Haremhab Crowned

After a period of time during which Haremhab officiated as the head of the army and administrator of the land, he was crowned. The coronation inscription is preserved on the back of a double statue—of himself sitting with his queen.(1) This statue, now in the Turin Museum, is of fine workmanship; the head of the king, however, is broken off. The queen’s name survived: Mutnodjme; and her position next to Haremhab at his coronation and the titles she bore indicate that she played an important part in the ceremony. When we study the text of the inscription it will become evident that Haremhab was in fact crowned at the wedding ceremony at which he married Mutnodjme; he was thus obliged to her for his elevation to the throne.

It would be not usual, but not unthinkable, that a commoner or a military man, having climbed in his career, should become a pharaoh when the throne turned vacant; or that a usurper should put the crown on his head after murdering the rightful pharaoh. But the case of Haremhab mounting the throne followed neither of these models. He was crowned by the king who did not abdicate at the occasion, nor remained as a co-ruler. Further, as just said, he was crowned at a wedding ceremony.

The inscription on the statue gives the story of Haremhab’s grown in the king’s favor and an account of the coronation ceremonial. “Now he acted as vice-regent of the Two Lands [Upper and Lower Egypt] over a period of many years.” With his councillors Haremhab was “doing obeisance at the gates of the King’s House.” It also happened that “He being summoned before the Sovereign when the Palace fell into rage, and he opened his mouth and answered the King and appeased him with the utterance of his mouth.” Haremhab had to assuage the King in his rage. Was the raging king the teenager Tutakhamen?(2)

In order to shorten the process of unravelling before the reader the meaning of the coronation text, let us substitute the proper person for the anonymous king. Sennacherib was the sovereign. He had Haremhab, a scribe, priest, and military man—a not unusual combination of offices in ancient Egypt—as the commanding officer in charge of an expedition against Ethiopia (Nubia) and as his regent over Egypt. In this capacity Haremhab succeeded to weather the rages of the wrathful overlord; by this, he claims, he won also the appreciation of his own people ("the people were happy” ).

Then the king, according to the inscription on the double statue,

knew the day of his good pleasure to give him his kingship. Lo, this god distinguished his son in the sight of the entire people. . . . The heart of the King being content with his dealings, and rejoicing at the choice of him.
In this and other passages “king” and “this god” are disgnations of the sovereign who crowned Haremhab.

The scene of the coronation starts when “his father Horus placed him [Haremhab] behind himself.” The translator of the text, GArdiner, comments in wondering: “but the place of a protective deity was behind the protected person” and he refers to various known instances when the falcon Horus or goddesses with protecting wings place themselves bheind the royal figure they protect. Assuming a textual error and thinking of Horus as a deity, Gardiner corrects the sentence and makes of it: “His father Horus placed himself behind him [Haremhab].” The text however makes it clear that it was the much-feared monarch who stood in front of Haremhab and led him through the ceremony. “The form of a god was his aspect in sight of him who beheld his dread image,” is in the text, and once again Gardiner stumbles on the adjective “dread,” not usually applied to divine statues.(3)

“Lo, this noble god Horus of Hnes, his heart desired to establish his son upon his eternal throne and he commanded _ _ _ [lines broken].” It was usual in Egypt to call the king “god” and also “noble god Horus” apparently in appreciation of the syllable hr in the name Sennacherib; more specifically, the Assyrian king is referred to as “this noble god Horus of Hnes.” Haremhab calls himself “god Horus of Hnes’ son.”

Then did Horus proceed amid rejoicing to Thebes, the city of the lord of Eternity, his son in his embrace, to Ipet-Isut (Karnak), in order to induct him into the presence of Amun for the handing over to him of his office of king.
The god-king inducted him “to his office and his throne.” From now on Haremhab is “Hereditary Prince, Chieftain [King] over the Two Lands” and his future issue is supposed to inherit the title and the throne. he proceeded to the palace, to “his [the king’s ] noble daughter the Great of Magic, her arms in welcoming attitude, and she embraced his beauty and established herself in front of him.” (4)

Mutnodjme is here identified as daughter of Sennacherib. She brought the crown to Haremhab: the coronation and the marriage ceremonies took place one following the other, on the same day. Haremhab became son-in-law of Sennacherib and for this reason he was called “son” of “this god"—the Assyrian king. The royal crown was placed “upon his head” and the populace acclaimed Haremhab as their savior. From now on, as the text makes it known, his titulary would be “Horus of Gold, Satisfied with Truth, fostering the Two Lands, King of Upper and Lower Egypt Djeserkheprure-setpenre, son of Re, Haremhab-Miamun, given life.”

Haremhab’s wife is called “Great Wife of the King, Lady of the Two Lands, Mutnodjme, beloved of Isis.” Queen Mutnodjme is also spoken of as a “great hereditary princess” and as “regent of Egypt"—and even “of all the countries.” (5) Thus the queen occupied the throne not just because she was the king’s spouse, but in her own right. Her exalted position is also reflected in her scarabs or signets. They were made of gold. The queens of the preceding ages, those that had scarabs of her own, had them made of various materials, mostly minerals, but not of gold; not even fom hatshepsut who occupied the throne as “king” or from Tiy, the exalted queen of Amenhotep III, do we possess scarabs of gold. “Scarabs of gold are extremely rare—of the scores of thousands found in the soil of Egypt, not more than four examples are known.” (6)

The cause of this unusual status of the queen Mutnodjme as a regent of Egypt and also the reason for her having her scarabs molded in gold are no longer obscure—she was given as a wife to the administrator of Egypt by his suzerain, the king of Assyria, and at the same time her husband was promoted from the position of “King’s Deputy” in Egypt to the status of a pharaoh, yet still dependent on his suzerain and even subordinate to his own queen.


  1. A. Gardiner, “The Coronation of King Haremhab,” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 39 (1953), pp. 13-31.

  2. So Gardiner in “The Coronation of King Haremhab,” p. 21: “[Haremhab] also dwells upon the confidence that had been reposed in him by the king, doubtless Tut’ankhamun, on whose behalf he had ruled over a long period of years—a time . . . when the temper of the Palace was not always as cool as it might have been, and needed the wisdom and moderation of a man as astute as himself to steer the ship of state aright.”

  3. Ibid., p. 16.

  4. “Established herself in front of him” is Breasted’s translation (Ancient Records of Egypt). Gardiner amends it to “established herself upon his forehead"—which seems to make little sense unless she is metaphorically thought of as the uraeus, sign of royal power, with which Haremhab is now endowed.

  5. Hari, Horemheb et la reine Moutnedjemet, p. 190.

  6. Ibid., p. 199.