She was the Queen who received paramount rewards in the afterlife; a magnificent tomb (QV66 in the Valley of the Queens) to record her greatest achievements. The decorations in her tomb are considered the most beautiful of the entire necropolis and even today visitors are astounded by the sheer craftsmanship dedicated to her resting place. Images adorn the walls; she is the Goddess Isis, the chief wife of Ramesses II, a leader among men. Stories attest to her intelligence, her skills with the people and her excellent command of languages. In fact it was even reputed that she could speak seven languages including Hittite. Yet this much loved Queen was an enigma. What we know of her existence is plagued by inaccuracies and guesswork, creating a patchwork of misconceptions. We do not know when she was born, the exact date of her death or even facts about her personal life. With so few facts, how can historians create a true picture of this revered Queen? But here is what we do know.

In the 19th Dynasty New Kingdom, Egyptian Queen Consorts often held many titles that attested to personality traits, status and heritage. For example Nefertari held the following titles: Great of Praises (wrt-hzwt), Sweet of Love (bnrt-mrwt) Lady of Grace (nbt-im3t), Great King’s Wife (hmt-niswt-wrt),Great King’s Wife, his beloved (hmt-niswt-wrt meryt.f), Lady of The Two Lands (nbt-t3wy), Lady of all Lands (hnwt-t3w-nbw),Wife of the Strong Bull (hmt-k3-nxt), God’s Wife (hmt-ntr) and Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt (hnwt-Shm’w-mhw).

As the King’s Principal Wife she was also accorded special symbols and dress and allowed to wear the Royal Vulture Crown . The Royal Vulture Crown consisted of a falcon feather headdress with its wings spread round her head in the act of protection. This crown associated her with the goddess Nekhbet of Upper Egypt and emphasized the Queen’s maternal role. On top of the Royal Vulture headdress she wore a Shuti crown (meaning the Two Feathers) as a symbol of divine law, consisting of two, tall ostrich or falcon feathers combined with a sun disk.

With her many titles and supreme authority, no one could dare question her identity. Yet at the start of her role as Queen Consort, she was allegedly condemned as a ‘Heretic Queen’, with some historians such as Michelle Moran attesting to her identity as Nefertiti’s niece, the wife of  Akhenaten ( the Heretic King). If this is true then we can only imagine the hardships she must have faced to overcome the divides of a stratified Egypt. Yet with cunning, intelligence and compassion she eroded the prejudices against her and was determined to reintroduce the old Gods of Egypt once again, so that her name could not be used in conjunction with her heretical family.

One of the ways that she was reported to have done this is through her adoption of the title of “God’s Wife of Amun” in addition to the title of “King’s Principal Wife”. The title directly associated her with the powerful God Amun. The title of “God’s Wife of Amun” referred to the myth of the divine birth of the kings of Egypt, in which his mother was impregnated by the god Amun and reflected the powerful concept of ‘Divine Queenship’. An important religious office, it proved her position as the highest ranking priestess in the cult of Amen at Thebes. The title was first held early in the 18th dynasty by Queen Ahmose-Nefertari, and traditionally was held by the mothers, wives and sisters of the reigning pharaoh.

It might have been that Nefertari was given this title to consolidate the power of the Ramesside dynasty in Thebes, as this dynasty of kings came from the north and Ramesses II had built his new capital at Pi-Ramesses in the Delta. To all those who had doubted her Queenship or birthright it was clear that she meant business. In the face of adversity, she implemented measures to win over the people and gradually she began doing just that . Remarkably, despite her premature death, she was only the second Queen to be deified (after Queen Tye) in Ancient Egypt. Deification was incredibly rare, as only pharaohs were made Gods. What started as a possible political alliance grew into a truly amorous relationship. No other Queen adorns Egypt so vastly as she does. Through paintings, statues, writings and love letters from Ramesses, he truly adored his young Queen. He must have been devastated at her early demise (he himself lived until the age of 96) and despite his harem of women and other chief wives, Nefertari was regarded above all others.