The King and Queen of Egypt were in transition. They were either in the process or had just completed the move from Malkata to the new palaces in Akhet-Aten, the new capital of Egypt. The young king, Amenhotep IV, was changing his name to honor his God -- he would henceforth be known as Neferkheperure-Wa'enre Akhenaten. The King was abandoning the old gods of Egypt, in favor a Aten, a minor sun-god who was the physical Sun Disk. The King particularly hated Amun, the King of the Gods, and the greedy priesthood thereof, centered in Waset (Thebes). The queen, the beautiful Nefertiti, would have the appellation Neferneferuaten added to her name; she was also pregnant with the royal couple's third child.

They already had two daughters: the much-much loved princesses Meritaten (called "Mayati") and Meketaten. The girls were active children: Mayati was about five years old, Meketaten was probably about three or four, but her exact birth year is not clear. Everyone hoped that Akhenaten and Nefertiti's third child would be a son, a prince -- an heir.

Some time in Regnal Year 5 or 6, in Malkata or even Akhet-Aten, the third child of the King and Queen of Egypt was born. Another girl: Ankhesenpaaten (AHNK-es-en-pa-AH-ten, "She Lives Through the Aten" or "Living Through the Aten") was born. The Prince Smenkhkare, a younger brother or even son (by a minor wife, possibly Kiya) of Akhenaten, was still the heir.

The three eldest girls -- Meritaten, Meketaten, and Ankhesenpaaten -- were the "Senior Princesses;" as each was born she accompanied her parents in various statues and reliefs around the new city. All of the girls were treasured, but Meritaten -- Mayati -- as the eldest, seems to have been the family favorite. By year 12 (or even as early as year 10) they had been joined by three "Junior Princesses," Nefernefruaten ta-Sherit (named after Nefertiti), Nefernefrure, and Setepenre. These girls are less visible then their elder sisters, and appear only in tombs of nobles and in decorations in the palace -- the elder three were portrayed all over Akhet-Aten. Also in this time, another prince makes an appearance. During the years 7-9, little Prince Tutankhaten was born. He is closely related to Smenkhkare, and was probably a brother or half-brother of the elder prince. Tutankhaten's parents were possibly Akhenaten and Kiya, but there are other theories as well.

Ankhesenpaaten would have grown up in the nursery, probably learning to read and write (although women, even royal women, were not often literate, evidence exists that suggests the Amarna Princesses were), and even painting -- dabs of color were found on the walls of the nursery in the palace, suggesting the six little princesses were encouraged to express their creativity by painting on the walls -- the marks are clearly the dabblings of young children. Her closest companions would have been her sisters, the two young princes (whoever their parents were) and her nurse -- menat, in Egyptian -- the lady Tia. Tia has the distinction of being the only menat of the Amarna princesses who name is known. A talatat block exists that names her as "Nurse of the King's Daughter, Ankhesenpaaten, Tia."

In Regnal Year 12, when Princess Ankhesenpaaten was about six or seven, there was a great festival in Akhet-Aten. Gifts and tribute were brought to Pharaoh from far and wide -- a plague may have also come with them. By year fourteen, Meketaten had died, Setepenre, Neferneferure (and possibly Nefernefruaten ta-Sherit) had ceased to be mentioned. The King's Mother Tiye, the Great Royal Wife Nefertiti, and the King's Favorite Kiya have also ceased to be mentioned. The only members of the Royal Family we can say with confidence at the time were still alive was the King, Akhenaten, the two princes, Smenkhkare and Tutankhaten, and Akhenaten's first and third daughters, Meritaten and Ankhesenpaaten.

Meketaten may have died in childbirth. If this was the case, Akhenaten was probably the father. If Meketaten, the second daughter, had died giving birth to her father's child (remember, this was not taboo in ancient Egyptian royal families, as repugnant as it may seem today, close family marriages were common -- but ONLY in the royal family), it stands to reason that Meritaten would have been elevated to a Royal Wife of Akhenaten as well. The mysterious princess Meritaten ta-Sherit may be a daughter of this union. In about year fifteen or sixteen, Akhenaten took Ankhesenpaaten (who was about 10 years old) as his wife, and the problematic princess Ankhesenpaaten ta-Sherit may have been the daughter of Ankhesenpaaten and her father. However, the "ta-Sherits" are only mentioned a few times, and their parentages are not clear.

The later years of Akhenaten's year are full of mysteries, and since this is focused on Princess Ankhesenpaaten, we will not get into all of them here. Ankhesenpaaten may have been the Great Royal Wife of Akhenaten and/or Smenkhkare (co-regent of Akhenaten) briefly, before she was thirteen years old. Her true life as a queen of Egypt did not begin however, until the deaths of Akhenaten and his co-regent. The twelve or thirteen-year-old princess was the only fully royal family member left. There was a prince, a child of Pharaoh and a minor wife, only "half-royal," but he was the only male heir. The young Princess Ankhesenpaaten (learn more about Ankhesenpaaten's titles here!) and the little Prince Tutankhaten (aged about nine) were married. And thus began the reign of the legendary boy-king.

King Nebkheperure Tutankhaten began his rule as Pharaoh at Akhet-Aten. It seems there was a dual coronation, one at Akhet-Aten and one at Waset (Thebes). While there, the young (and very likely frightened) couple would have probably stayed at the Malkata palace, where Ankhesenpaaten may have been born, which has had been hastily readied from royal use after so many years of abandonment. The couple had very little real power, of course, being but children. Ankhesenpaaten may have had some say in things, since she, at twelve or thirteen, often seen as the age of maturity, could have acted as regent. However, the real powers seem to have been Ay, the probable father of Nefertiti (hence Ankhesenpaaten's grandfather), a elderly -- but ambitious and experienced official -- and Horemheb, the Commander-in-Chief of the military. That was normally the job of Pharaoh, but Tutankhaten was just a little boy.

In the second or third Regnal Year of Tutankhaten, the Restoration Stele was completed the royal couple abandoned Akhet-Aten for good, presumable traveling between the reinstated capitals of Egypt: the administrative capital in Mennefer (Memphis) and the religious capital, in Waset, where Amun ruled. Ankhesenpaaten and Tutankhaten also changed their names to Ankhesenamen and Tutankhamen, to honor the old gods that Akhenaten at abandoned. Just imagine -- leaving your city, your God, even your name behind. It is no wonder that Tutankhamen and Ankhesenamen clung to each other so -- who else understood what they had been through?

Companions in childhood, the two became inseparable as teenagers. Their marriage had been arranged, but it is quite obvious from artifacts in Tutankhamen's tomb that there was a genuine love between the two (see "The King's Great Wife Whom He Loves" for more). She accompanied him when he went on hunts, they spend quiet hours together in the lush gardens of the Pharaonic palaces, they played board games like Senet or Hounds and Jackals together. Like the prince and princesses of fairy tales, they should have lived "happily ever after." However, that was not to be.

Ankhesenamen miscarried their two children -- both daughters. They were both premature, one born after only five months gestation. The other was born at about eight months and had a condition called Spina Bifida -- had she lived, she would have been deformed. The teenage parents were devastated at the losses, and had the little girls mummified, even though this went against tradition. The two girls would eventually join their father in his now-famous tomb. Ankhesenamen and Tutankhamen continued to be hopeful. After all, they were both young -- they had their whole lives ahead of them. Tutankhamen was becoming more involved in the running of Egypt, exercising his rights as Pharaoh more often, entering into adulthood and become more independent. The puppet king was cutting the strings, and the puppeteers were not pleased.

Some time in his ninth regnal year, at about the age of eighteen, Tutankhamen died suddenly (Read Ankhesenamen's Lament). His tomb was not ready, there was no heir, and Ankhesenamen was alone. Through all that she had faced, Tutankhamen had been with her. It seems that the young queen knew something that modern archaeologists do not. The twenty-one-year-old widow apparently did no believe that the death of her husband was an accident. After all, had he not just reached adulthood? Making his own judgments, quite possibly against the wishes of his advisors. Was Tutankhamen turning out to be a little too much like Akhenaten? It would take seventy days for Tutankhamen to be prepared for burial. Ankhesenamen had seventy days to save herself. Whoever she married would become the next Pharaoh, and she did not want to marry Ay or Horemheb -- really the only two choices -- if she could avoid it. So she took a controversial step: the grieving widow decided to find her own husband, and a royal one at that.

She wrote to the Hittites (For more on the Hittite Letters, go here). She tells the Hittite king that she will never marry a "servant." She is not necessarily being haughty -- the Egyptians did not like foreigners either, but she was proposing marriage to one. It is her statement that "I am afraid!" that lends insight to her reasons. She fears for her life. She is quite possibly being pressured into marrying man that had a hand in the murder of her beloved husband, and she fears her own demise is imminent.

A prince, Zannanza, is finally sent, but is murdered (most likely on Horemheb's orders) on the borders of Egypt. Her plan had failed, but at least Horemheb was temporarily out of the picture, on the borders of Egypt. She may have given in to the "lesser of two evils" and agreed to marry Ay and make him the new Pharaoh of Egypt. Tutankhamen was buried. Ay and Ankhesenamen married. Then she disappears. Tey, Ay's first wife, appears as queen in Ay's tomb -- not Ankhesenamen. She probably died sometime in Ay's brief rule (three to four years). She was in her early twenties. Murder? Suicide? No burial has been found for Ankhesenamen, not even a trace. Either it lies somewhere yet to be found (like that of her husband's until 1922, of course) or it never existed. Ankhesenamen may never have had a proper burial at all.

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