Sobekneferu, also well-known like Neferusobek or “the beauties of Sobek”, is the first queen of Egypt that the official investigation has classified, convincingly, like governor of the old empire.
The term accepted by agreement to refer to an Egyptian queen is woman-pharaoh or queen-pharaoh. Therefore, the word “pharaoh”, so widespread and rooted in the popular heritage, is curiously not a correct linguistic permutation.
Like any person who leads and opens the way and, especially, like every woman who assumes a role otherwise only attributable to man, Sobekneferu’s life story is full of surprising and powerful events that serve as a source of inspiration.
Also, a strong personality, determination and a robust intellect and tactical capacity were necessary for this woman to govern an empire, as prosperous as it is complicated; since it had been classically in the hands of pharaohs.
Brief history of the first queen of Egypt
Sobekneferu was the last president of the twelfth dynasty, temporarily framed towards the end of the Middle Kingdom.
She was the youngest of the daughters of Amenemhat III. His older sister, Neferuptah, seemed to show interest in power before Sobekneferu and although she was destined to occupy the throne, she died before her father without inheriting it.
Egyptologists attribute to this Empress a kingdom of three years and ten months. At that time, the queen achieved relatively important achievements related to the architecture of her nation: she vastly extended the funerary complex of Amenemhat III (now known as the Labyrinth of Herodotus) and promoted important constructions in Herakleopolis Magna.
From the records of his reign that have endured, it is extracted that she was a woman of firm disposition and unwavering attitude. Her strong character, her courage and, above all, her intelligence and care of the reign allowed her to go down in history as one of the most outstanding leaders of the Egyptian Empire.
What was special about this queen?
Some of the most characteristic features of Sobekneferu were her courage and dedication to stand out as an honorable and respected leader in a universe of male regents. However, he also highlighted his great nonconformity with the genre canons of the moment.
In this sense, and for more speculation than the representations of Sobekneferu dressed in male garments have generated, the first queen of Egypt never stopped using female suffixes in their titles. Something that not all Egyptian leaders agreed on.
In an effort to normalize the role of women in the highest power and to equate in power the symbols of femininity and masculinity, there are several portraits and statues that show it with clothes and tools of power (crowns and scepters) highly unusual.
In a time when, as many experts say, the female gender was sometimes considered a source of shame, there is no reason to think that Sobekneferu wanted to pass them off as a man.
His tendency to feminize the symbolism accepted as uniquely male was perhaps the result of his attempts to appease the critics of his reign. In this way, he avoided abandoning the status of female ruler.
During Ancient Egypt, the aspiration of any king was to go down in history as Pharaoh in the most traditional of senses; something that necessarily -for cultural roots- implied the use of certain indicators of masculinity.
Thus, the combination in their public representations of feminine and masculine markers could be explained as a mechanism to establish themselves as a classic and venerable pharaoh, but with the peculiarity of having been a woman.
Although the tomb of the first officially confirmed queen of Egypt is still to be discovered, what we can recognize is that it was an example of strength and struggle to fight for gender equality.