As a woman living in Egypt’s golden age, Hatshepsut was not destined for kingship.
She was prohibited by her gender from ascending the throne even though she was of royal lineage.
Egypt’s gods had supposedly decreed that the king’s role could never be fulfilled by a woman and although a pharaoh needed a queen to reign with him, she could never rule alone – although later there were notable exceptions.
Hatshepsut refused to submit to this and, to get round the rule, claimed she was married to the king of the gods and therefore had as much right to sit on the throne as any previous pharaoh.
Her brazen approach worked and she had herself crowned in around 1,473BC, changing her name from the female version Hatshepsut – which means Foremost of the Noble Ladies – to the male version, Hatshepsu.
As a woman living in Egypt’s golden age, Hatshepsut (pictured) was not destined for kingship. She was prohibited by her gender from ascending the throne even though she was of royal lineage
She reinforced her power by decorating the temples of the gods with portraits of herself in the pharaoh’s traditional kilt, wearing all his symbols of office including the black pointed royal beard.
While conducting affairs of state surrounded by male courtiers, she may even have worn men’s clothes.
However, previously-found statues show that early in her reign she liked tight-fitting gowns which showed off her figure and is said to have had a habit of bedding her cabinet ministers.
Hatshepsut was the first but not the only woman ruler of male dominated ancient Egypt.
Nefertiti followed her and then Cleopatra took power 1,500 years later, but neither took the title pharaoh like Hatshepsut.
She showed ruthless ambition and exceptional tenacity for the times in which she lived.
As a result this mysterious and courageous female ruler rewrote the early story of her country and has been called the first great woman in history.
Hatshepsut insisted she had been made official heir to the throne by her father, the pharaoh Thutmosis I.
The pharaoh had several sons who predeceased him and turned to his daughter to safeguard the throne.
What immediately followed was not unusual. Hatshepsut married a much younger half-brother, also called Thutmosis, whereupon she became queen.
Marriages between siblings were the custom in those days and at first the couple reigned together.
But then her brother/husband died, with the markings on his mummy suggesting he suffered from a hideous skin disease.
Hatshepsut became regent for another Thutmosis, her husband’s son by a harem girl. By now she was not content simply to be regent.
Within two years she had taken all the power for herself and was running the country from its capital Thebes, donned in her false beard and all the traditional regalia of kingship.
For many years she and her stepson seemed to have lived happily with this arrangement.
She ruled while Thutmosis concentrated on his military career. So successful was he that historians know him as the Napoleon of Egypt.
Historians suspect these campaigns were an excuse to escape from the influence of his merciless step-mother.
She was becoming so powercrazed in her last years that Thutmosis even feared for his life.
In his absence, Hatshepsut built breathtaking temples in her own honour. They were decorated with reliefs telling how she came to the throne of Egypt and with farfetched stories about her divine connections.
Hatshepsut ruled as a master politician and stateswoman for 20 years.
She died around the age of 50 of cancer, according to recent research and expected to be buried in her finest and best-known temple near the Valley of the Kings.
But it appears Thutmosis III got his own back on the woman who usurped his throne, burying her in a lesser location.
He outlived Hatshepsut by 40 years and seems to have set out on a campaign to erase her name from history.
He threw her statues into the quarries in front of the grand temples she built and even defaced the images of her courtiers.