King Nebkheperure Tutankhaten began his rule as Pharaoh at Akhet-Aten. It seems there was a dual coronation, one at Akhet-Aten and one at Waset (Thebes). While there, the young (and very likely frightened) couple would have probably stayed at the Malkata palace, where Ankhesenpaaten may have been born, which has had been hastily readied from royal use after so many years of abandonment. The couple had very little real power, of course, being but children. Ankhesenpaaten may have had some say in things, since she, at twelve or thirteen, often seen as the age of maturity, could have acted as regent. However, the real powers seem to have been Ay, the probably father of Nefertiti (hence Ankhesenpaaten's grandfather), a elderly -- but ambitious and experienced official -- and Horemheb, the Commander-in-Chief of the military. That was normally the job of Pharaoh, but Tutankhaten was just a little boy.
In the second or third Regnal Year of Tutankhaten, the Restoration Stele was completed the royal couple abandoned Akhet-Aten for good, presumable traveling between the reinstated capitals of Egypt: the administrative capital in Mennefer (Memphis) and the religious capital, in Waset, where Amun ruled. Ankhesenpaaten and Tutankhaten also changed their names to Ankhesenamen and Tutankhamen, to honor the old gods that Akhenaten at abandoned. Just imagine -- leaving your city, your God, even your name behind. It is no wonder that Tutankhamen and Ankhesenamen clung to each other so -- who else understood what they had been through?
Companions in childhood, the two became inseparable as teenagers. Their marriage had been arranged, but it is quite obvious from artifacts in Tutankhamen's tomb that there was a genuine love between the two (see "The King's Great Wife Whom He Loves" for more). She accompanied him when he went on hunts, they spend quiet hours together in the lush gardens of the Pharaonic palaces, they played board games like Senet or Hounds and Jackals together. Like the prince and princesses of fairy tales, they should have lived "happily ever after." However, that was not to be.
Ankhesenamen miscarried their two children -- both daughters. They were both premature, the first born at about after eight months and had a rare condition called Spina Bifida -- had she lived, she would have been deformed. The teenage parents were devastated at the loss, and had the little girl mummified, even though this went against tradition. The second attempt was just as tragic. After only five months, Ankhesenamen miscarried again. The little girl was mummified like her sister. The two girls would eventually join their father in his now famous tomb. Ankhesenamen and Tutankhamen continued to be hopeful. After all, they were both young -- they had their whole lives ahead of them. Tutankhamen was becoming more involved in the running of Egypt, exercising his rights as Pharaoh more often, entering into adulthood and become more independent. The puppet king was cutting the strings, and the puppeteers were not pleased.
Some time in his ninth regnal year, at about the age of eighteen, Tutankhamen died suddenly. His tomb was not ready, there was no heir, and Ankhesenamen was alone. Through all that she had faced, Tutankhamen had been with her. It seems that the young queen knew something that modern archaeologists do not. The twenty-one-year-old widow apparently did no believe that the death of her husband was an accident. After all, had he not just reached adulthood? Making his own judgments, quite possibly against the wishes of his advisors. Was Tutankhamen turning out to be a little too much like Akhenaten? It would take seventy days for Tutankhamen to be prepared for burial. Ankhesenamen had seventy days to save herself. Whoever she married would become the next Pharaoh, and she did not want to marry Ay or Horemheb -- really the only two choices -- if she could avoid it. So she took a controversial step: the grieving widow decided to find her own husband, and a royal one at that.
She wrote to the Hittites (read the Hittite Letters!). She tells the Hittite king that she will never marry a "servant." She is not necessarily being haughty -- the Egyptians did not like foreigners either, but she was proposing marriage to one. It is her statement that "I am afraid!" that lends insight to her reasons. She fears for her life. She is quite possibly being pressured into marrying man that had a hand in the murder of her beloved husband, and she fears her own demise is imminent.
A prince, Zannanza, is finally sent, but is murdered (most likely on Horemheb's orders) on the borders of Egypt. Her plan had failed, but at least Horemheb was temporarily out of the picture, on the borders of Egypt. She may have given in to the "lesser of two evils" and agreed to marry Ay and make him the new Pharaoh of Egypt. Tutankhamen was buried. Ay and Ankhesenamen married. Then she disappears. Tey, Ay's first wife, appears as queen in Ay's tomb -- not Ankhesenamen. She probably died sometime in Ay's brief rule (three to four years). She was in her early twenties. Murder? Suicide? No burial has been found for Ankhesenamen, not even a trace. Either it lies somewhere yet to be found (like that of her husband's until 1922, of course) or it never existed. Ankhesenamen may never have had a proper burial at all.