Ramses II Used the Valley of the Queens to Bury His Royal Wives
Ancient Egyptian politics severely restricted the lives of royal women. Pharaohs restricted the marriages of their daughters. Royal princesses were not allowed to marry below their rank, and they were only allowed to marry princes and kings. Egyptian pharaohs were also reluctant to allow their daughters to marry foreign kings to eliminate the possibility of an outsider usurping the throne of Egypt in the name of his wife. Many royal princesses never married, and if they did, they married either their father or their brother.
Ramses II ruled Egypt from 1279 to 1213 BCE as the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty. Unusual in Egyptian history, Ramses reigned for sixty-six years, outliving many of his wives and royal heirs. He used the Valley of the Queens almost exclusively as the resting place for his royal consorts. Following Egyptian tradition, Ramses married no less than four of his daughters throughout his lengthy reign, installing them as Chief Royal Consort when the wife holding the position died.
When Queen Nefertari died, her daughter Meritamen married her father and replaced her mother as Chief Royal Consort. Meritamen shared this ceremonial role with her half-sister Bintanath, Ramses’ eldest-born daughter by his highest-ranking wife during Nefertari’s lifetime, Isetnofret. He later married two other daughters, Nebettawy and Henuttawy. According to the respect recorded to their elevated position as the King’s Daughter, and later the King’s Wife, Ramses venerated his daughter-wives in many building projects throughout his reign and arranged their burials in the Valley of the Queens.
Both Meritamen and Henuttawy’s tombs, in QV 68 and QV 73 respectively, bear a resemblance to their mother Nefertari’s tomb. Nebettawy, buried in QV 60, may also have been Nefertari’s daughter, but this isn’t confirmed. Ramses II died in his 90s, leaving behind a wealthy country from his military conquests and a legacy that would lead many of his successors to use his name when they ascended the throne of Egypt. Although Bintanath was Ramses’ eldest daughter, she outlived her father. She died after her brother Merenptah, Ramses II’s thirteenth son who was the oldest of his sons to outlive him, became pharaoh. Merenptah buried Bintanath in QV 71.