Hatshepsut was born in about 1473 BC and disappeared from view in about 1458
BC. It is unclear if she died then, or was deposed and left public office.
Hatshepsut was the first woman to rule Egypt as a Pharaoh. Other women had
reigned as Queens, but never as a Pharaoh. The difference between a Queen or
King and a Pharaoh is in their god-like status. Kings and Queens were considered
as people. Very lofty and important people, but nonetheless people. Pharaohs, on
the other hand, were considered to be gods. Although the Egyptian Gods were
numerous and included male and females gods, there had never been a female
In Ancient Egypt the system for becoming a Pharaoh or ruler of the land was
strange. The Pharaoh was always male, being the oldest male heir of the previous
Pharaoh. In order to rule he had to marry a female who carried royal blood. In
practical terms this meant that Pharaohs were married to their own sisters, or
at least half sisters, most of the time. If a sister or half sister was
unavailable, they married someone else who carried royal blood. This is how
Hatshepsut managed to snatch the throne and become Pharaoh.
She was the eldest daughter of Thotmose I and Queen Ahmose. Queen Ahmose was
Thutmose’s chief wife. She had two younger brothers who died before their
father. He had many other wives who were not as important as Queen Ahmose. Only
the children of the chief wife were considered as legitimate children. His
eldest remaining son was Thutmose II, a son by one of his lesser wives. He was
younger than Hatshepsut, but they were married, as he was heir and she was the
oldest daughter. They were married for ten years before Hatshepsut’s father
died. They produced no boys. Thutmose II did have a son by another wife. This
son was Thutmose III and a nephew of Hatshepsut (since her husband was her
When Hatshepsut’s father died, Thutmose II took over as Pharaoh. He was
rather sickly and only survived for three years after his father’s death.
During his reign it is thought that Hatshepsut actually had most of the power.
When her husband died, his son and her nephew, Thutmose III, should have
taken power. He was very young at the time and so Hatshepsut was appointed as
his guardian and as Dowager (this meant that she would rule until he was old
Hatshepsut was the popular daughter of a well-liked Pharaoh. She was also
beautiful and well liked by the people. Enough people supported her, that she
was able to take control of the throne and have herself declared Pharaoh. It isn’t
clear when this happened. Probably after she had been Dowager for six years or
so, and just before her nephew would have been old enough to rule alone.
Since Pharaohs were male she needed to get the support of the priests to
become a Pharaoh. She also needed to prove she was a god. She had it told that
her father was actually the god Amen Ra, who had appeared as Thutmose I (her
actual father). She then said that Thutmose I had hosen her to lead Egypt
following his death. The priests supported her in these claims. Next she needed
to become manlier. She slowly started dressing in the men’s clothes of the
time. Gradually adding more and more articles of men’s wear. At the same time
she started to drop all names that could only be held by a woman.
Eventually she had taken on the appearance of a man, and was sometimes
referred to as he and sometimes as she. Even though she dressed as a man and
claimed to be King, she was obviously a beautiful woman. Everyone knew that she
was in fact a woman, but that as Pharaoh she should be treated as a man. In this
way she was able to hold onto power for twenty years.
As a ruler she was very fair and worked hard for her people. She sent
expeditions to foreign lands and engaged in trade with them. She had monuments
built. Among the greatest of these were two huge obelisks and her Mortuary
Temple. She also had several other temples, which needed repairing repaired and
renewed. She also started the first ever known zoo. During her reign there were
no major wars. The people of Egypt had plenty of food, shelter and protection.
Her rule was extremely successful.
What actually happened to her isn’t known. It is certain that her nephew
and stepson Thutmose III hated her. She had taken his place on the throne. Her
disappearance from all historic texts coincides with Thutmose III coming to
power. When he came to power he had all mention of her removed from monuments.
Since she was always depicted as a man it wasn’t difficult. He simply changed
her name to that of Thutmose. However this led to a lot of confusion among
historians, and it took them a long time to actually work out the details of her
reign. To confuse matters even further Thutmose III changed her name on
monuments to Thutmose I, II or III.
All mention of her was also removed from records in temples. It is probable
that Thutmose III had her murdered, but it is difficult to prove since her mummy
has never been found.
Hatshepsut had one of the most successful and peaceful rules of any Egyptian
Pharaoh. Considering she was a woman, and ruled for twenty years (a long time in
those days), she must have been an extraordinary person.