The Rule of Henri I
Minority of Henri I
In the year 1228 King Henri I, though he had been crowned at the age of seven, was still a minor. His mother, Queen Alix, had married a second husband, Bohemund V, heir of the Principality of Antioch, and quarrelled with Philippe and Jean d'Ibelin, who were not only her nearest relatives but the most powerful of the barons of Cyprus.
Coin of Henri I 1218-53 AR denier VF

As long as the Queen and her half-uncles held together they formed a strong government, but when they quarrelled the inherent weakness of a regency showed itself. Philippe d'Ibelin died in 1227. Jean d'Ibelin, Lord of Beyrouth, was nominated by the High Court to succeed his brother as bailiff or regent of Cyprus. The Queen wished to appoint another baron, named Amalric Barlais. Jean succeeded however, in maintaining his position and became bailiff of Cyprus and guardian of the king, under the nominal direction of the queen mother. In the midst of this internal struggle, Frederick II, on his way to Palestine, arrived in Cyprus.

Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor, king of Sicily and Jerusalem, and overlord of the Lusignan dynasty, was the son of the Emperor Henry VI from whom Amaury had received the crown of Cyprus. He had been crowned emperor by the Pope in 1220 and had undertaken to go on a crusade. For five years, however, he was occupied suppressing disorder in his kingdom of Sicily. The projected crusade was postponed again and again, until under a threat of excommunication by the Pope, he undertook to set out in 1227. No sooner had he sailed from Brindisi than a pestilence among his troops compelled him to return to Italy, where he was in consequence excommunicated by the new Pope, Gregory IX. The greater part of the succeeding years was spent by Pope and emperor in violent quarrel. Finally Frederick II, still under the ban of the Church, set sail for Palestine, where he met with considerable success, the result of diplomatic rather than of military skill. By a treaty made in 1229 he secured possession of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the surrounding neighborhood. entering Jerusalem, he crowned himself king of that city, since the hostility of the Pope prevented any of the clergy from officiating at the coronation ceremony.

Frederick II in Cyprus

Henri I and a messenger

As Frederick II in 1228 was on his way to Palestine, he was met by a delegation of Cypriot barons, led by Sir Amalric Barlais, who asked his aid on behalf of the queen against the bailiff, Jean d'Ibelin. The emperor, desirous of making use of the revenues of Cyprus for the purposes of the crusade and wishing to assert his rights as overlord of the Lusignan dynasty, undertook to deal with d'Ibelin.

On arrival at Limassol, he invited Jean d'Ibelin to meet him for the ostensible purpose of concerting measures for the crusade. In spite of the warnings of his friends, Jean, declaring that he would not let the crusade suffer his default, went to see the emperor, accompanied by the young king and all his forces. After receiving him ostentatiously and entertaining him at dinner, the emperor demanded his resignation of the lordship of Beyrouth and of the office of bailiff of Cyprus. Jean boldly replied that he held Beyrouth as a fief of the kingdom of Jerusalem and that he had been appointed bailiff of Cyprus by the High Court of that island, and that he would not surrender his rights except by order of the High Courts of Jerusalem and Cyprus respectively. To further threats of imprisonment by emperor, Jean replied that such treatment was what his friends had warned him to expect but that he had no intention of yielding to force.

The quarrel was patched up in the interests of the crusade by the surrender to the emperor twenty hostages, including the two elder sons of Jean d'Ibelin, who pledged himself to appear at the High Court of Jerusalem to furnish proofs of his rights to the lordship of Beyrouth. Contrary to his oath, the emperor put the hostages in irons and Jean d'Ibelin thereupon took refuge in the castle of St. Hilarion, which he had provisioned for a siege.

Winter was approaching and the emperor received news that Pope was invading his territories in Apulia. He therefore hurriedly made peace with Jean d'Ibelin, who agreed to hand over the castle to the young king of Cyprus and to follow the emperor on crusade. The emperor then embarked for Palestine with all his following, leaving Cyprus in charge of Sir Amalric Barlais and four other barons as bailiffs.

After he had secured possession of Jerusalem, the emperor returned to Cyprus and there arranged a marriage between the king of Cyprus, still in his minority, and the still younger princess, Alix de Montferrat, daughter of his cousin the Marquis de Montferrat, the head of one of the great Norman families of Italy. The emperor then sailed away to Europe, leaving Cyprus in charge of the five barons, who imposed heavy taxes on the island and seized the estates of Jean d'Ibelin and his supporters.

Jean d'Ibelin thereupon returned from Syria to recover possession of Cyprus. In a battle near Nicosia Sir Amalric Barlais and his adherents were defeated and forced to take refuge in the castles of St. Hilarion, Kyrenia and Kantara. The two latter castles quickly surrendered, but St. Hilarion held out for nearly a year, until the imperialists were forced by famine to surrender. They gave up the person of King Henri and relinquishing all claims to the regency of Cyprus.

Meanwhile, the Emperor Frederick II, having made peace with the Pope, sent an expedition under the imperial marshal, Richard Filangier, to crush the d'Ibelins in Syria and Cyprus. Arriving off Limassol, the representatives of the emperor demanded that King Henri should banish from his dominions Jean d'Ibelin and all his relations. The king replied that, as he himself was the nephew of Jean d'Ibelin, he could not banish from his dominions all the members of that house. Richard Filangier, hesitating to attempt a landing at Limassol, sailed to Beyrouth, where he captured the town and laid siege to the castle.

Hearing that his castle was in danger, Jean with the help of King Henri, assembled all the available forces in Cyprus, and in the spring of 1232 crossed to Syria to relieve Beyrouth. In their absence from the island, Richard Filangier sent part of his forces to Cyprus under Sir Amalric Barlais, who took possession of the whole kingdom except the castles of Buffavento and St. Hilarion, where the sisters of the king had taken refuge with a few of their supporters. Jean d'Ibelin, with the young king and the Cypriot forces, having reinforced the castle of Beyrouth, returned to Cyprus in May 1232. Taking Famagusta by a surprise attack, they quickly drove the imperialists northwards from Nicosia. At Aghirda the imperial forces endeavoured to hold the northern range while they besieged St. Hilarion, but, by the skillful leadership of Jean d'Ibelin, the pass was forced, St. Hilarion was relieved, and the imperialists were driven into the castle of Kyrenia. Here the imperial forces were in a very strong position as they were able to obtain provisions and reinforcements by sea, and all the attempts to take the castle by assault were repulsed.

During the siege the young queen, Alix de Montferrat, who was in the custody of the imperialists in the castle, fell ill and died. A flag of truce was sent to inform the king and to propose that her body might be delivered to him for burial. The king immediately proclaimed a truce while the body of the queen was carried to the royal camp and hence to Nicosia, accompanied by a procession of knights, all on foot, to be interred with due ceremony at St. Sophia.

When the siege had lasted for more than a year without results, the defenders received news that no further help could be expected from the emperor and that they were permitted to bring matters to a conclusion. Terms of peace were then arranged by which the imperialists surrendered the castle with all its arms and munitions. In return, Sir Philippe de Novare provided ships to carry the garrison and their goods to Tyre, where the prisoners on both side were exchanged.

Fall of Jerusalem
The Emperor Frederick, having thus lost all hold of Cyprus, experienced the same opposition in his kingdom of Jerusalem. The barons of Jerusalem, headed again by the family of d'Ibelin, under cover asserting the rights of Alix, Queen Mother of Cyprus, to the regency of Jerusalem, succeeded in 1243 in securing the possession of Tyre, the last stronghold of the emperor's party, and so gained control of the kingdom of Jerusalem. But, these dissensions led to the final loss of the Holy City. 

The Treaty of Frederick with the Sultan had now expired, and in 1244 the barons allied themselves with the ruler of Damascus against the expected attack from Egypt. But in the battle of Gaza they were deserted by their allies and heavily defeated by the Bibars, the Egyptian general and future Mameluke sultan of Egypt. Jerusalem finally fell into Moslem hands and so remained for nearly seven centuries until, after another battle of Gaza, the forces of Christendom under Sir Edmund Allenby once more took possession of the Holy City.

Seventh Crusade
As the loss of Jerusalem in 1187 produced the Third Crusade, so its fall in 1244 produced the Seventh. By the end of the year St. Louis, king of France, had taken the cross, and, after great preparation, sailed in 1248 with his forces to Cyprus, where he spent the winter as the guest of King Henri at Nicosia, while collecting supplies for the coming campaign. 

In the spring of 1249 St. Louis, accompanied by King Henri, set sail for Egypt. The attack in this quarter was unexpected; Damietta was taken without a blow and the march on Cairo was begun. At Mansura the invading army was forced to halt and then to retreat. The retreat became a rout and St. Louis was captured, but not the king of Cyprus. 

The French king was released on surrendering Damietta and paying a ransom of 400,000 pieces of gold. After four years at Acre in fruitless efforts to restore the kingdom of Jerusalem, St. Louis returned to France. Henri, on death of his mother in 1246, asserted his right to the kingdom of Jerusalem, which was recognized by the Pope. 

In 1250 King Henri married the daughter of Bohemund V of Antioch, Piacenza, who bore him a son, Hugues, a few months before his death in 1253.

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

Chronological History