Ay was the son of two of the most influential members of Amenhotep III's court, Yuya and Tuyu; their daughter, Tiy, married the king and became his favorite wife, exercising a considerable influence over him and over their son, Amenhotep IV-Akhenaten. Yuya ensured that his son was appointed to important offices in the king's entourage at an early age, including that of Master of the Horse.
It is possible that Akhenaten's wife, Nefertiti, was the daughter of Ay; in any event his influence waxed during Akhenaten's reign. At some point Ay acquired the priestly title 'God's Father', which might have denoted a special (though not necessarily blood) relationship with the king.
After the death of Akhenaten and the eventual accession of Tutankhamun, Ay set himself diligently to erase the memory of the king whom he had served and to restore the power of the priests of Amun. In this he seems to have been notably successful; Akhenaten was execrated as a heretic and the members of the royal family, whose names had been compounded with that of the Aten, were renamed by the substitution of Amun's name. When Tutankhamun died, and after an abortive attempt by his queen, Ankhesenamun, to secure a foreign prince to succeed, Ay secured the kingship, though he was not of the royal lineage. It has been suggested that he married Tutankhamun's widow who, as a king's daughter, would have carried the right of succession. In Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings, Ay is shown conducting the funeral rites, usually the responsibility of the deceased's son and heir.
Ay reigned for only four years. He had originally intended to be buried at Akhetaten and work had begun on the construction of a tomb there. It contained the only version know of the great Hymn to the Aten. Later, he commandeered for himself a tomb (WV 23) which was probably originally intended for Tutankhamun, near that of Amenhotep III and the mortuary temple at Medinet Habu. In his tomb he is shown in the company of his first wife, Tiy II. Of Ankhesenamun there is no trace.
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Last Updated: June 21st, 2011
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