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Queen Ankhesenamun

Great Royal Wives - The People

Princess Ankhesenpaaten – “Her life is of the Aten”

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Great Royal Wife, Queen Ankhesenamun– “Her life is of Amun”

Family

She was born in Thebes in approx. 1348 BC, during the 18th Dynasty, when her father was already Pharaoh and her mother was his Great Royal Wife.

She was named after the still fairly minor deity the Aten to Pharaoh Amenhotep IV who was in the process of amending his name to be Pharaoh Akhenaten and his Great Royal Wife, Queen Nefertiti.

She was the third out of six daughters that the Royal Couple had together, but only one of many siblings to Pharaoh who had other children by his other wives, including Crown Prince Tutankhaten.

She was married to her half-brother who became Pharaoh Tutankhamun after their father’s death; and became mother to 2 premature babies who were found buried with her husband inside his King’s Valley Tomb.

  • “Hereditary Princess”
  • “King’s Daughter of his Body, his beloved Ankhesenpaaten, born of the Great Royal Wife, his beloved, Lady of the Two Land, may she live”

Titles

  • “Great of Praises”
  • “Sweet of Love”
  • “Lady of Grace”
  • “Lady of Love”
  • “Lady of the Two Lands”
  • “Great King’s Wife”
  • “King’s Wife, his beloved”, and
  • “Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt”

Life

Shortly after she was born, the family moved from the Malkata City Palace Complex in Thebes, click here to learn more about the Complex built by Pharaoh Amenhotep III, to her father’s newly built Capital City in Akhetaten. To visit Akhetaten, present day Amarna, click here.

Princess Ankhesenpaaten lived her very young life in a turbulent period where her father, Pharaoh Akhenaten, followed on from his father’s example and tried to break the religious, political and hugely strong hold that the Priests of Amun had over the rule of Egypt. But Pharaoh took his father’s ideas one very large leap further. He wrote on the Stelae which was discovered in Akhetaten that he was, “led there by God Aten” and that his “God could not be jealous or depressed or angry or act on impulse; he simply existed and, by that existence, caused all else to exist“. His new deity, the Aten was so powerful required a new city built solely for his honour and worshipping. Akhetaten provided the place where he could pursue his vision of a society dedicated to the cult of the God Aten which had never been used before in Egypt and was “clean” from the worship of any other Gods or Goddess in his view.

But this was not all he did. He banished all the former Gods and Goddesses and forbade their worship. Meaning that thousands of years of status quo and the Priesthood was now irrelevant. He let Foreign Policy be forgotten and allowed former Egyptian Territories to fall into the hands of his enemies after his mother’s death. To learn more about this, click here and scroll down to the “Beginning of the End” section.

On her father’s death “potentially” 2 barely represented Pharaohs took charge:-

  1. Pharaoh Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare who ruled for approx. 1 year
  2. Pharaoh Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten who ruled for approx. 2 years

Princess then became Queen and Great Royal Wife to her half-brother, Pharaoh Tutankhaten and together they reigned for 9 years. The young Royal Couple were advised by her great-uncle, the Vizier Ay. Between them, probably with much influence from the Royal Court, they returned to the older and traditional ways. They did this by:

  • Reinstating the Gods and Goddesses
  • Changing the ending of their names from honouring the God Aten to the God Amun: Pharaoh Tutankhamun and Great Royal Wife, Queen Ankhesenamun
  • Reinstating the Temples
  • Moving the Capital City back to the traditional capital of Memphis
  • Reinstating the Priesthood
  • Setting out to restore much of the damage that their father’s Aten Followers had caused to the Reliefs, Statues and Temples of Egypt

This Restoration is known because of the Stelae that Pharaoh Tutankhamun, and probably Vizier Ay, had commissioned and was found by Egyptologists.

Regrettably for the Royal Couple, their two children were born still born and ended up being buried with their father who did not long outlive them.

Queen Ankhesenamun’s history at this point becomes muddied in the dark waters of history. She probably married, becoming a lesser wife and losing her title of Great Royal Wife, reigned alongside her Great Uncle and Pharaoh for 2 years before she died, maybe to “legitimise” his own claim to the Crown.

Death and Tomb

Queen Ankhesenamun died in approx. 1322 BC when she was around 21 years old. She may have been buried in Tomb KV21 and DNA proof is now bearing that thought out although it is still not conclusive. However, Egyptologists have found that King’s Valley Tomb 63, located close to her husband’s Tomb of KV64, seems to have been intended to have been her place of internment. Inside, despite there being no mummies, have been found:

  • Coffin prepared for a Female
  • Women’s clothing and jewellery
  • Natron Salts
  • Pottery fragments with the ending of her birth name “Ankhesenpaaten”: please note that at the time of writing this there are no other known Royals who have this “paaten” as part of their Royal Names.