Tiye (also known as Tiy, 1398-1338 BCE) was a queen of Egypt of the 18th dynasty, wife of the pharaoh Amenhotep III, mother of Akhenaten, and grandmother of both Tutankhamun and Ankhsenamun. She exerted an enormous influence at the courts of both her husband and son and is known to have communicated directly with rulers of foreign nations. The Amarna letters also show that she was highly regarded by these rulers, especially during the reign of her son.
Tiye - Early Life & Marriage
According to some scholars (Margaret Bunson, among them), Tiye's father was Yuya, a provincial priest from Akhmin, and her mother was Tjuya, a servant of the queen mother, Mutemwiya. Other sources, however, claim Yuya was Master of the Horse of the royal court and Tjuya a priestess.
Her parents' names, some claim, are not Egyptian, and it has been suggested that they were Nubian. Scholars who have noted Tiye’s unusual role in the affairs of state point to the Nubian custom of female rulers. The Candaces of Nubia were all strong female rulers, and so some scholars speculate that perhaps Tiye felt free to wield power in the same way as a male ruler because of her upbringing and heritage. The Egyptologist Zahi Hawass claims that the names are not Nubian and that “some scholars have speculated that Yuya and Tjuya were of foreign birth, but there is no good evidence to substantiate this theory”.
Tiye probably married Amenhotep while he was a prince. She is believed to have been only 11 or 12 at the time. When Amenhotep III came to the throne, Tiye ascended with him.
From the beginning of her husband’s reign, Tiye was a significant force at court. Tiye and her husband Amenhotep III. lived at Malkata where she gave birth to seven children: two sons (Thutmosis, Amenhotep IV) and five daughters (Sitamen, Henuttaneb, Isis, Nebetah, and Baketaten). Thutmosis died early in life, and Amenhotep IV (later known as Akhenaten) was pronounced heir to the throne.
Besides the customary titles for a queen, like Hereditary Princess, Lady of the Two Lands, King’s Wife, or Great King’s Wife, Tiye was also known as Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt and Mistress of the Two Lands. The royal couple presented a united front in dealing with domestic and foreign policies, and the reign of Amenhotep III is considered a high point in Egyptian history.
The King’s Mother
Tiye assumed the title of King’s Mother upon the ascent to the throne of her son Amenhotep IV. Even though there is no indication that Tiye had ever entertained anything like monotheistic leanings, she seems to have supported her son’s radical departure from the religious policies of the past.
The priests of Amun had gradually been growing in wealth and power throughout the 18th dynasty until, by Amenhotep III’s reign, their influence was on par with the royal house. Whatever Tiye may have thought of her son’s monotheism privately, she would have approved of a measure to increase the power of the throne at the expense of the clergy.
She died in her early sixties and was buried in the Valley of the Kings. Her mummy has positively been identified as that known as the 'Elder Lady’, and a lock of her hair, possibly a keepsake of the young king’s, was found in Tutankhamun’s tomb.