Second wife of the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Komnenos.
Maria was born around 1140, the daughter of Constance, princess of Antioch, and her husband, Raymond of Poitiers. The marriage was part of Manuel’s policy of rapprochement with the Frankish states of Outremer and was approved by King Baldwin III of Jerusalem. Contemporaries commented on Maria’s outstanding beauty and charm. After the birth of her son Alexios II, Maria was appointed as regent should his father die before he came of age, on condition that she become a nun. This she nominally did after Manuel’s death in 1180, taking the name of Xene.
Outer defenses, Margat. (Courtesy Graham Loud)
Maria’s short period as regent was unpopular. She appointed the protosebastos Alexios Komnenos, Manuel’s nephew, as her chief minister; he may also have been her lover. She antagonized Manuel’s daughter Maria and her husband, the Caesar John (Ranieri) of Montferrat, who rebelled against her in 1182. This left the way open for a coup d’état led by Andronikos (I) Komnenos, who became regent and subsequently emperor. Maria was banished from court. In the summer of 1183, she was accused of inciting her brother-in-law Béla III of Hungary to attack Byzantium. She was imprisoned, murdered, and buried in an unmarked grave on the seashore.