Great Royal Wife
|Great Royal Wife
Great Royal Wife, or alternatively Chief King's Wife (Ancient Egyptian: ḥmt nswt wrt), is the term that was used to refer to the principal wife of the pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. The former is also, in the form of the simplification Great Wife, applied to more contemporary royal consorts in states all over modern Africa (e.g., Mantfombi Dlamini of Swaziland, chief consort of the Zulu King).
While most Ancient Egyptians were monogamous, the pharaoh would have had other, lesser wives and concubines in addition to the Great Royal Wife. This arrangement would allow the pharaoh to enter into diplomatic marriages with the daughters of allies, as was the custom of ancient kings.
In the past the order of succession in Ancient Egypt was thought to pass through the royal women. This theory, referred to as the Heiress Theory, has been rejected ever since the 1980s and is now not accepted by Egyptologists. The throne likely just passed to the eldest living son of the pharaoh. The mother of the heir to the throne was not always the Great Royal Wife, but once a pharaoh was crowned, it was possible to grant the mother of the king the title of Great Royal Wife, along with other titles. Examples include Iset, the mother of Thutmose III, Tiaa, the mother of Thutmose IV and Mutemwia, the mother of Amenhotep III.
Meretseger, the chief wife of Senusret III, is the earliest queen whose name appears with this title; she also was the first consort known to write her name in a cartouche. However, she is only attested in the New Kingdom so the title might be an anachronism. Perhaps the first holder of its title was Nubkhaes of the Second Intermediate Period.
A special place in the history of great royal wives was taken by Hatshepsut. She was Great Royal Wife to her half-brother Thutmose II. During this time Hatshepsut also became a God's Wife of Amun (the highest ranking priestess in the temple of Amun in Karnak). After the death of her husband, she became regent because of the minority of her stepson, the only male heir (born to Iset), who eventually would become Thutmose III. While he was still very young, however, Hatshepsut was crowned as pharaoh and ruled very successfully in her own right for many years. Although other women before her had ruled Egypt, Hatshepsut was the first woman to take the title, pharaoh, as it was a new term being used for the rulers, not having been used before the eighteenth dynasty. When she became pharaoh, she designated her daughter, Neferure, as God's Wife of Amun to perform the duties of a priestess. Her daughter may have been the great royal wife of Thutmose III but there is no clear evidence for this proposed marriage.
Elsewhere, in Kush and other major states of ancient Africa, the rulers often structured their households in much the same way as has just been described. This practice has continued to the present day, with the most senior polygamous spouses of contemporary African royals often being referred to by the honorific Great Wife.
Great Royal Wives
|12th dynasty||Meretseger||Senusret III||Apparently the first holder of the title; though not definitively attested to in contemporary sources|
Second Intermediate Period
|13th dynasty||Nubkhaes||Sobekhotep V, Sobekhotep VI or Wahibre Ibiau|
|13th dynasty||Ineni||Merneferre Ai|
|13th dynasty||Nehyt||?||Only known from two scarab seals|
|13th dynasty||Satsobek||?||Only known from one scarab seal|
|13th dynasty||Sathathor||?||Only known from one scarab seal, reading of name not fully certain|
|16th dynasty||Sitmut||Mentuhotep VI (?)|
|17th dynasty||Nubemhat||Sobekemsaf I|
|17th dynasty||Sobekemsaf||Nubkheperre Intef||Sister of an unknown king. Buried in Edfu.|
|17th dynasty||Nubkhaes||Sobekemsaf II|
|17th dynasty||Tetisheri||Tao I the Elder||Mother of Tao II the Brave|
|17th dynasty||Ahhotep I||Tao II the Brave||Mother of Ahmose I and Ahmose-Nefertari|
Third Intermediate Period
|21st dynasty||Nodjmet||Herihor||Probable mother of Pinedjem I|
|21st dynasty||Mutnedjmet||Psusennes I|
|23rd dynasty||Karomama||Takelot II||Mother of Osorkon III|
|26th dynasty||Mehytenweskhet||Psamtik I||Mother of Necho II|
|26th dynasty||Takhuit||Psamtik II||Mother of Wahibre|
- List of consorts of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty, for the modern queens and sultanas of Egypt
- God's Wife of Amun
- Divine Adoratrice of Amun
- Interregnum queen
- Shaw, Garry J. The Pharaoh, Life at Court and on Campaign, Thames and Hudson, 2012, p. 48, 91-94.
- O'Connor and Cline (Editors), Amenhotep III: Perspectives on his reign, pg 6
- G. Robins, A Critical examination of the Theory that the Right to the Throne in Ancient Egypt Passed through the Female Line in the Eighteenth Dynasty. GM 62: pg 67-77
- O'Conner and Cline, Thutmose III: A new biography,2006
- Joann Fletcher: Egypt's Sun King – Amenhotep III (Duncan Baird Publishers, London, 2000) ISBN 1-900131-09-9, p.167
- Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton: The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson, 2004, ISBN 0-500-05128-3, pp.25-26
- L. Holden, in: Egypt’s Golden Age: The Art of Living in the New Kingdom, 1558-1085 B.C., Boston 1982, S. 302f.
- Tyldesley, Chronicle of the Queens of Ancient Egypt, pg 110