Helena Palaiologina, Despotitsa of Serbia

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Not to be confused with Helena Palaiologina, Queen consort of Cyprus.
For other Serbian royal consorts named Helena, see Helena of Serbia (disambiguation)
Helena Palaiologina / Hypomone
Despotitsa of Serbia
Tenure 24 December 1456 – 20 January 1458
Spouse Lazar Brankovic, Despot of Serbia
Issue Jelena Brankovic
Milica Brankovic
Jerina Brankovic
House Palaiologos
Father Thomas Palaiologos, Despot of the Morea
Mother Catherine Zaccaria
Born 1431
Despotate of the Morea, Byzantine Empire
Died 7 November 1473 (aged 42)
Religion Roman Catholic (formerly Greek Orthodox)

Helena Palaiologina (Serbian: Јелена Палеолог Бранковић; 1431 – 7 November 1473) was a Byzantine despotitsa of Serbia as the wife of Despot Lazar Branković, who ruled from 1456 until his death in 1458. Together they had three daughters.

Helena was the eldest daughter and child of Thomas Palaiologos, Despot of the Morea.

After Smederevo fell to the Ottoman Turks on 20 June 1459, Helena left Serbia and fled to the Greek island of Leukas where she converted to Catholicism. She later became a nun, assuming the name of Hypomone (Хипомона, υπομονή meaning patience" in Greek).


Helena was born in the Despotate of the Morea in 1431, the eldest daughter and child of Thomas Palaiologos, Despot of the Morea and Catherine Zaccaria of Achaea.

She had two younger brothers, Andreas Palaiologos and Manuel Palaiologos, and a sister, Zoe, who would become the wife of Ivan III of Russia. Her maternal grandparents were Centurione II Zaccaria and Creusa Tocco. She had a first cousin, Helena Palaiologina, who became Queen consort of Cyprus.

Marriage and issue[edit]

In October 1446 she departed Glarentza Serbia, where in Semendria she married Lazar Branković, son of Lord Đurađ Branković; Donald Nicol dates their wedding to that December.[1] On 24 December 1456, Helena became Despotitsa of Serbia when Lazar succeeded his father to the despotate. They had three surviving daughters:[2]

De facto ruler of Serbia[edit]

When her husband died after just over one year of rule, the Grand Vojvoda Michael Andjelovic was chosen to lead a council of men, becoming the de facto ruler of Serbia. Helena, together with her brother-in-law, Stefan Brankovic, made a bid to seize power. She got her opportunity shortly afterwards in March 1458 when the Ottomans invaded Smederevo, and local rebel Serbs took Michael Andjelovic prisoner. Helena and Stephen assumed control as joint de facto rulers of Serbia.[3] In order to strengthen her position, she sought an ally in King Stephen Thomas of Bosnia, and personally arranged a marriage between his eldest son, Stephen Tomašević and her eldest daughter, Helena, on 1 April 1459.[3] On 20 June 1459, the Ottomans launched a major assault against Smederevo and succeeded in taking the city, which effectively brought an end to Serbia as a despotate. Helena was compelled to leave Serbia. In April 1462 she arrived in Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik), where she stayed for a year, and from where she arranged the marriage of her daughter Milica. In June 1463 she moved to Corfu to join her mother and brothers, who had taken refuge there after the Ottoman conquest of the Morea. Eventually she came to live on the Greek island of Leukas, where she died 7 November 1473, having become a nun and taking the name Hypomone.[4]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sphrantzes, 28.1; translated in Marios Phillipides, The Fall of the Byzantine Empire: A Chronicle by George Sphrantzes, 1401-1477 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 1980), p. 56; Donald M. Nicol, The Byzantine Family of Kantakouzenos (Cantacuzenus) ca. 1100-1460: a Genealogical and Prosopographical Study (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1968), pp. 221f
  2. ^ Nicol, Byzantine Family, pp. 223-225
  3. ^ a b Cawley, Charles, Medieval Lands Project: Lazar Branković, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, retrieved May 2010 ,[better source needed]
  4. ^ Nicol, Byzantine Family, pp. 223; Sphrantzes, 47.3; translated in Phillipides, The Fall of the Byzantine Empire, p. 94

External links[edit]

Royal titles
Preceded by
Irene Kantakouzene
Despotitsa of Serbia
Succeeded by
Maria Branković