Post-classical history

Guy of Lusignan (d. 1194)

King of Jerusalem as consort to Queen Sibyl (1186-1190/ 1192) and subsequently lord of Cyprus (1192-1194) after its conquest in the course of the Third Crusade.

Guy was a son of Hugh VIII of Lusignan, a nobleman from Poitou in the Plantagenet sphere of influence in southern France. In 1180 his brother Aimery, who had gone to the Holy Land in 1174, proposed Guy as a suitable husband for Sibyl, elder sister of Baldwin IV, king of Jerusalem. Baldwin wanted an ally in case Raymond III of Tripoli, Bohemund III of Antioch, and the Ibelin clan grew too powerful in Outremer. On his marriage Guy was made count of Jaffa (mod. Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel) and Ascalon (mod. Tel Ashqelon, Israel); as a protégé of the king and the king’s mother, Agnes of Courtenay, he became an enemy of the opposing faction (the side favored by the chronicler William of Tyre).

In 1183 the leper king named Guy as his regent and handed over all the Crown lands except Jerusalem. However, the two men very quickly quarreled over these lands and over Guy’s performance on the battlefield. When Sal- adin invaded Galilee in October, Guy led the army to meet him at Saforie but avoided battle. These were reasonable tactics but could be interpreted as cowardice. Baldwin IV then acted to prevent Guy from ruling, designating as heir his young nephew Baldwin V (Sibyl’s son by her first husband, William of Montferrat). The king also tried to have his sister divorced in 1184, so that Guy could not serve as regent. Although this attempt came to nothing, it deepened the breach between the king and his sister’s family, to the point that Guy and Sibyl refused to let Baldwin enter Ascalon. When Guy failed to appear at court that same year, Baldwin IV confiscated Jaffa. He then convened the High Court of the kingdom to make further arrangements for the regency of Baldwin V, so that Guy could not even act as his stepson’s guardian. Baldwin IV had effectively closed off all Guy’s avenues to power save one, for he had failed to separate his sister from her husband.

After the deaths of Baldwin IV in 1185 and Baldwin V in 1186, the barons of Jerusalem turned to the king’s sisters. Sibyl seized power with the help of Reynald of Châtillon, lord of Transjordan, and Eraclius, patriarch of Jerusalem. She agreed to a divorce from Guy and was crowned by the patriarch, who then asked her to select a suitable husband. Sibyl chose Guy, negating the divorce and reopening all the quarrels that had divided the kingdom during her brother’s lifetime. A significant number of powerful lords, including Reynald, refused to accept the situation. Raymond III urged Isabella’s husband, Humphrey IV of Toron, to press his wife’s claims, but Humphrey recognized Guy and Sibyl as his sovereigns. Although civil war had been averted, the new king and queen had angered several magnates. Balian of Ibelin, Isabella’s stepfather, and his brother Baldwin, who had once planned to marry Sibyl, never became reconciled.

Reynald showed his independence by refusing to honor the king’s truce with Saladin. When Saladin invaded Galilee in 1187, the largest Frankish army ever assembled advanced to the relief of Tiberias (mod. Teverya, Israel), where Eschiva, Raymond III’s wife, was under siege. Guy and the Templars decided to attack, despite Raymond’s strenuous objections against leaving their position. Historians have long discounted chivalry as the reason behind this strategy. It seems much more likely that Guy felt he had to act, either because his refusal to move in 1183 had cost him the regency, or because he and the Templars needed a victory to justify spending funds sent by King Henry II of England for the defense of the kingdom. The Franks were trapped at Hat- tin and virtually wiped out (4 July 1187). Guy was captured, and most of Outremer’s barons suffered a similar fate or died that day. Saladin took Jerusalem later that summer, marking the end of the First Kingdom, though not of Guy’s bids for power.

When Guy was released in 1188, he returned to a desperate situation, for himself and for the kingdom. The Franks had retained control of Tyre (mod. Soûr, Lebanon) with the help of Conrad of Montferrat, a brother of Sibyl’s first husband, who had joined the Ibelin clan in opposing Guy. In 1189 Conrad refused to allow Guy entry into Tyre, so Guy laid siege to the city. Here he gained the assistance of men who had arrived from Europe on the Third Crusade (11891192). However, the deaths of Sibyl and her two daughters in 1190 further weakened Guy’s claim to the throne. The Ibelins proclaimed Isabella queen, divorced her from Humphrey IV of Toron, and married her to Conrad. Guy refused to acknowledge Conrad and attacked the Muslim- held city of Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel).

At this point, Philip II Augustus, king of France, arrived in Outremer. He supported Conrad; together the two joined the siege of Acre in 1191. Guy then left for Cyprus, where he helped Richard I of England conquer the island. Because Richard backed Guy’s claim, his problems with Philip grew. Finally the two kings arranged that Guy would reign and Conrad would be his heir. In July 1191 Acre fell to the crusaders and Philip returned to France. Conrad then moved to exclude Guy from power. By this point, Richard’s support for Guy’s kingship had worn thin. He sold the island of Cyprus to Guy, hoping this would ease the tension.

In April 1192 Conrad was assassinated. His widow, Queen Isabella I, retained the throne, and the barons quickly married her off to Henry of Champagne. Guy then took part in an unsuccessful scheme to wrest Tyre from Henry’s grasp. Richard withdrew all aid for Guy and left Outremer later that year. Realizing that his hopes for the throne could not be realized, Guy moved to Cyprus with his remaining supporters. He encouraged magnates from the mainland to relocate, offering land and money fiefs as an incentive. Great families of Outremer built up estates on the island as well as the mainland; their interests in both places shaped politics over the next century. Guy died in late 1194. His brother Aimery became lord and later king of Cyprus. This kingdom stayed in the hands of the Lusignan family until 1489.

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