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She seizes power when Egypt is soaring high and finds a way not only to hang on, but kick ass. They swoop in and rule from Dynasties 15 and 16, bring chariots and horses and a whole lot of sass. This woman not born to a noble family holds down the fort, proving such an asset that her husband makes her the first queen to wear the vulture headdress of Nekhbet, which future power-hungry queens will want to rock. Some call her the mother of the New Kingdom.

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This fierce regent is key to continuing to fend off the Hyksos: so much so that she was buried with military goods. Worshipped for centuries after her death, Ahmose Nefertari is depicted on this 20th-dynasty stela. Courtesy of the British Museum. Ahmose I kicks off the 18th Dynasty by marrying his sister Ahmes-Nefertari.

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When he dies and their son is still young, Ahmes-Nefertari rules in his stead, helping to build a reunified Egypt in the wake of years of war. Amun is one of the most powerful gods in Egypt, and his ritual wife is a high position indeed. But Egypt has a problem: Ahmose I produces no heirs. And thus somehow, a guy named Thutmose I is named pharaoh, probably with help from Ahmes-Nefertari. Is his mother royal? Is his father royal? Vague pedigree aside, he turns out to be an outstanding pharaoh. He shocks the aristocracy by doing something new: instead of building grand pyramids, he decides to trick would-be looters and build his mausoleum underground.

And he has him a lot of royal children via his harem in Thebes. His eldest is a daughter named Hatshepsut.

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After only a few months, Hatshepsut is taken away from her mother and given over to a royal wet nurse, who holds one of the most coveted and powerful positions a non-royal woman can have. This woman, Satre, remains close to Hatshepsut and important to her throughout her life, and is probably more of a mother to her than Ahmes. She grows up running around naked with other royal children in a rich and sheltered world. She probably has to shave her head to keep the lice at bay, which is probably extremely low maintenance. Amun is incredibly powerful, and his system of temples and the people who serve him is extensive: almost like the ancient Egyptian version of the Vatican.

In a land that feels strongly about the gods, she has one of the highest religious posts of them all. Each god has their own temples in different cities, run by priests that are mostly men. But women are also involved in servicing the gods they worship, which really is a full-time job. Hatshepsut wakes the god up in the morning with incense and rituals, then lays out a full breakfast for him to enjoy.

What ya doing, Hatshepsut? Amun and I are just having a little alone time. This new life is full of luxuries, but also a lot of responsibilities, requiring her attention before the sun rises and after it sets. These are sacred mysteries known only to a few. And then, around age 12, something terrible happens: her two oldest brothers, Wadjmose and Amenose, die.

This is unusual: the mother of the king is supposed to, you know, be the regent. But maybe Ahmes is just too powerful to be denied. Given that Hatshepsut is descended from royalty on both sides, she actually makes HIM look more kingly. So these two female powerhouses high-five in the throne room and get to ruling the country as best as they can. What is her relationship with her young husband like?

But we know she and mom make themselves very visible and exercise a decent amount of influence over Thutmose II. I think they steamroll him from an early age. In sum, she and mom are totally overpowering Thutmose. Eventually, Hatshepsut bears him a child: a daughter called Nefrure, whom she seems to keep closer than most queens keep their kids.

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Some say that he is doing HER, though we have no evidence that they are ever a thing. Lucky for her, there are other harem girls to do this for her. And then, after just three years at the top, the king dies. And so at the tender age of 16, Hatshepsut has to fend off any wannabe pharaohs — or, more accurately, the team of people rallying around them — and try to make sure the next pharaoh is one she can control. Regardless, a new tiny kinglet is chosen, who will soon be known as…of course…Thutmose III.

Nope: just like her mom before her, Hatshepsut steps right in, more than ready to serve as regent. Perhaps because war is over, trade is starting to pick up, and they really need a captain with a steady hand on the wheel. The priests love her. And amazingly, no one seems to openly question it. Ancient biographer Ineni tells us:. Have fun at that sistrum-shaking dance party in the harem! Until next time.

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She engages in religious rituals, meets with court officials, and hopefully has some steamy affairs here and there. She knows the elite families are happy to have her as long as they can push her around, and so she has to tread carefully. She starts an ambitious building program, erecting grand temples to honor her father and the new pharaoh, but also to serve as walking adverts for herself and her power. She gets her main man Senenmut to go and get her two giant ten-story granite obelisks — both done in quite a fetching pink — and makes sure to have her image carved in.

She gets huge scenes etched into temples — in Egyptian art, the bigger you are, the more powerful — and doing things that usually only a king should be doing. This is a very public way to dress for the part and convince other people that you are meant to be in it. But just in case anyone out there is still doubting her, she decides to rewrite her own history. At her mortuary temple, she crafts an ingenious story about her conception and her rise to power that leaves little room to question.

Go to fashion her better than all the gods…I have given to her all life and satisfaction, all stability, all joy of heart from me, all offerings, and all bread, like Re, forever. She also says that her father on paper, Thutmose I, introduced her to the elites around him as his chosen successor before he died.

This whole thing is something later lady rulers and politicians will do to grab onto power without stirring up any overt man rage. He is the one who guides me. I could not have imagined the work without his acting: he is the one who gives the directions. The god knew it in me. No one rebels against me. No one DOES rebel against her, despite the fact that she has no clear right to be there. There are no coups…none that have been passed down to us, anyway. Egypt accepts this lady king, even though they have a young man waiting in the wings.

At first, she follows the example of female pharaohs before her in the realm of her PR department.

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Her etchings and statues look fairly feminine, with a few kingly touches mixed in. But as she gets a bit older, and as Thutmose III gets stronger and sexist jerks probably start whispering, she changes tack.

Screw it. She rocks that crook and flail HARD. This move has nothing to do with identity politics or her fondness for facial hair, and everything to do with the Egyptian language of power. This is her chance to solidify her power. Hatshepsut, looking quite fine in marble. She put images of herself ALL over the country, cementing her authority even before she took the top spot.

As pharaoh, she initiates an ambitious building campaign, creating jobs and making her cohort of priests very happy, constructing on a truly grand scale.


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