(Hatshepsut was the first great woman in recorded history; she was the forerunner os such great figures as Cleopatra and Catherine the great)
Born in the 18th Dynasty, also referred to as the New Kingdom, Hatshepsut was the royal daughter of the Pharaoh, Tuthmosis I. It was a time of peace and prosperity in Egypt, and although she was never trained to succeed her father as ruler--that training was reserved for male heirs--she did learn to read and write, manage the household servants, and take part in the religious rituals as a queen to Pharaoh. Her father died at age 50, a ripe old age during that time period, and he had actually outlived all but two of his children--Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis II. She was 12 1/2 years old when she became the Queen of Egypt and ruled along with her half-brother. Together they ruled for 14 years.
Then, Tuthmosis II died, and Hapshepsut was to assume the duties of an official regent along with her minor stepson, Tuthmosis III. But, she had loftier goals for herself, and she gradually took on more and more responsibilities. Then within three years she made a rather bold and unprecedented move; she crowned herself as a king and proclaimed herself to he, His Magesty, the Female King of Egypt. And, she was a most accomplished Pharaoh. Immediately, she started to build a wealthy and powerful state. This was a job she had trained herself for from her earliest days at her father's side.
She was rather unique because she took on several male adornments...wearing male clothing, and even attaching a false beard...and this was depicted in her statues...probably due to the fact that the masses might not have accepted her in a purely feminine role. There were few military endeavors during her reign and most of her efforts went into building projects including her massive mortuary temple which was built by Senemut, her chief of court, and supposedly her lover.
Hatshepsut claimed that her father had proclaimed her his rightful heir instead of his son before his death. She also claimed to be of divine descent. These claims were written in stone one the front panels of her temple, and words written in stone to the Egyptian masses were considered truthful and magical. Her temple was majestic and each day at dawn, the Sun rose over the Thebes and set the temple walls aglow...illuminating the hierogliphs that proclaimed her kingship.
Her other great endeavor as Pharaoh was a land/sea expedition that sailed along the coastline. One year later the ships returned with ebony, ivory, monkeys, panthers...as well as 31 living myrrh trees which were complete with roots and soil. These were planted in the gardens in front of her temple and the story of the expedition carved into her temple as an example of her greatness, a greatness to be remembered for all eternity. This was the first recorded attempt to transplant foreign trees on Egyptian soil.
On January 16, 1458 BC in the 22nd year of her reign, Hatshepsut died, and to this day, her death remains a mystery...although it is presumed that she died of natural causes. After her death, her stepson took the throne, and it is believed that his hatred for her pushed him to erase the memory, existence, and and depictions of the Pharaoh Queen. Her remains were long considered lost, but in June, 2007, her mummy was publicly identified. Modern Xrays suggest she was about 50 years old at her death and died from a ruptured abscess after the removal of a tooth. But, she probably would not had lived much longer anyway for her body was riddled with cancer.
Hepshepsut's life is a story of power, wisdom, mystery, and courage. She was considered one of the greatest rulers of all time, male or female. She wielded far more power than Cleopatra, and had the wisdom to use this power for the benefit of her country; and although we will never know for sure, it appears that she had courage against all traditions to love the commoner who captured her heart, Senenmut.