The Reign of Amaury
Guy de Lusignan died in 1194 after only two years in Cyprus, and the possession of the island passed to his brother Amaury, who had been constable of Cyprus and Jerusalem and was therefore in command of the Lusignan forces. He obtained recognition from the Holy Roman emperor, Henry VI, and in 1197 was crowned first king of Cyprus by the imperial chancellor in Nicosia. On the application of the king the Pope, Celestine III, sent two commissioners to Cyprus with the object of introducing a Roman hierarchy and for the conversion of the Orthodox Cypriots to the Roman communion. As a result of this commission, a Latin archbishop was established at Nicosia, with bishops at Limassol, Paphos and Famagusta, all of whom were endowed with the funds which had hitherto belonged to the Orthodox church. The Orthodox clergy and laity were naturally indignant at the establishment of the Latin church in the island and at the spoliation of their ecclesiastical revenues. King Amaury, on the eve of his departure to Palestine to assume the crown of Jerusalem, assembled the heads of two communions and endeavoured to persuade them to live at peace and to devote themselves to the welfare of their respective flocks.

On his departure, however, a rebellion of Orthodox population broke out under the leadership of a Cypriot named Kanakes, who attacked the property of the Franks. Driven from the island, he took refuge on the mainland, and from there with an armed galley made raids upon the coasts of Cyprus. Emboldened by success, he made a descent upon the village of Paradisi, near Famagusta, and carried off the Queen, Eschiva d'Ibelin, and her family. It was only through the intervention of Leo, king of Armenia, that the royal family were returned to the king, who came to the harbour of Courico with a fleet to rescue them.

Designs of Alexios
Meanwhile, Alexios III, who had usurped the throne of Constantinople from his brother, Isaac Angelos, designed to recover Cyprus for the Eastern Empire. 

While making prepara- tions for a military expedition against Cyprus, Alexios appealed to the Pope to order Amaury to surrender the island peaceably and so to avoid war between Christians. He promised, if his appeal were upheld, to give every assistance in the recovery of the Holy Land. 

The Pope, who was anxious to secure his co-operation in the coming crusade, replied that, as Cyprus had not formed part of the Eastern Empire when conquered by Richard, it was impossible to expect the present owners to surrender it, and implored Alexios not to molest Amaury and thereby bring disaster upon the Christian cause in Palestine. The Pope also requested the kings of England and France to do their best to dissuade Alexios from his purpose. The Emperor, however, continued his hostile preparations until his plans were thwarted by the course of the Fourth Crusade.

The Fourth Crusade
Salaaddin was now dead and the empire he had created was weakened by civil war among the Moslems. The centre of power in Islam had shifted to Egypt, and it was therefore against Egypt that the Fourth Crusade was to be directed. The crusade was therefore of necessity a maritime enterprise, and for this reason envoys were sent to Venice to negotiate with the maritime republic for the transport of the crusaders to Egypt. An agreement was made between the envoys and the Doge of Venice by which transport and active help were to be given in return for 85,000 marks of silver and the cession to Venice of half the conquests made by the crusaders.

When the crusaders gathered at Venice in the autumn of 1202, it was found impossible to produce the money promised to the republic. The Venetians then proposed to waive their claim to the money if the crusaders would assist them reconquer Zara, on the Dalmatian coast, which had revolted from the republic in favour of the king of Hungary. In spite of the protests of the Pope, the crusaders accepted these terms and Zara was captured. In the camp at Zara was taken another fateful decision, by which the crusaders were diverted against Constantinople. Many causes led to this decision.

First, the old crusading grudge against the Eastern Empire owing to the mistaken policy of the Emperors, who regarded whole of the Levant as their lost provinces to be restored as soon as conquered, a policy which led the Empire to give niggardly aid or to pursue obstructive tactics in the crusades. Secondly, the commercial grudge of Venice, which having received extensive trading privileges from Constantinople and desiring still more, had been disappointed by the alteration and revocation of these privileges by Alexios III. Finally, the appeal of the young prince, Alexios, the nephew of Alexios III, to restore the throne to his deposed father, Isaac Angelos. The prince offered a large sum of money and a promise to persuade the Orthodox clergy to acknowledge the supremacy of Pope if the crusaders would espouse his cause. By these promises the crusaders were induced, in spite of the renewed protests of the Pope, to sail for Constantinople. By July 1203 Constantinople was reached, Alexios III was in flight, and Isaac Angelos restored to the throne. But, when the time came for the prince to fulfil his promises, difficulties arose. After nearly a year of waiting, friction developed into war, the crusaders stormed Constantinople and divided the Eastern Empire among themselves.

As a result of the Fourth Crusade, Baldwin, Count of Flanders, became the first Latin emperor of Constantinople; a Venetian, Thomas Morosini, was made patriarch; and the crusading movement became henceforth more of the nature of a political and commercial adventure than a holy war for the recovery of Jerusalem from the `infidels'.

The effect on Cyprus was to sever finally her political connection with Constantinople and to cause her to depend for support not on the fleets of Aegean but on the naives of the Western Powers. Such a situation could last only so long as it remained to the interests of the Western Powers to support the kingdom of Cyprus, either as an outpost of the crusaders or as an emporium for trade with the East. It lasted, in fact, for three hundred years.

  • From: Newman, P., (1940), "A Short History of Cyprus", Longmans, Green & Co., London.

Chronological History