The Rule of Henri II
Henri II reigned nominally from 1285 to 1324, but during part of that time he was superseded by one or the other of his brothers. From 1306 to 1310 he was a prisoner in Armenia while his throne was usurped by his brother, Amaury, prince of Tyre. His other brother, Guy, also conspired against him, and for his treason put to death. It was not until the death of Guy that his reign was free from fraternal strife, but while he was able to exercise authority he used it well. He was an epileptic, which perhaps accounts for his incapacity to retain his rule, and he left no children.

Charles of Anjou, whose power had declined since the Sicilian Vespers, died in 1285, and the Templars became reconciled with the king of Cyprus. With the help of the two military orders, Henri II recovered possession of Acre and in 1286 was crowned king of Jerusalem at Tyre.

The stronghold of Acre from the time of its capture by Richard to its final conquest by the Moslems formed for hundred years the base of the crusading movement in Palestine. Its strategic position on the highway along the coast, its communications with Damascus to the north-east and the plain of Esdraelon to the south, together with the military strength of the rocky promontory on which it stood, gave to Acre an exceptional importance both political and commercial.

Within the walls of Acre was a strange collection of soldiers, priests, and merchants. There each of the great military orders had their fortified tower and an appointed share of the defence of the walls. From their palaces in Acre, the Grand Masters of the Templars and of the Hospitallers governed the members of their orders throughout Christendom. The Venetians, the Genoese, the Pisans, and the English had each their appointed quarter of the city. The mendicant orders had each their house and their church. Strongly fortified and able to draw by sea supplies from Cyprus and reinforcements from Europe, Acre was the last secure foothold of the kingdom of Jerusalem. But, within the walls and intensified by such close confinement were all the conflicting interests, religious, political and commercial, which had always hampered the crusades.

In May, 1291 the sultan Khalil attacked Acre with an army of 200,000 men. In spite of their discords the defenders fought with courage of despair. After a siege of thirty-three days the double walls were forced and city taken by assault. Sixty thousand people were killed in the war. Of the Templars, including their Grand Master, only ten escaped of five hundred knights. The king, the patriarch, and the Grand Master of the Hospitallers, with the few survivors, effected their escape by sea to Cyprus.

With the fall of Acre, the Templars left Sidon and fled to Cyprus. The Franks of Tyre abandoned the city and sailed to the west. Beyrouth and the scattered fortresses fell. Nothing was left in Palestine of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem.

Regency of Amaury - Templars and Hospitallers in Cyprus
On their return to Cyprus King Henri granted to the Templars and the Hospitallers the town of Limassol in joint occupation. Mistrusting their loyalty, the king forbade the Templars to acquire any landed property in the island without his consent. But the Templars not only disregarded his commands but conspired with his brother Amaury, Prince of Tyre, to depose Henri from the throne. Having seized the person of the king, the Templars forced him to sign a deed appointing Amaury regent of the kingdom and sent Henri to confinement in Armenia. But, the ambitions and pride of the Templars had aroused the suspicions of the Pope and the king of France, and in 1306 the Pope summoned Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master, from Cyprus to answer the charges of heresy and the practice of profane rites. After years of imprisonment and torture the Grand Master was eventually burnt as a heretic in 1314, and the whole Order was dissolved.

In 1308 Amaury, regent of Cyprus, received letters from the Pope directing him to arrest all the Templars in Cyprus and to take an inventory of their property. This was done, and in 1313 the Templars were disbanded and all their properties in Cyprus, consisting of over fifty villages and manors, were handed over to the Hospitallers. The Hospitallers in 1308, seeking a new headquarters, seized the island of Rhodes, where for the next 250 years they maintained their power against the Turks. In Cyprus, they retained their possessions, and after the assassination of Amaury they supported King Henri II on his return to the throne of Cyprus.

The property of Hospitallers in Cyprus was divided into three commanderies, each of which was administered by a member of the Order with the title of commander. It is from these commanderies that the famous Cyprus wine called "Commanderia" derives its name.

(a) The Grand Commandery had its headquarters at Kolossi, where may still be seen the massive keep erected by the knights. This commandery comprised some forty villages, and was for long the richest possession of the Hospitallers in any country.

(b) The Little Commandery was located in the district of Paphos with its headquarters at the village of Phinika, close to the modern Ktima, and comprised about five villages.

(c) The Commandery of Templos, near Kyrenia was originally the property of the Templars -hence its name- but on the suppression of that Order passed to the Hospitallers.

Last Years of Henri II
On the assassination of Amaury in 1310 Henri II returned to his kingdom and, with the help of the Hospitallers, put down the insurrection of his remaining brother, Guy, the constable of Cyprus. His remaining years were peaceful and devoted to the establishment of his kingdom.

He contributed largely to the judicial decisions which formed a supplement to the Assizes, and established a strong judicature in Cyprus. Under his direction Famagutsa was fortified, the rebuilding of the cathedral of St. Nicholas was begun, and the town was enlarged to accommodate the refugees from Acre.

In 1324 Henri II died peacefully at his villa of Strovilo near Nicosia, and was succeeded by his nephew, Hugues IV.

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

Chronological History