Smenkhkare (also Smenkhare and Smenkare) may well refer to not one, but two people:
- Ankhkheprure Neferneferuaten, who is probably the queen we know as Nefertiti, wife of Akhenaton, and who may have ruled as co-regent with her husband;
- Anhkkheprure Smenkhkare, who may be identical with Ankhkheprure Neferneferuaten or may be a separate, male king.
Others instead hold that the two names refer to the same person. Some say that this one person was Nefertiti, other that it was a male, Smenkhkare, who adopted Nefertiti's names, albeit with a slightly different arrangement of the glyphs. Also suggestive that Nefertiti was Smenkhkare is the fact that Smenkhkare appeared in the record about the same time that Nefertiti disappeared, and yet she is still portrayed as having performed the rites reserved for the heir to the throne at Akhenaten's funeral.
A document names him as the husband of "the Chief Wife, his beloved, the Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt, the Lady of the Two Lands, Meritaten" - who was the daughter of Akhenaton. And it through her royal blood that he claimed legitimacy to the throne, as was the practice in the period.
Smenkhkare's parentage is unknown. Unlike the majority of other Pharaohs, the only claim he made was to have been "beloved" of Akhenaton, but never states that the latter was his father. It is however possible that he was the elder brother of his successor, Tutankhamun. This makes it plausible for them both to be sons of Amenhotep III, and therefore also brothers of Akhenaton. Casting doubt on this theory is that whenever any of Akhenaten's daughters were referenced, they were referred to as "the king's daughter, of his loins, (daughter's name)." That there was no reference to another son would seem unlikely in such a patriarchal society. Furthermore, as evidenced by Cyril Aldred (a prominent egyptologist), Smenkhkare would have to have been born at least three years before Akhenaten's reign began, making it very unlikely that he was Akehnaten's son.
Meritaten seems to have died very shortly after her father, as did her daughter, Meritaten-ta-sherit. At this point, Smenkhkare married Ankhesenpaaten. And shortly after that, perhaps less than 12 months, Smenkhkare died.
In 1907, Arthur Weigall and Theodore Davis discovered a tomb known as "Tomb 55" in the Valley of the Kings. The tomb itself is a mystery, as the door bears the name Tutankhamen, the shrine and sarcophagus indicate that they were designed for Akenaton's wife Kiya, and a very poorly preserved body that is considered, with about 80% certainty, to be male around 20 years of age. There are some indications that the body shares common traits with Tutankhamun, suggesting a close relative, but the poor degree of preservation makes this difficult to ascertain. Some consider this to be the mummy of Smenkhkare.