a Vizier and then Pharaoh of Egypt himself. For details about Pharaoh Ay, click here.
Tiye married Pharaoh Amenhotep III after he had spent roughly 2 years on the Throne. It is understood that he acceded to the Throne aged about 10 years old so logically we can extrapolate that this Royal couple were both aged approx. 13 years old when they married.
Unusually, Pharaoh Amenhotep III announced their nuptials using celebration Scarabs which were enlarged from the normal Amulet size to accommodate the commemorative script on the rear:
“May he live, Pharaoh Amenhotep III, given life, and the King’s Great Wife Tiye, who lives. The name of her father is Yuya, the name of her mother is Tuya; she is the Wife of a mighty King whose southern boundary is as far as Karoy, and northern as far as Naharin!”
Queen Tiye was immediately elevated to this highest of all Queenly Titles, showing a strong relationship and cementing the legitimacy of the Royal couple as they both had familial connections to the Throne.
Throughout their marriage Pharaoh portrayed Queen Tiye as his near equal and physically represented this in her physical height next to his own on many Statues that he had commissioned.
Together they had 9 children that we know of.
Their heir was due to be Crown Prince Thutmose, but he died before he could ascend to the Throne and so Pharaoh’s second son with Great Royal Wife Tiye was pressed to taking on the Throne. He became Crown Prince Amenhotep; later to become Pharaoh Amenhotep IV before he changed his name to Pharaoh Akhenaten.
Their other children were:
The Princesses Sitamun, Iset, Henuttaneb, Nebetah and Beketaten
The last Princess with a missing name, now her Mummy is named “The Younger Lady” and identified by some as having the name Princess Kiya. This Princess was married to her brother when he became Pharaoh Akhenaten and is now identified, via DNA, as being the mother of the infamous Pharaoh Tutankhamun. For more details
Queen Tiye lived long enough to know all of her grandchildren as far as we are aware. These were:
- Princess Ankhesenpaaten who became Queen when she married her half-brother, Pharaoh Tutankhaten; together they moved the Court and the religions back to Thebes and changed their names from ending in “Aten” to ending in “Amun”
- Princess Beketaten
- Princess Meritaten who is thought to have married her Uncle Prince Smenkhkare and who may have been raised by the Pharaoh Neferneferuaten, who was perhaps her mother Nefertiti, to be a Great Royal Wife
- Princess Meketaten
- Princess Neferneferuaten
- Prince Paatenemheb
- Prince Tutankhaten
Queen Tiye ruled alongside her Husband, Pharaoh Amenhotep III, for approx. 40 years.
When I say ruled, I mean ruled. Not as previously honoured Queens had been by their Pharaohs.
Queen Tiye was the first Queen in Egypt’s long history to have her name recorded on Officials Acts and carved right next to her husband’s on monuments.
Her intelligence and obvious skills allowed the Royal couple to divide the State’s workload between them. She remained in charge of the daily running of the Administrative Affairs, the Royal Court and a hefty portion of the Diplomatic matters, whilst Pharaoh Amenhotep III would deal with affairs of State, Diplomacy, Building Projects and the Military side of Egypt.
The Royal Couple were often seen by the Populace as undertaking outings together and they enjoyed the time they spent together in both their private and public lives.
Unprecedented for the time, Pharaoh Amenhotep III, had statues built, Tomb and Temple Reliefs carved, Stelas and Commemorative Scarabs etched, Shrines commissioned, and jars and jewellery all made to portray himself and his Queen as the same height giving the overwhelming confirmation that Queen Tiye was no ordinary Royal Consort but rather an equal who wheedled power as he did and was beloved because of it.
Pharaoh constructed two Temples in Nubia: one for himself at Soleb and a slightly smaller one for Tiye at Sedeinga, 15km to the North. Her Temple worshipped her own Majesty in the form of Goddess Hathor Tefnut. Pharaoh Ramses II copied this pattern of Temples when he commissioned the now infamous Temples at Abu Simbel, the larger for himself and the slightly smaller one to the North for his Great Royal Wife, Queen Nefertiti. Inside which the Queen is worshipped in the form of Goddess Hathor. For more information about the Temples at Abu Simbel, click here.
Death of a Pharaoh
Queen Tiye’s influence remained in force within the Royal Family when Pharaoh died in 1353BC in his Malkata Palace in Thebes, after winning the reputation of a prolific builder who brought a time of prosperity and stability to Egypt. Due to how the Royal Couple reigned with a firm grasp of the governance over their country and with their strong diplomatic ties to their neighbours.
We know that her influences continued as many of the diplomatic correspondences the Queen worked on during her husband’s life on his behalf continued after his passing. Especially with the offering of condolences to Queen Tiye and speaking of the future Pharaoh and the hope that the diplomatic relationships would remain intact throughout the new Pharaoh’s reign.
Tiye would have had a large role in the burial arrangements for her husband. He was buried in KV22, the Western Valley arm and his Mortuary Cult was celebrated in his Mortuary Temple in the Theban Necropolis.
Reign of a new Pharaoh
Pharaoh Amenhotep IV began his reign with a similar policy feel to that of his father’s rule and he remained with the Royal Court in Thebes at Malkata Palace. Tiye claimed the Title of “King’s Mother” and took on an advisory role for her son.
When the new Pharaoh moved away from the old religion and began to build his new Capital City, Tiye moved with him and had her own private House within the city. For more details about this move and the potential reasons why, click here.
King’s Mother Tiye was depicted in quite a few scenes throughout Amarna, showing her as the doting grandmother and mother to the Royal Family. It is suggested that she continued her Foreign and Diplomatic roles for her son, perhaps with the assistance of his daughter in law, Great Royal Wife, Queen Nefertiti. For more details about Queen Nefertiti, click here.
After her death, Pharaoh Akhenaten did not continue her Diplomatic and Foreign roles. He disdained the previously strong adherence to Foreign Policy and allowed lands to be taken away from Egypt. He reduced the Military, the Defences and ceased Foreign Militaria Campaigns. Furthermore, he refused to support any of them with Gold or reinforcements. This all lead to the eventual return of the old Deities and moving the capital away from Amarna after Pharaoh’s death about 5 years after that of Tiye’s.
Queen Tiye died in her early 60s in approx. 1338BC.
Originally, she was interred in her “shrine” which included a nest of Coffins similar to those found in Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s Tomb, inside her Akhetaten Royal Tomb. This was found inside the Royal Tomb which her son was preparing for his own Mummy. Historians have evidence of this from fragments of the removed shrine left inside the Amarna Tomb by the hasty removal of the Royal Mummy. This happened after the abandonment of the city, when all mummies of deceased Royalty were removed to the Valley of the Kings in Thebes.
Potentially, she was reinterred with her husband, Pharaoh Amenhotep III in KV22, as Shabti’s of hers have been found there, although there is no strong evidence for this so these Shabti’s may have just been included for her husband’s use in the Afterlife or for her use if she had originally intended for her Mummy to be buried with her husband.
We do know that she was interred, at least for a small amount of time, historically speaking, inside King’s Valley Tomb KV55; the alleged Theban resting place of her son, Pharaoh Akhenaten. We know this because excavators found pieces of her gilded burial shrines inside the Tomb. Regrettably for the mummy of Queen Tiye this was not the end of her journey.
Her earthly remains were located in modern times in 1898 in KV35 in the Valley of the Kings. The Tomb of Pharaoh Amenhotep II, her Grandfather-in-law. On its discovery Queen Tiye was referred to as the “Elder Lady” and was interred here with 2 other Mummies. Recent DNA analysis has been able to prove that the “Elder Lady” was indeed Queen Tiye and that her parents were the Noble Yuya and the Lady Thuya. Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s Tomb held a lock of his grandmother’s hair nestled inside a Nest of Coffin Shrines which held the name of the Queen inside a Cartouche, enabling the 100% identification.
With her inside the Tomb were the Mummy of a young boy, who is thought to be Queen Tiye’s son, Crown Prince Thutmose; and the “Younger Lady” whose DNA has confirmed as being the biological mother of Pharaoh Tutankhamun and a daughter of Pharaoh Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, sometimes referred to now as Princess Kiya.
Queen Tiye can truly be said to have left a legacy behind her, especially as the first Queen in Egypt’s long history to have her name recorded on Officials Acts and carved right next to her husband’s on monuments
- Wife to a monumental building Pharaoh who reigned over a country of peace and prosperity
- Mother to Pharaoh Akhenaten
- Mother-in-law to potential Pharaoh Neferneferuaten
- Grandmother to Queen Ankhesenamun and Pharaoh Tutankhamun
- Sister to Pharaoh Ay
We can only speculate what Queen Tiye was like during her lifetime and hope that as future discoveries are made within Egypt, that we can unravel her fascinating story even further.