October 24, 2012

The Royal Family in Ancient Egypt

The Royal Family
The Ancient Egyptian pharaohs did not live like a lazy despot. As vizier he had supervised mining operations, superintended quarrying operations, controlled the Court of Law and had been in charge of the Treasury. As pharaoh he was equally active. He received his advisers and officials, discussed funerary monuments with his chief architect, and accompanied by his attendants took inspection tours in his carrying-chair.

Apart from the royal insignia and the richly encrusted jewelled collars, the royal family dressed little differently from the landed noblemen. The insignia included the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt (of which no examples have been found) and the artificial beard attached to it (many of these are in the museums of the world). The beard may have been a tradition inherited from their ancestors; being, however a nation who prided themselves on being clean-shaven, artificial beards were worn as a sign of attractive kingship. The emblems carried by the pharaoh were the crook and flail, both of which had come to indicate regal authority. The tail of a bull and leopard skins were used as insignia by priests and princes.

Naturally the elaborate court etiquette required the pharaoh and his Egyptian family to have a host of courtiers, retainers and servants. In the royal palace there was a strict and complex structure of rank and classification of work as revealed by the various titles. Each department had its head, who had his own attendants and their appointed helpers There was a Chief Court Physician, a Director of Music, a Chief Manicurist of the Court and even an official who called himself ‘He who is Head of the Reversion’ and who probably distributed the remains of the five royal meals a day to the people. There was also a Guardian of the Royal Crown and Jewels, a Keeper of the Royal Robes and an Overseer of the Cosmetic Box who ‘performed in the matter of cosmetic art to the satisfaction of his lord’. It is from inscriptions of rank and privileges, duties and tasks, that we are informed of life in the royal palace, and the honour that serving the pharaoh was felt to be. Even the ‘Sandal-bearer of the Egyptian King’ was proud to record that he did his duties to royal satisfaction, and one retainer boasted in his tomb of the unprecedented privilege of kissing the royal foot rather than the dust before it.

The Egyptian God-king was no less pious towards his parents or devoted to his children than the noblemen. Many a pharaoh completed the tomb and mortuary temple for his departed father before commencing construction of his own, inscribing his deed on the walls. When Khufu learned that thieves had entered the tomb of his mother Hetep-heres, he ordered a reburial for her in a new, secret tomb at Giza. Unaware that the mummy had already been removed from the sarcophagus, the workers lowered it into a shaft to the east of the Great Egyptian Pyramid on the Giza along with her funerary equipment. It is thanks to Khufu’s devotion that the furniture was saved; the only royal furniture to have survived intact from the Old Kingdom. It included the supports and uprights of a royal canopy encased in gold from which mats were hung as curtains to ensure privacy, a royal bed that sloped downwards towards the foot to provide a headrest, two chairs, one of which was portable, and, among the smaller items, an inlaid footboard, vases of gold, copper, and alabaster, gold razors and a gold manicure set. The chairs are magnificently carved with figures of the hawk and the lotus, the symbol of the Ankh (Key of Life) and an ibex, all gold- trimmed. The basic design of furniture did not greatly change in later periods.

It is not surprising that Khufu’s mother should have had such magnificent funerary equipment. In the 4th dynasty, royal blood was carried through the women: as ‘Mother of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt’ she was herself revered. Just before the fall of the Egyptian Old Kingdom, in the 6th dynasty, after a process of decentralisation, when pharaohs like Pepi I had married women of non-royal blood, and when noblemen like Ti rose from humble origin to the most powerful positions in the state, legal documents indicate new conditions both on the question of succession and on the position of women. The latter had reduced legal status and, indeed, even after the death of her husband a woman was placed under the guardianship of her eldest son. On his death the responsibility fell on the second, but always the oldest living son was the executor of the deceased’s land and entrusted with his funds. He was instructed to guard the property of the family and expressly forbidden to ‘share’ the wealth entrusted to him.

Related Web Search :
Royal Family in Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt Royal Family

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