Hatshepsut (1508–1458 BC) Female Pharaoh of Egypt
16″ x 20″ oil on canvas
Hatshepsut, fifth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, was the daughter of Thutmose I and his primary wife Ahmes. To secure his realm, Thutmose I married 12 year old Hatshepsut to her 8 year old younger ½ brother, Thutmose II. Two days after her marriage Thutmose I died and Hatshepsut became queen.
A bright and strong-willed young woman, Hatshepsut, overpowered her younger, sickly brother/husband and quickly jumped into the role of ruler. She and Thutmose II eventually had 2 daughters and he had a son, Thutmose III, by a secondary wife. Thutmose II died in his twenties. As the line of succession dictated, baby Thutmose III became the new pharaoh. Hatshepsut as guardian of the baby pharaoh became the regent of Egypt.
As a direct descendent of Thutmose I, Hatshepsut believed she had a greater claim to the dynasty than the child of her half brother, so she seized power and became what no other woman had ever become: the god-king of Egypt, a female pharaoh.
To do this she started by building a new temple, depicting the god Amun as visiting her mother and choosing herself as the new “king”. The temple was grander than anything ever seen in Egypt. On its walls she had images of herself painted as king, wearing the kilt of a pharaoh, the headdress and even the fake “beard of wisdom” that hung from her chin. She had many large statues of herself commissioned in the same pharaoh’s clothing and headdress to keep the image of herself as king in the minds of her people. The face of the sphinx is said to be that of Hatshepsut.
As the “legitimate” king Hatshepsut organized many trade explorations down the east side of Africa. Needing a direct route from the Nile River to the Red Sea, she redeveloped an old canal that was nearly 100 miles long that had been filled in with silt as it had not been used in many generations. Many centuries later the canal was again dug out and named the Suez Canal.
Hatshepsut reigned for 22 years and Egypt flourished. Upon her death Thutmose III became pharaoh. Thutmose III had many of the images of Hatshepsut erased or dismantled in an attempt to solidify his claim to divine succession. She was almost lost to history.
In 1903, in the Valley of the Kings, a tomb was uncovered which is thought to be the tomb of Hatshepsut. The mummy was taken to the Museum of Egypt and verified as that of Hatshepsut. Thirty-five centuries after her reign, this amazing woman has regained her position in history as the remarkable “king” of Egypt.
As an interesting side note, Hatshepsut’s images depict a headdress remarkably similar to that of the Egyptian child king, Tutankhamun, even though she lived over 1000 years before him!