The Reign of Jean II
King Janus was succeeded by his son, King Jean II, who after the death of his first wife married Helena, daughter of Theodore Palaelogus, ruler of the Peloponnese. 

The house of Lusignan had been of necessity devoted to Rome; the house of Palaelogus was devotedly Orthodox. Cyprus was a Catholic kingdom with an Orthodox population, and the political power of necessity lay with the former. Helena would not see this and determined, if she could, to make the Orthodox church supreme in Cyprus.

Jean II and Helena
On death of Cardinal Hugues, archbishop of Cyprus, Queen Helena nominated as his successor a member of the Orthodox church, and asked the Pope to confirm her appointment. This the Pope, of course, refused to do, informing her that he had already appointed Galesius Montolif to the archbishopric. The king, who was entirely under the influence of the queen, refused to accept Galesius and confiscated the revenues of the see. The Pope, who was unwilling to take extreme measures, had recourse to diplomacy. By the intervention of the Grand Master of the Hospitallers, the king was induced, during the absence of the queen, to receive the nominee of the Pope and to restore his revenues.

With the object of counteracting the queen, the king was persuaded by his Catholic advisers to select a Catholic prince as husband for Charlotte, his only daughter and heiress. The choice fell of John, duke of Coimbra, grandson of the king of Portugal. John, after his marriage to Charlotte, proved himself to be a man of considerable ability, and was created prince of Antioch and advisor to the king. He used his influence in support of the Catholic party, and so incurred the enmity of the queen that she persuaded King Jean II to exclude him from any share in the government, on the grounds that he might grow too powerful and attempt to seize the crown. John left the court with his wife and died within a year under circumstances which led to the belief that he had been poisoned at the instigation of Queen Helena.

Although Charlotte was the only legitimate heiress to the throne, King Jean had an illegitimate son, named Jacques, who was a great favourite with his father. Queen Helena naturally regarded Jacques with suspicion and dislike, as a possible rival to her daughter. The king in 1456, appointed Jacques, then only sixteen years old, to the vacant archbishopric of Nicosia, and asked for the consent of the Pope, which was not given. Nevertheless, Jacques held the archbishopric, together with the revenues of the see, and showed himself to be headstrong and ambitious. His half-sister Charlotte complained to him of the conduct of Thomas, the royal chamberlain, who was suspected of being implicated in the death of her husband. Jacques, who was only too ready to take vengeance on a supporter of Queen Helena, broke into the chamberlain's house and murdered him. For this crime he was deprived of his archbishopric and was obliged to seek safety in Rhodes, where he was hospitably received by the knight. In 1457 Jacques left Rhodes and returned to Cyprus. Landing at Kyrenia with a small armed force, he marched to Nicosia, and, scaling the walls by night, broke into the house of the vicomte, one of his bitterest enemies, and killed him with his own hands. This second crime forced the king to make a show of bringing him to justice. But the affection which Jean had for his son not only saved Jacques from punishment but secured for him a full pardon and restoration of his archbishopric.

From this time, Jacques became the most powerful person in the kingdom. Warned by the fate of the chamberlain and the vicomte, no one dared to oppose him. The Pope of course refused to recognise him, but Jacques, while enjoying all the wealth and power of his position, left to his vicar the ecclesiastical duties of the see. In 1458 queen Helena died and the king, now entirely under the influence of his son, thought to make him his heir. But a few months later King Jean himself died and Charlotte succeeded him as queen at the age of twenty-two.

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

Chronological History