Great Royal Wife

Great Royal Wife or Chief King's Wife (Ancient egyptian: "ḥmt nswt wrt") is the term used to refer to the chief wife of an Egyptian pharaoh on the day of his coronation. The first holder of its title was perhaps Nubkhaes of the Second Intermediate Period. Meretseger, the chief wife of Senusret III, who was also the first queen consort to write her name in a cartouche [Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton: "The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt". Thames & Hudson, 2004, ISBN 0-500-05128-3, pp.25-26] is only attested in the New Kingdom. [L. Holden, in: "Egypt’s Golden Age: The Art of Living in the New Kingdom, 1558-1085 B.C.", Boston 1982, S. 302f.]

The Great Royal Wife was an official state consort and would often be a sister or even daughter of the king, to keep the royal bloodline pure. While most Egyptians were monogamous, the pharaoh would have had other, lesser wives (and concubines) in addition to the Great Royal Wife. This would allow the pharaoh to enter into diplomatic marriages with the daughters of allies, as was the custom of kings.

The order of succession in Ancient Egypt passed through the royal women. Marriage to a queen of the royal lineage was necessary, even if the pharaoh came from outside of the lineage as happened occasionally. Secondary unions to other women in the royal family assured that there would be heirs from the lineage and women who could become the royal wives. This is the reason for all of the intermarriages. The royal women also played a pivotal role in the religion of ancient Egypt. The Great Royal Wife officiated at the rites in the temples, as priestess, in a culture where religion was inexorably interwoven with the roles of the rulers. [Citation | last =Seawright | first =Caroline | contribution =Hatshepsut, Female Pharaoh of Egypt | year =1999-2004 | title =Tour Egypt | publisher =InterCity Oz, Inc. | url = | accessdate =2007-08-06]

The mother of the heir to the throne was not always the Great Royal Wife, but once a pharaoh was crowned, it was not unknown to grant his mother the title of Great Royal Wife, along with other titles, even if she was not entitled to it during her husband's lifetime (an example is Mutemwia, the mother of Amenhotep III), [Joann Fletcher: "Egypt's Sun King – Amenhotep III" (Duncan Baird Publishers, London, 2000) ISBN 1-900131-09-9, p.167] and sometimes the title was given posthumously to a king's mother (such as Iset, the mother of Thutmose III). [Dodson & Hilton, op.cit., p.138]

The greatest summit of power reached by any Great Royal Wife was by Hatshepsut, who after the death of her husband, Thutmose II became regent during the minority of her stepson, Thutmose III, eventually assuming the title of pharaoh herself and ruling in her own right as a true queen regnant. Though other queens had ruled Egypt, Hatshepsut was the first woman to actually take the title of pharaoh.

During the Amarna period, the pharaoh Akhenaten elevated his Great Royal Wife Nefertiti to a position very near his own, so that she could be said to be a co-regent with him, and shared much more prominently in religious rituals than any other Great Royal Wife before or since.

Although Ramasses II did not grant his Great Royal Wife Nefertari any extraordinary powers, he had great love for her and built for her her own temple at Abu Simbel, an act of devotion unheard of in the history of ancient Egypt.

The pharaoh's secondary wives are often not mentioned in monumental inscriptions; an exception is Kiya, a secondary wife of Akhenaten, who granted her the unique title of "Greatly Beloved Wife". [Citation | last =Reeves | first =Nicholas | year =1990 | title =The Complete Tutankhamun | pages =24 | place=London | publisher =Thames & Hudson Ltd]

Great Royal Wives

Middle Kingdom

Third Intermediate Period

Late Period


ee also

*God's Wife of Amun
*Divine Adoratrice of Amun

External links

* [ The Queens of Egypt] by Dr. Sameh Arab

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