• Imagining History

Pharaoh Hatshepsut - A Guide For KS2

Updated: Apr 22


Pharaoh Hatshepsut - Courtesy of Rogers Fund, 1929

What was Hatshepsut best known for?


Hatshepsut was known as one of Ancient Egypt’s few female Pharaohs – and a very successful Pharaoh at that. She ruled around 1473–58 BC and was often shown in statues wearing a fake beard!


How did she become Pharaoh?


To become a Pharaoh in Egypt, your father had to be a Pharaoh. Oh, and you had to be male.


So you’d be right in wondering how on earth Hatshepsut managed to become a Pharaoh if she was female. Well luckily she did fill one of the requirements – her father was Pharaoh Thutmose 1st. Being a Pharaoh, Thutmose 1st had many children with many different women (this was a tradition at the time). And at 12 years old, Hatshepsut married one of her half-brothers, who had been named after his father, Thutmose 2nd.

One of Hatshepsut's Obelisks at Karnak - the only one still standing today.

When Thutmose 1st died, his son Thutmose 2nd became Pharaoh in his place and Hatshepsut became his Queen. But being a Queen isn’t the same as being a Pharaoh. She still had a long way to go.


Sadly, Thutmose 2nd died very young. This meant the throne passed on to his eldest son, Hatshepsut’s stepson, Thutmose 3rd. (If there’s one thing we’ve learned here, it’s that the Ancient Egyptians weren’t too imaginative with their baby names!). Unfortunately for Thutmose 3rd, he was far too young to rule, being only 3 years old when he was handed the crown of Egypt. This meant that, although Thutmose 3rd was the official Pharaoh, Hatshepsut had to rule in his place as his regent until he came of age.


And this is exactly what Hatshepsut did. For a little while at least. By the time Thutmose 3rd was into his seventh year as Pharaoh, Hatshepsut did something unheard of. She was crowned as King and became a co-ruler with Thutmose 3rd. Nobody is quite sure how she managed it, perhaps a threat to the throne meant two rulers was better than one, or she just had some really good friends in high places, but Hatshepsut was now Pharaoh of Egypt.


Statues of Hatshepsut wearing Pharaoh garb and a fake beard - Courtesy Vyacheslav Argenberg

Why did she have a fake beard?


After Hatshepsut became Pharaoh, she asked to be depicted as a traditional Pharaoh in all of her artwork and statues. Being depicted as a traditional Pharaoh meant she would be shown as a man, complete with male clothing, large muscles and even a fake beard. This may seem unusual, but Hatshepsut didn’t want to break with tradition, even if she wasn’t a man. Hatshepsut felt it would help to solidify her position as Pharaoh, but she liked to add hints at her real gender by adding tricksy references like “His Majesty, Herself”.


Hatshepsut's Temple of Deir el-Bahri - Courtesy of Djehouty

What did she do that made her such a good Pharaoh?


Hatshepsut created a peaceful and contented kingdom by trading with neighbouring kingdoms instead of warring with them. She revived many forgotten trade routes and sent boats down the Nile and across the Red Sea, most famously to a place called Punt (near Somalia). The increase in trade brought many riches and treasures to Egypt, including ivory, ebony, incense, spices, makeup and even animals such as panthers and baboons.


Hatshepsut was also well known for her building projects, which included many temples, sanctuaries and roadways. She built a pair of obelisks at the Temple of Karnak which were the tallest in the world at the time, standing at an enormous 97 feet tall. Her masterpiece was her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri, which included stunning terraces of columns and a number of chapels dedicated to different gods, and was built on the west bank of the River Nile. Many of her building projects were so impressive that future Pharaohs tried to claim that they had built them instead.


This statue of Hatshepsut was completely destroyed by Thutmose 3rd and later put back together again from the fragments found by archaeologists.

What happened after she died?


On the years running up to her death, Hatshepsut allowed Thutmose 3rd more of an important role in their co-ruler relationship. This obviously served him well, because after Hatshepsut died, he continued as a strong Pharaoh on his own, ruling for another 30+ years.


Sadly for Hatshepsut, her reign went forgotten for a long time. Nearing the end of his reign, Thutmose 3rd tore down many of Hatshepsut’s statues and defaced her monuments. Historians believe Thutmose 3rd wanted to show the succession of Pharaohs running straight from Thutmose 1st, through Thutmose 2nd to Thutmose 3rd. Hatshepsut had been scratched from history and went under the radar for a long time until around 1822 when the hieroglyphs at Deir el-Bahri were eventually decoded. Now we know all about this amazing woman and her mind-blowing achievements.