THE WEDDING RING WAS made of glass and glazed in blue. It had been commissioned to commemorate the important ceremony. Inside the band were inscribed the cartouches of the newlyweds: Aye and Ankhesenpaaten.
The queen slipped the ring onto her finger and pretended to be blissfully content. The banquet hall was filled with revelers, and the party would continue well into the night. Bulls had been slaughtered, then roasted over open fires. Beer was served in copious amounts. Try as she might to be a quiet bystander, Ankhesenpaaten was the queen of Egypt. Her every move was being watched, and the country’s more illustrious and well-connected residents were curious whether she was truly in love with her new husband.
Hence, the importance of wearing her ring and appearing radiant and happy to all.
She wore a white gown with a floral collar, and eyeliner that showcased her deep brown eyes. Aye stood across the room with Horemheb, looking very much like the old and prosperous pharaoh he now was. He was forty summers older than his teenage bride, and he already had a possessive wife his own age.
How much longer Aye would live was anyone’s guess. And then what?
Would Ankhesenpaaten be forced to marry yet again? And who would that be? A foreigner, perhaps?
The only solution, she decided, was to become pregnant with Aye’s child. There was no other way to protect herself.
As the party grew louder and more festive, Ankhesenpaaten suddenly felt feverish, clammy. A wave of nausea swept over her. Within seconds she was on her knees, vomiting all over the floor.
Servants rushed to the stricken queen. Aye gazed at her from across the room, his wife Tey now at his side, but he did not go to Ankhesenpaaten’s aid.
It was then that the queen locked eyes with her new husband. She saw his look of conceit and triumph and did her best to return it.
When that failed, Ankhesenpaaten waved away the servants and rose unsteadily.
But she crashed to the floor again, this time banging her head and losing consciousness.
The Hittite prince had been carrying a plague virus. That virus had made its way to the queen. That was the story Aye would tell and then record for all history.
A few days later, Ankhesenpaaten was dead. Bowing to his older wife’s wishes, Aye refused to bury Ankhesenpaaten in his tomb—or even in Tut’s.
Instead, the queen’s body was taken downriver and fed to the crocodiles.