I am thy wife O Great One--do not leave me!
Is it thy good pleasure, O my Brother, that I should go far from thee?
How can it be that I go away alone?
I say: 'I accompany thee, O thou who did like to converse with me.'
But thou remain silent and speak not.
Iwy em hotep khenmesu! I am the King's Great Wife (Queen) whom He loves, Ankhesenamen, Mistress of Love, Pure of Hands Carrying the Sistrum, etc. You may simply call me Ankhes if you like, as 'Ankhesenamen' (also spelled Ankhesenamon or Ankhesenamun) is a bit much. I was born as King's Daughter ('Princess') of His body whom He loves, Ankhesenpaaten, born of the King's Great Wife Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, may she live. My birth name means "She who lives through the Aten." Again, a bit of a mouthful, yes? I was the third daughter of six, my five sisters being, in birth order: Meritaten (called Mayati), Meketaten, Neferneferuaten ta-Sherit (named after our mother), Neferneferure and Setepenre. Father, as Pharaoh, had several wives, his favorite beside our mother being Tadukhipa of Mitanni, called Kiya. She was the mother of a daughter and a little son, my good friend (and future husband) Prince Tutankhaten.
I was born in Waset [Thebes] somewhere during the first five years of Father's reign, but grew up in my Father's splendid new capital city, Akhetaten, known to you modern readers as Tel el-Amarna. The whole site was dedicated to Aten, the sun disk; the God my father had elevated above all others who granted life and light to all His creatures with His Divine hands. I adored my father, and was very devoted to him, his God, and his vision. My parents loved my sisters and I, although I'm sure Mother had wished at least one of us had been a prince! My father revolutionized art by having us depicted as a true and loving family--"ankh em ma'at," or "living in truth," he called it. There is a famous image of my parents and I with my older sisters. Father holds Mayati on his lap and kisses her. Meketaten sits on Mother's lap and, just a small baby, sit on Mother's shoulder and play with her earring! If it weren't for the crowns my parents are wearing and the protective hands of Aten blessing us, one would think we were a normal Egyptian family!
Mayati, Meketaten and I were the "senior princesses" and shown perhaps a bit more favor the than three younger girls, the "junior" princesses. Meritaten was perhaps the favorite of us all, but we were all loved. We all had menats [nurses] assigned to look after us, as even the most attentive mother (especially a royal one!) would have found it difficult to keep track of six lively girls. Mine was the lady Tia, and in fact hers is the only name of one of our menats preserved to this day (Tutankhaten's menat, Maia, is also known by name). Despite the watchful eyes of our menats, we managed to get in our share of trouble. In the palace in Akhenaten, there are distinct marks of princesses' paintbrushes, at child height, on the walls. Perhaps we just wanted to help Father "decorate" his city?
In about the 12th year of the reign of my father, Neferkheperure-Waenre Akhenaten, my sister Meketaten died. Mother took the loss very hard and withdrew from court life to an extent. Around this time my grandmother, Queen Tiye, and step-mother Queen Kiya also passed away. Mother followed shortly thereafter. At some point Father made Meritaten, and then me, "princess-queens" and married us. The details of these "marriages" are a bit unclear, and surely distastful to modern eyes. Even if they were marriages in the full sense of the word, such a thing was not taboo in ancient Egyptian royal families. Two other princesses appeared breifly in Akhetaten: Meritaten ta-Sherit and Ankhesenpaaten ta-Sherit. These with either the daughters of my sister and I respectively, or of father's secondary wife, Kiya. Meritaten eventually wed Smenkhkare, a rather mysterious figure who was likely a brother or son of Father, and they ruled jointly with him. I may or may not acted as Father's queen at this time--I could be no more than 10 or 11 years old.
In year 17, Father died, and so did Smenkhkare and Meritaten around that same time. Thus my friend Prince Tutankhaten, aged 9 or 10, was pronounced the new Pharaoh, and he and I--being the eldest (and possibly only; my younger sisters had disappeared from the record at this point) surviving princess--were duly married. I was about 12 or 13. We "ruled" from Akhenaten for a few short years, under the guidance of my mother's father Ay, who also happened to have been the brother of Queen Tiye and an important member of my father's court. Other officials that helped my husband, the boy-king, with his new pharaonic duties were the generals Horemheb and Nakhtmin, the treasurer Maya, and the Viceroy of Kush, Huy.
Eventually Tutankhaten and I were pressured into leaving Akhetaten, and thus we lost the only world we had ever known. Having only each other as supports, we abandoned not only our city, but also our God and our names, he becoming Tutankhamen (Living Image of Amun, as opposed to Living Image of Aten) and I Ankhesenamen, She Lives Through Amun. But in my heart I always remained true to my father's vision, and I never trusted nor had love for the old gods, ESPECIALLY, the hated Hidden One, Amun.
All of these events served only to strengthen the bond Tutankhaten--excuse me, Tutankhamen--and I had had since childhood. As we grew into adolescents and then young adults, we fell in love. Countless objects from my husband and king's now-famous tomb attest to our affection for each other. There is the gilded throne that depicts us under the benevolent and loving rays of the Aten; a lovely chest showing me presenting flowers to my meri (beloved); and the "small golden shrine" covered with scenes showing our devotion to one another: Tutankhamen pours perfume into my open palm, I hand him the next arrow and point out fleeing water-foul as he hunts, I tie a necklace around his neck, and perhaps my favorite scene: we simply hold hands. Sadly, our marriage, albeit happy, produced no living heirs. I miscarried twice, once after eight months, and the second time after only five. Our tiny, stillborn, nameless daughters were mummified against tradition--children who died before they took their first birth generally were not. They were eventually buried with their father.
As Tutankhamen (King of Upper and Lower Egypt Nebkheperure, Son of the Sun Tutankhamen-heqa-iuni-shema) grew older, he grew into his role as the Living God. More and more often he made his will known and insisted his word be followed. For so long he had lived as a puppet to the powerful Ay and Horemheb, but nearing his 18th birthday, it was obvious that my husband was no longer a boy, but a young man. Although it's irrelevant now, I can't help but wonder what pushed our "advisors" finally over the edge. Perhaps it was their own lust for power, or maybe Tutankhamen's ideas were a bit too much like the great Akhenaten's for the conservative Ay and Horemheb's point of view. Whatever it was, Tutankhamen mysteriously and suspiciously died. There is little doubt in my mind he was murdered; likely at Ay's and/or Horemheb's orders, or at very least their tacit approval. I vowed never to let a murderer take the throne of my forefathers and husband. What power did I, a mere 21-year-old woman have? All the power in the world. As the last surviving member of the royal family, I was the key to the throne.
In the midst of my grief, I formulated a dangerous plan. Yes, perhaps it was a bit naive of me to think it would work, but it was the only chance I had. I wrote to the Hittites, a war-like nation to the north that had long been an enemy of Egypt. I knew the king to be power-hungry, and I knew he had many sons. So I wrote him a desperate plea:
My husband has died, a son I have not. But to thee, they say, the sons are many. If thou wouldst give me one son of thine, he would become my husband. Never shall I pick out a servant of mine and make him my husband. I am afraid!
To my great despair, the Hittite King sent not a prince, but an envoy. He didn't believe me! I didn't have time for such games! I only had seventy days until Tutankhamen's burial, and already Ay and Horemheb were vying for the throne. After witnessing the situation (and seeing that it was as I had described--I had no reason to lie!) I sent the envoy back to Hatti, with another letter. However, I felt my plan had already been discovered.
"Why didst thou say ‘they deceive me,' in that way? Had I a son, would I have written about my own and my country’s shame to a foreign land? Thou didst not believe me and hast even spoken thus to me! He who was my husband has died. A son I have not. Never shall I take a servant of mine and make him my husband! I have written to no other country, only to thee have I written. They say thy sons are many: so give me one son of thine! To me he will be husband, but in Egypt he will be king."
A prince, Zananza, was finally sent, but he was killed en route to Egypt, by Horemheb's legions, I'm certain. So I had been discovered. I faced reality and consented to marry Ay, and thus make him Pharaoh. I felt he was the lesser of two great evils. Either way, I was certain my end was near. At Tutankhamen's funeral, I draped a small circlet of flowers around the cobra and vulture that stared confidently out from the brow of his glided coffin that looked so much like that dear face I had loved. I left also a bouquet of flowers. I'd have rather stayed with him in that tomb. Nothing could be as grim and dark as my life ahead as the wife of Pharaoh Kheperkheperure Ay.
I did not live long after Tutankhamen's death. Ay reigned for only four years (he was followed by Horemheb) and during that time I died. I think Ay pitied me, his last surviving grandchild and only link to his daughter Nefertiti. I sulked in my rooms, cherishing sleep and the dreams that brought my happiness back to me. I caused Ay little trouble, so he left me alone. My grandfather realized, as did I, that I had not long left on this earth. There was nothing, no one, left to hold me there. Tutankhamen waited for me in the next world, wherever that may be.
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