Kingdom of Cyprus

Last updated
Kingdom of Cyprus

Royaume de Chypre
Βασίλειον τῆς Κύπρου
Vasíleion ti̱s Kýprou
Royal banner of Janus of Cyprus.svg
Flag of Cyprus (1350) as reported by the Book of All Kingdoms.svg
Top: Royal banner of Janus of Cyprus (15th century)
Bottom: Flag according to Book of All Kingdoms (1350)
Armoiries Chypre 1393.svg
Coat of arms
(declaring a claim to reign over the former kingdoms of Cilicia and Jerusalem)
Kingdom of Cyprus.png
Kingdom of Cyprus in 1360
Capital Nicosia
Common languages French
Latin Christianity
Greek Christianity
Government Feudal Monarchy
Guy of Lusignan (first)
Catherine Cornaro (last)
Historical era Middle Ages
ISO 3166 code CY
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Simple Labarum.svg Byzantine Cyprus under usurper Isaac Komnenos
Cross of the Knights Templar.svg Cyprus under the Knights Templar
Venetian Cyprus Flag of Republic of Venice (1659-1675).svg
Today part ofFlag of Cyprus.svg  Cyprus
Flag of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.svg  Northern Cyprus
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom (Akrotiri and Dhekelia)
Cyprus gold bezant, derived from Byzantine design, 1218-1253 (left), and Cyprus Western-style silver gros 1285-1324 (right). Cyprus gold bezant derived from Byzantine design 1218 1253 Cyprus Western style silver gros 1285 1324.jpg
Cyprus gold bezant, derived from Byzantine design, 1218–1253 (left), and Cyprus Western-style silver gros 1285–1324 (right).
Coin of the kingdom of Cyprus, 13th century. CoinKingdomOfCyprus13thCentury.jpg
Coin of the kingdom of Cyprus, 13th century.
Plate of the House of Lusignan, with coat of arms at the centre. Early 14th century, Cyprus. Louvre Museum. LusignanPlateEarly14thCentury.JPG
Plate of the House of Lusignan, with coat of arms at the centre. Early 14th century, Cyprus. Louvre Museum.

The Kingdom of Cyprus (French : Royaume de Chypre, Greek : Βασίλειον τῆς Κύπρου, romanized: Vasíleion ti̱s Kýprou) was a Crusader state that existed between 1192 and 1489. It was ruled by the French House of Lusignan. It comprised not only the island of Cyprus, but also had a foothold on the Anatolian mainland: Antalya between 1361 and 1373, and Corycus between 1361 and 1448.



The island of Cyprus was conquered in 1191 by King Richard I of England during the Third Crusade, from Isaac Komnenos, an upstart local governor and self-proclaimed emperor of the Byzantine Empire. The English king did not intend to conquer the island until his fleet was scattered by a storm en route to the siege of Acre and three of his ships were driven to the shores of Cyprus. The three ships were wrecked and sank in sight of the port of Limassol. [1] The shipwrecked survivors were taken prisoner by Komnenos and when a ship bearing King Richard's sister Joan and bride Berengaria entered the port, Komnenos refused their request to disembark for fresh water. [2] King Richard and the rest of his fleet arrived shortly afterwards. Upon hearing of the imprisonment of his shipwrecked comrades and the insults offered to his bride and sister, King Richard met Komnenos in battle. There were rumours that Komnenos was secretly in league with Saladin in order to protect himself from his enemies the Angelos family, the ruling family in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople. [1]

Control of the island of Cyprus would provide a highly strategic base of operations from which to launch and supply further Crusade offensives for King Richard. The English army engaged the Cypriots on the shores of Limassol with English archers and heavily armored knights. Komnenos and the remainder of the army escaped to the hills during nightfall but King Richard and his troops tracked the Cypriot ruler down and raided his camp before dawn. Komnenos escaped again with a small number of men. The next day, many Cypriot nobles came to King Richard to swear fealty. [1] In the following days, Komnenos made an offer of 20,000 marks of gold and 500 men-at-arms to King Richard, as well as promising to surrender his daughter and castles as a pledge for his good behaviour. [1]

Fearing treachery at the hands of the new invaders, Komnenos fled after making this pledge to King Richard and escaped to the stronghold of Kantara. Some weeks after King Richard's marriage to his bride on May 12, 1191, Komnenos attempted an escape by boat to the mainland but he was apprehended in the abbey of Cape St. Andrea at the eastern point of the island and later imprisoned in the castle of Markappos in Syria, where he died shortly afterwards, still in captivity. [1] Meanwhile, King Richard resumed his journey to Acre and, with much needed respite, new funds and reinforcements, set sail for the Holy Land accompanied by the King of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan and other high ranking nobles of the Western Crusader states. The English king left garrisons in the towns and castles of the island before he departed and the island itself was left in charge of King Richard of Camville and Robert of Tornham. [3] A subsequent revolt after King Richard left for the Holy Land caused him to doubt the island as a worthwhile gain and eventually prompted him to sell the territory to the Knights Templar.

The English invasion of Cyprus marked the beginning of 400 years of Western dominance on the island and the introduction of the feudal system of the Normans. It also brought the Latin church to Cyprus, which had hitherto been Orthodox in religion.

When King Richard I of England realized that Cyprus would prove to be a difficult territory to maintain and oversee whilst launching offensives in the Holy Land, he sold it to the Knights Templar for a fee of 100,000 bezants, 40,000 of which was to be paid immediately, while the remainder was to be paid in installments. [1] One of the greatest military orders of medieval times, the Knights Templar were renowned for their remarkable financial power and vast holdings of land and property throughout Europe and the East. Their severity of rule in Cyprus quickly incurred the hatred of the native population. On Easter Day in 1192, the Cypriots attempted a massacre of their Templar rulers; however, due to prior knowledge of the attack and limited numbers of troops, the Knights had taken refuge in their stronghold at Nicosia. A siege ensued and the Templars, realizing their dire circumstances and their besiegers’ reluctance to bargain, sallied out into the streets at dawn one morning, taking the Cypriots completely by surprise. The subsequent slaughter was merciless and widespread and though Templar rule was restored following the event, the military order was reluctant to continue rule and allegedly begged King Richard to take Cyprus back. King Richard took them up on the offer and the Templars returned to Syria, retaining but a few holdings on the island. [4] A small minority Roman Catholic population of the island was mainly confined to some coastal cities, such as Famagusta, as well as inland Nicosia, the traditional capital. Roman Catholics kept the reins of power and control, while the Orthodox 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 Roman Catholic Latin Church largely displaced it in stature and holding property.

In the meantime, the hereditary queen of Jerusalem, Sybilla, had died and opposition to the rule of her husband, Guy of Lusignan, greatly increased to the point that he was ousted from his claim to the crown of Jerusalem. [1] Since Guy was a long-time vassal of King Richard, the English king looked to strike two birds with one stone; by offering Guy de Lusignan the kingdom of Cyprus, he allowed his friend the opportunity to save face and keep some sort of power in the East whilst simultaneously ridding himself of a troublesome fief. It is unclear whether King Richard gave him the territory or sold it and it is highly unlikely that King Richard was ever paid, even if a deal was struck. [1] In 1194, Guy de Lusignan died without any heirs and so his older brother, Amalric, became King Amalric I of Cyprus, a crown and title which was approved by Henry VI, the Holy Roman Emperor. [1]

Portrait of Catherine Cornaro, the last monarch of Cyprus Gentile Bellini 002.jpg
Portrait of Catherine Cornaro, the last monarch of Cyprus

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 1232 from the Cypriots Forces at Battle of Agridi, although it lasted longer in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and in the Holy Roman Empire. 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 Italian merchants, especially because Cyprus had become the center 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 Genoese merchants. Cyprus therefore sided with the Avignon Papacy in the Great Schism, in the hope that the French 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 Venice. [5]

List of monarchs of Cyprus

House of Lusignan

Pretenders of the Kingdom of Cyprus

See also

Related Research Articles

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Isabella I was Queen regnant of Jerusalem from 1190 to her death. She was the daughter of Amalric I of Jerusalem and his second wife Maria Comnena. Her half-brother, Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, engaged her to Humphrey IV of Toron. Her mother's second husband, Balian of Ibelin, and his stepfather, Raynald of Châtillon, were influential members of the two baronial parties. The marriage of Isabella and Humphrey was celebrated in Kerak Castle in autumn 1183. Saladin, the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt and Syria, laid siege to the fortress during the wedding, but Baldwin IV forced him to lift the siege.

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House of Lusignan dynasty

The House of Lusignan was a royal house of French origin, which at various times ruled several principalities in Europe and the Levant, including the kingdoms of Jerusalem, Cyprus, and Armenia, from the 12th through the 15th centuries during the Middle Ages. It also had great influence in England and France.

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John of Ibelin, called the Old Lord of Beirut, was a powerful crusader noble in the 13th century, one of the best known representatives of the influential Ibelin family. The son of Balian of Ibelin and Maria Comnena, Queen consort of Jerusalem, he had close ties with the nobility of both Cyprus and Jerusalem, since he was the half-brother of Queen Isabella I of Jerusalem. Before he was 20, he was appointed constable of Jerusalem, and a few years later became lord of Beirut, where he rebuilt the city after Saladin's conquest, and established the grand Ibelin family palace. He served as regent for two of his young relatives, Isabella's daughter Maria of Montferrat from 1205 to 1210, and then Henry I of Cyprus from 1228 until Henry came of age in 1232. John was known as a principled man, and was seen as the natural leader of the Christian barons in the Holy Land. He resisted the power-seeking of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, in Cyprus, and opposed the imperial forces until Henry came of age.

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Buffavento Castle castle ruin

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Baldwin of Ibelin was a nobleman of the Kingdom of Cyprus. A member of the House of Ibelin, he was a son of Guy, constable of Cyprus, and a brother of Queen Isabella. He was thus the maternal uncle of King Henry II of Cyprus, whom he served as constable of Cyprus.

Gastria Castle is a ruined castle in Northern Cyprus. It is first mentioned in 1210 as a Knights Templar fortress. It was dismantled in 1279 by Hugh III of Cyprus. It passed into the possession of the Knights Hospitaller in 1308, falling into obscurity afterwards.

Akaki Castle, also known as the Tower of the Franks is a castle in Cyprus. It served as a retreat for the kings of Cyprus.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Cyprus under Richard I".
  2. Melissa Snell. "Richard the Lionheart in Cyprus".
  3. Benedict of Peterborough. "How Richard, king of England, seized and conquered Cyprus".
  4. "A Brief History of Cyprus - Byzantine Period (330 - 1191)".
  5. "Cyprus, Encyclopædia Britannica, accessed May 2007.

Further reading

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