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The Woman Who Would be King

Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt

Kara Cooney

Hatshepsut, the daughter of a general who had usurped the throne of Egypt, was born into a privileged position within the royal household. Married off to her own brother, she was expected to bear sons who would legitimize the reign of her father’s family. But she failed to produce a male heir. Such was the twist of fate that paved the way for her own scarcely believable rule: she ascended to the throne as a ‘king’. Over a spectacular twenty-two-year reign, Hatshepsut proved herself a master strategist, cloaking her political power plays with a veil of piety and sexual reinvention. Just as women today face obstacles from a society that equates authority with masculinity, Hatshepsut had to operate the levers of a patriarchal system to emerge as Egypt’s second female pharaoh.

Scholars have long speculated as to why her images were violently destroyed within a few decades of her death, all but erasing evidence of her rule. Constructing a rich narrative history using the sources that remain, noted Egyptologist Kara Cooney offers a remarkable interpretation of how Hatshepsut rapidly but methodically consolidated power—and why she fell from public favour just as quickly. The Woman Who Would Be King traces the unconventional life of a female pharaoh and explores our complicated reactions to women in power.

  • Publication date: January 22, 2015
  • ISBN: 9781780746500
  • RRP: £20.00
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication date: January 22, 2015
  • ISBN: 9781780746517
  • RRP: £5.99
  • Pages: 320


'Colourful, thought-provoking, imaginative and unconventional''

Ancient Egypt Magazine

'Hatshepsut is a historical figure worthy of wider renown'


‘With rigorous scholarship and a lively sense of sisterhood, Cooney retrieves Hatshepsut in her own times and liberates her as a woman for ours’

The Times

‘Hatshepsut’s story provides all the ingredients required of a modern bestseller… well-researched… hugely enjoyable for many’

Mail on Sunday

'Kara Cooney has written a lively, engaging, historically accurate account of one of the most controversial of Egypt’s female pharaohs, Hatshepsut. Cooney presents an accessible story of Hatshepsut’s rise to power until her demise, bringing ancient Egypt, its people, and its rulers to life.'

Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology, American University in Cairo

'Engrossing and compulsively readable.'


‘The life of Hatshepsut, Egypt’s second female pharaoh, was replete with opulent living, complex royal bloodlines, and sexual energy; in short, the kind of drama that fuels Ancient Egypt’s enduring appeal…From Hatshepsut’s self-perception, political prowess, and lifestyle emerge an image of the ‘ultimate working mother’ and a compelling insight into ancient gender roles.’ 

Publishers Weekly

‘Cooney's detective work finally brings out the story of a great woman's reign.’

Kirkus Reviews

‘Egyptologist Cooney peels back the layers of the life of Hatshepsut, Egypt’s second female pharaoh, providing a multidimensional portrait of a woman of strength, intelligence, and substance.’


The Woman Who Would Be King is a fascinating look at one of the most formidable and successful women in all of ancient history. Before Cleopatra there was Hatshepsut. Now, thanks to Kara Cooney, the real Hatshepsut stands before us in all her glory. For the first time we have a full-length biography of her that is not only a great scholarly work but also a marvelous read.’

Amanda Foreman, author of The Duchess and A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War

‘The compelling biography of a fascinating woman: the daughter, wife and stepmother of kings, who defied tradition to rule the most powerful nation in the Mediterranean world as pharaoh. Cooney tells her tale with authority, sensitivity and imagination. It is a tale that deserves to be told.’ 

Joyce Tyldesley, author of Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt and Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh

‘What Stacy Schiff did for Cleopatra, Kara Cooney has done for Hatshepsut. An absolutely fantastic read about one of the most powerful Pharaoh-Queens in ancient Egypt. Completely unputdownable!’ 

Michelle Moran, bestselling author of Nefertiti

Kara Cooney

Author page

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