Hatshepsut (1479 – 1457 BC)
Queen Hatshepsut (left) was the first great woman in recorded history: the forerunner of such figures as Cleopatra, Catherine the Great and Elizabeth I.
Her rise to power went against all the conventions of her time. She was the first wife and Queen of Thutmose II and on his death proclaimed herself Pharaoh, denying the old king’s son, her nephew, his inheritance. To support her cause she claimed the God Amun-Ra spoke, saying “welcome my sweet daughter, my favourite, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Maatkare, Hatshepsut. Thou art the King, taking possession of the Two Lands.” She dressed as a king, even wearing a false beard and the Egyptian people seem to have accepted this unprecedented behaviour.
She remained in power for twenty years and during this time the Egyptian economy flourished, she expanded trading relations and built magnificent temples as well as restoring many others. Eventually her nephew grew into a man and took his rightful place as pharaoh. The circumstances of this event are unknown and what became of Hatshepsut is a mystery.
Hatshepsut’s successor became the greatest of all Pharaohs, Thutmose III, “the Napoleon of ancient Egypt.” He had her name cut away from the temple walls which suggests he was not overly fond of his auntie. But the fact that she was able to contain the ambitions of this charismatic and wily fellow for so many years, hints at the qualities of her character.