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The Kingdom of Cyprus was a Crusader kingdom on the island of Cyprusmarker in the high and late Middle Ages, between 1192 and 1489. It was ruled by the French House of Lusignan.

History

The island was conquered from Isaac Comnenus, an upstart local governor and self-proclaimed emperor claiming the empire of Constantinople, in 1191 by King Richard I of England during the Third Crusade. Richard then sold it to the Knights Templar, who in turn sold it to Guy of Lusignan, jure uxoris King of Jerusalem, in 1192 after the failure of Richard's crusade and when Guy was dispossessed of his late wife's kingdom. His brother and successor, Amalric I of Cyprus, received the royal crown and title from Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor. A small minority Roman Catholic population of the island was mainly confined to some coastal cities, such as Famagustamarker, as well as inland Nicosiamarker, the traditional capital. Roman Catholics kept the reins of power and control, while the Greek inhabitants lived in the countryside; this was much the same as the arrangement in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The independent Eastern Orthodox Church of Cyprus, with its own archbishop and subject to no patriarch, was allowed to remain on the island, but the Latin Church largely displaced it in stature and holding property.

Coin of the kingdom of Cyprus, 13th century.
After the death of Amalric of Lusignan, the Kingdom continually passed to a series of young boys who grew up as king. The Ibelin family, which had held much power in Jerusalem prior its downfall, acted as regents during these early years. In 1229 one of the Ibelin regents was forced out of power by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, who brought the struggle between the Guelphs and Ghibellines to the island. Frederick's supporters were defeated in this struggle by 1233, although it lasted longer in Palestine and in Europe. Frederick's Hohenstaufen descendants continued to rule as kings of Jerusalem until 1268 when Hugh III of Cyprus claimed the title and its territory of Acre for himself upon the death of Conrad III of Jerusalem, thus uniting the two kingdoms. The territory in Palestine was finally lost while Henry II was king in 1291, but the kings of Cyprus continued to claim the title.

Like Jerusalem, Cyprus had a Haute Cour (High Court), although it was less powerful than it had been in Jerusalem. The island was richer and more feudal than Jerusalem, so the king had more personal wealth and could afford to ignore the Haute Cour. The most important vassal family was the multi-branch House of Ibelin. However, the king was often in conflict with the Italianmarker merchants, especially because Cyprus had become the centre of European trade with Africa and Asia after the fall of Acre in 1291.

The kingdom eventually came to be dominated more and more in the 14th century by the Genoesemarker merchants. Cyprus therefore sided with the Avignon Papacy in the Great Schism, in the hope that the Frenchmarker would be able to drive out the Italians. The Mameluks then made the kingdom a tributary state in 1426; the remaining monarchs gradually lost almost all independence, until 1489 when the last Queen, Catherine Cornaro, was forced to sell the island to Venicemarker.

List of Monarchs of Cyprus



Pretenders of the Kingdom of Cyprus

Glazed ceramics, Cyprus, 14th century.
  • Eugene Matteo de Armenia (148?-1523), said by his own progeny to have been an illegitimate son of King James II of Cyprus and if born in the 1480s he was quite a posthumous specimen, alleged to have moved to Sicily then Malta, founder of the family of Baron di Baccari .
  • Charlotte (d 1487) and Louis (d 1482), queen and king-consort, continued as pretenders, Charlotte renounced 1482 in favor of:
  • Charles I of Savoy (1482-90), legitimate great-grandson of Janus of Cyprus, son of a first cousin of Charlotte, second cousin of James III, nephew of Louis
  • Charles II of Savoy (1490-96)
  • Yolande Louise of Savoy (1496-99) and Philibert II of Savoy (d 1504)
    • Philip II of Savoy (1496-97), father of Philibert II, great-uncle of Charles II and of Yolande Louise, first cousin of Charlotte, grandson of Janus of Cyprus.
  • and several others. The rights diverted de jure, but were claimed by the male line. See further under Cypriot claimants under Kings of Jerusalem. By 1476, the various claims were so diverse and weak that various monarchs sought former Cypriot queens to cede them their rights. Even the Republic of Venice briefly entertained the idea of setting up Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, the brother-in-law of England's King Edward IV (who was secretly negotiating a marriage to the Scottish princess Cecilia on Anthony's behalf), as a claimant by purchasing the rights of former Cypriot queens Charlotte and Catarina Cornaro. A convention in Venice of 1476 declared "Anthony Arnite" heir to the combined kingdom of Jerusalem-Cyprus but this came to nought when Anthony died before even his marriage to the sister of James Stewart, King of Scots could be celebrated, and the former Cypriot queens ceded their rights elsewhere. Charlotte to the Italian house of Savoy and Catarina Cornaro to the Republic of Venice which asserted its claim to the kingdom as a republic, without even a candidate for king.


References

  1. "Cyprus, Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed May 2007.


See also




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