"Egyptian Queens" - A Curse of a Title

Contrary to the attractiveness of the title "Egyptian Queen", ancient Egyptian queens had quite a boring and difficult existence. Their roles held no personal power at all, and the Pharaoh could have as many queens as he wished.

The main queen would be called "The Great Royal Wife", and there was usually only one at a time (although this was not an absolute rule, there could be two). The King could give this title to whichever wife, take it away and give it to another, take that away and give it back to the first. Basically, he could do whatever he wanted...

Queen Tiye, wife of Amenhotep III

...So the title is not as special as it sounds.

And since the Pharaoh could have as many women as he wants, most were kept in harems. Some kings had hundreds, and so keeping them all near him would be impossible.

The Great Royal Wife had to accompany the King and do his bidding, but she was not allowed to participate in anything.

But the one thing that was her privilege, if it could be even considered one, is that the first son of the Pharaoh from his main Egyptian queen would be the heir to the throne. This queen would then be the future Pharaoh's mother, which was quite an honor back then.

Imagine, being the mother of the reincarnation of a God on Earth. These ladies were thought to have gotten pregnant by a God to give birth to another God! They were duly given a semi-divine status themselves.

And unlike the title of wife, there was only one King's Mother.

The one other "advantage" of the Great Royal Wife was that she got her own Pyramid. And as you know, to ancient Egyptians, the burial rituals were one of the ways to secure a good afterlife. So this was quite a big deal!

The main duty of a queen of course, was to birth royal sons. These "prince-makers" were sometimes bored out of their minds, especially those who were not too close to the King. They would be kept in a harem, only to be visited a few times in their lifetimes by their "husband".

They were not allowed the rights or freedom of the non-royal ancient Egyptian women, and had to find other ways to fill their time...

The harem ladies were sometimes given tasks like stitching and embroidery and overall supervision of textile work. One way to pass the time and feel useful I guess.


Brothers and Sisters

The other horrifying reality for ancient Egyptian royal women was their total lack of freedom in marriage. Even worse, they were usually made to take part in incestuous wedlock.

A royal lady would be married off to her brother, father or even grandfather in order to make sure that no power whatsoever was spilled outside of the family.

It wasn't like these ladies had any power to give away, but there was a tiny loophole that could give an outsider power to the throne...

Basically, if there were no princes available that could inherit Egypt from the King, and a princess was married to a non-royal, this non-royal could inherit the throne after the death of the Pharaoh.

In order to avoid this abominable event, royal women were married off as soon as possible to anyone in the royal family. These marriages were mostly "fake" political ones that were not consummated,although there were a few exceptions :S

Incest however, was frowned upon for the non-royals. It was reserved only for the Gods and royalty; to the advantage of the average ancient Egyptian... They may have been overworked and underpaid, but at least they could choose their own spouses!

Sometimes the royal women were used as pawns, for sealing political deals, with foreigners or noblemen or whatever other political connetion the King had.

In rare instances, the sister of the King was allowed to marry outside the royal family. But the husband had to be from the nobility and he had to be trusted.


"I am the Wife of God Amun, For God's Sake!"

The only time that ancient Egyptian queens were given some freedom and rights was when they were honored with the title "God's Wife of Amun".

A wife of a True God, not just a reincarnation of a God on Earth (Pharaoh), had privileges and rights!

And Amun was not just any ol' true God either; he was the (ehm)man behind the whole creation-myth plan! He was the first God, and creator of other Gods and Goddesses. He was the alpha male of ancient Egyptian Gods.

Still this title could only be inherited or bestowed by the King, of course.

This very special Egyptian God's Wife of Amun was given land and employees. She earned her own income (that she could keep!), and was allowed to build monuments. She was also allowed to be involved in rituals and temple practices too, something not many women were able to do.

There was, of course, a catch... There's always a catch!

A lady given this title, whether by appointment from the King or by inheritance from her mother (the former wife of Amun), had to remain celibate thereafter.

Something I think most Egyptian queens wished upon themselves anyway, with incest being so popular in these crazy royal circles!

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