Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Heretic Queen

It has been almost three months since I lost blogged, life has been so crazy I haven't read anything until the last week or so.  When I don't have time to read I really feel like something is missing from my life.  I love to read.  I'm sure i'll have another big gap until the next post because I am having a little girl in less than 6 weeks.  So please be patient for those that follow my blog, which I hope there are at least a few.

I chose to blog about The Heretic Queen since I just re-read it and love it.  I did blog about it once before but only a short paragraph.  This is the sequel to Nefertiti which is also a fabulous book.  It is 1283 B.C. in Thebes known as Upper Egypt.  I will briefly tell you what happened before this time- Nefertiti and her husband Akhenaten ruled Egypt and removed the gods that had been worshipped for over a thousand years, and in its place raised up the deity Aten (the sun) in its place.  They built their own city and were deemed heretical because of their policies and beliefs.  Akhenaten died of the plague and Nefertit was later stabbed to death by some priests.  Nefertiti's daughter Tutankhamun reigned until she died of an infection at age 19, and her grandfather Ay took the throne.  He passed away a few years later, with only one last link to the royal family, Nefertiti's sister Mutnodjmet.  Not one to want the crown, the general Horemheb took her as wife by force (we assume although there is no evidence).  Mutnodjmet passed away in childbirth and Horemheb passed the throne to his general, Ramesses I.  This began the Ninteenth Dynasty.  Ramasses was old when he began and the crown then passed on his death to his son, Paroah Seti.

All that remains of Nefertit's family line is the daughter of Mutnodjmet, Nefertari.  She is an orphan alone in the court of Seti, branded a heretic herself because of her family.  Nefertari is not for sure related to Nefertiti, but because of her age it could be possible.  She was a princess at court and was taken care of by her nurse Merit, who had also been with her mother and lived during the heretic's reign.  Nefertari was best friends with Ramasses, the prince, and Asha, son of a general.  She was very bright in school and knew over six languages, proficient in cuneiform and heiroglyphics.  When the time came for Ramasses to wed and start ruling as coregent in the Audience Chamber with his parents; Nefertari was devestated that her lifelong friend would no longer be with her in school.  Ramasses was wed to Iset, the daughter of a harem wife.  Many were surprised at his choice of wife, but the sister of Parahoah Seti, Henuttawy, had used her influence to push the marriage forward.  Soon Asha left as well to begin training as a soldier and Nefertari was left friendless at school.  Pharoah Seti's other sister, Woserit a high priestess, took aside Nefertari to begin telling her what her options were.  With no family if she did not marry Ramasses and eventually become Chief Wife as was her destiny, she would end up a priestess or even worse, abandoned in a harem somewhere.

At only age 13 she began to realize she needed to take a hand in shaping her destiny.  She needed to make Ramasses see that she was not just his little friend or sister, but a woman.  Taking Woserit's advice, she left the school to join Woswerit at the Temple of Hathor to become a priestess for at least a year.  Iset had already taken over her chambers and many at court had snubbed her aside as a useless princess from a heretical family.  Over the year she was with Woserit, she was not allowed to see Ramasses and was schooled in more languages, the harp and courtly manners.  When she returned to court for the Feast of Wag, Ramasses was very happy to see her.  She had grown more beautiful and wise and he had missed her greatly.  He desired for her to be his wife and soon proclaimed to the court, with his father's permission who adored Nefertari, that they would be wed.  The day after their wedding, Pharoh Seti and his queen Tuya set off for Lower Egypt because it was time for Ramasses to rule Upper Egypt alone since he was 18.

Nefertari joined Ramasses and Iset in the Audience Chamber, and soon earned the respect and admiration of many courtiers and petitioners.  With her skill in languages she was able to take most of the harder petitions and was useful to Ramasses.  Her came to her every night, even when it was his time to be with Iset, for her to interpret letters for him.  Iset was very beautiful but not very bright and complained often.  It became clear who was the favorite although many still called her the Heretic.  Iset lost her first son and many at court began complaining that it was Nefertari who had taken her baby's life.  She had to constantly battle the judgements of the people and try to prove herself.  Even after giving birth to twin boys, the people were still hesitant towards her.  Nefertari joined Ramasses during his crusade of the Nubian rebellion.  Soon people cheered her as the Warrior Queen for her bravery.  Now she was not only useful in the Audience Chamber but also in battles.  The Nile was very low and drought was spreading- again the people began blaming Nefertari.  Fortunately a solution was found and the rice from the temples was distributed to the people.

Pharoah Seti passed away shortly after they arrived at Lower Egypt and it was said his heart was too weak.  Nefertari overheard Henuttawy whispering with Iset about the poison they had given him to drink to hasten his death. With him out of the way they were hoping that Ramasses would finally decide and make Iset Chief Wife.  A few months after pharaoh's passing, the court moved into Lower Egypt known as Avaris.  Pharoah Ramasses decided to keep his father's last wish and go to war with Kadesh.  Nefertari and her sons joined Pharoah Ramasses on his war against Kadesh, along with Merit her nurse and Iset and her son.  Instead of ending in victory it ended in a peace treaty- the document still survives in the United Nations building in New York as an example of one of the earliest peace treaties.  Ramasses made Nefertari Chief Wife and they ruled together for over 25 years before her death.  Theirs was known as a love match and on the wall in her burial chamber, which is one of the most exquisite tombs to survive today, reads:
"My love is unique and none can rival her...Just by passing, she has stolen away my heart." 

Hennutawy was finally found out that she had hastened Pharoah Seti's death with poison, and her lover Rahotep the high priest stabbed her to death.  He was Iset's father and also the one that had killed Nefertiti and started the fire that killed the rest of the family.  Merit, the nurse, had known all along but kept it secret until the time was right.  Rahotep was killed for his crimes.  Woserit was finally free to marry her love Paser, the tutor, now that her evil sister was gone.  The serpents in the court were finally gone, where Ramasses could rule with Nefertari and their children.  Because Ramasses outlived most his children and lived into his nineties, generations grew up and died only having known him as Pharoah.  Ramasses is remembered as a great warrior and builder, and poems still survive of his love to Nefertari.  She bore him six children but none lived long enough to become Pharoah- in fact, Iset's son Merenptah succeeded after his death. 

I like this book because of the rich historical detail, the people, the story mingled with fact and fiction, the drama.  You feel happy for Nefertari because she overcomes her family's dark past and is made Chief Wife to the man she loves.  She was able to build a temple to her family where they would be remembered for all time.  Again, her paternity is not definite but it is possible she came from Nefertit's family.  An interesting thing is that after the Heretic's reign, Akhenaten and Nefertiti, the general Horemheb had all their images and their city destroyed so the gods or people wouldn't remember them.  So Nefertari believed unless she became Chief Wife, the gods would not remember her family.  If a person was buried without any kind of token identifying them, it was believed they would be cast out and forgotten by the gods after this life.  With important deeds and works they would be remembered and stand out to the gods.  That is why their images were drawn everywhere possible so they could be remembered.  I recommend this book because it's so interesting and rich in detail.

No comments:

Post a Comment