The House of Lusignan ruled Cyprus for 270 years before it was ceded to the Venetians in 1489. The first Lusignan king of Cyprus, Aimery, came to the Holy Land during the late 1170s. He rose to prominence during his time in the Holy Land and later inherited Cyprus from his brother, Guy. Aimery’s successors from the House of Lusignan ruled Cyprus until the reign of King James II the Bastard. The king’s marriage to a wealthy Venetian lady, his death, and the entry of cunning Venetian merchants led to the end of the rule of the House of Lusignan in Cyprus. These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.
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Beginnings: The House of Lusignan in the Holy Land and Cyprus
Aimery, the Lord of Lusignan, fled France after his participation in a botched rebellion against Henry II of England (as well as the Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy). He arrived in Jerusalem around the late 1170s where he married Eschiva of Ibelin. She was the daughter of an influential nobleman who came to Jerusalem during the Crusades.
Aimery was promoted to Constable of Jerusalem in 1180. His younger brother, Guy of Lusignan, also married Sibylla, the Queen of Jerusalem in the same year. The brothers joined the Crusaders who fought in the ill-fated Battle of Hattin, and they were among the noblemen captured and released by Saladin.
Queen Sibylla died in 1190, and her death disqualified Guy of Lusignan from taking the throne of Jerusalem. The crown passed on to Isabella I of Jerusalem, but Guy received Cyprus as to make up for his loss. Guy ruled Cyprus briefly until his death in 1194. His brother, Aimery, succeeded him to the throne of Cyprus after he was elected by Guy’s vassals.
Aimery of Lusignan, the new lord of Cyprus, became more powerful when the King of Jerusalem died in 1197. He married the king’s widow, Isabella I, and ruled as king of Crusaders and Jerusalem. The House of Lusignan went on to rule Cyprus for the next 270 years until it was ceded to the Venetians.
Reversals: The Last Lusignan King of Cyprus
James II, the illegitimate son of King John I of Cyprus, was born around 1438-40. He was the son of John’s mistress Marietta of Patras and half-brother of the king’s legitimate daughter Charlotte. James was appointed as the archbishop of Nicosia at the young age of 16 because of his father’s influence. He fled Cyprus for Rhodes in 1457 after killing the king’s chamberlain. His father pardoned him soon after, and he was reinstated as an archbishop after this episode.
King John II died in 1458, and his daughter succeeded him to the throne. Civil war broke out when James challenged his half-sister’s right to rule. He kept Charlotte and her husband as prisoners in the Kyrenia Castle until they were able to flee for Rome in 1463. Her younger brother seized the throne soon after and ruled the island kingdom of Cyprus as King James II.
He traveled to wealthy Venice to seek some support for his tiny kingdom in 1468. While he was there, he married a Venetian woman from a wealthy family. Her name was Caterina Cornaro, and she traveled to Cyprus to claim the position of the queen in 1472. Their marriage was short-lived as James died only a few months after Caterina’s arrival in Cyprus. It was suspected that some powerful Venetians were involved in his mysterious death.
The young queen was pregnant at the time of her husband’s death, so she stood as regent for her son. The boy also died before he reached his first year, and the powerful Venetian merchants soon took over the administration of the islands. In 1489, the Venetians pressured Queen Caterina to give up her claim to the throne of Cyprus. Alone and powerless, she was forced to cede Cyprus to the Republic of Venice and step down as queen in 1489. The Venetians held Cyprus until the Ottoman Turks wrested the island from them in 1571.
Dursteler, Eric. A Companion to Venetian History, 1400-1797. Leiden: Brill, 2013.
Edbury, P. W. The Kingdom of Cyprus and the Crusades, 1191-1374. Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Setton, Kenneth M., Harry W. Hazard, and Norman P. Zacour. A History of the Crusades. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.
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