Peter I of Cyprus

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Jean Froissart: Assassination of Peter I

Peter I of Cyprus or Pierre I de Lusignan (Nicosia, 9 October 1328 – Palace of La Cava, Nicosia, 17 January 1369) was King of Cyprus and titular King of Jerusalem from his father's abdication on 24 November 1358 until his own death in 1369. He was also Latin King of Armenia from either 1361 or 1368. He was the second son of Hugh IV of Cyprus, the first by his second wife Alice of Ibelin. He was also invested as titular Count of Tripoli when young, in 1346. He was the greatest King of Cyprus on a military basis, where he had great success. He was unable to complete many plans, due to internal dispute that culminated in his assassination at the hands of three of his own knights.

Marriage[edit]

Soon after 28 June 1342 he married Eschive de Montfort (d. before 1350), only daughter and heiress of Honfroy de Montfort (1305 – 24 June 1326), Constable of Cyprus and Titular Lord of Toron, and his wife, whose name is unknown. Eschiva died before 1350 while Peter was still a teenager and the marriage was childless.

In 1353 he remarried Eleanor of Aragon-Gandia (1333 – 26 December 1416 in Barcelona and buried there), daughter of Pedro, Infante of Aragon, Conde de Ribagorza, Ampurias y Prades, Seneschal of Catalonia, and Jeanne de Foix (died before November 1358), herself the daughter of Gaston I, Count of Foix and Jeanne of Artois.
Eleanor was the sister of Infante Don Alfonso, Duke of Gandia, pretender to the Aragonese crown and was crowned Queen Consort of Cyprus on 24 November 1358 and Titular Queen of Jerusalem 5 April 1360, Co-Regent of Cyprus in January, 1369.

His passion for his second wife was much remarked upon by chroniclers; the chronicle of Machairas tells us how Peter always slept with Eleanora's night-dress in his arms:

[S]o for the love which [King Peter] had promised that, wherever he was, he would take [Queen Eleanora's] shift to lay it at night in his arms when he slept, and he made his chamberlain always bring with him the queen's shift, and had him put it in his bed. [1]

He had three children from his second marriage to Eleanora:

As Peter II of Cyprus remained heirless, the crown of Cyprus was passed to his uncle James I of Cyprus, son of Hugh IV of Cyprus and Alix of Ibelin.

Early life and crowning[edit]

Hugh's heir apparent was his first born son, Guy, who had married Marie of Bourbon. Guy died before his father, however; and though his son, also named Hugh, demanded the throne, Peter was crowned King of Cyprus by Guy of Ibelin, bishop of Limassol in the Cathedral of Santa Sophia, Nicosia on 24 November 1359.[2]

In 1349 he traveled secretly to Europe with his brother John. This upset their father who sent ships to find his sons and bring them back. When they were brought back, he imprisoned them for leaving without his permission.

Upon the expulsion of the Holy Roman Empire from Palestine a hundred years before, Cyprus became the stronghold of Christianity in the Middle East. Peter understood the importance of his kingdom, and believed that his mission was to fight Islam. He had ambitions to retake the Kingdom of Jerusalem to which the house of Lusignan yet pretended. Peter was crowned as Titular King of Jerusalem in Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Famagusta on 5 April 1360, succeeding his father.

Wars against Turks[edit]

Neighboring Muslim powers were potentially a great threat to Cyprus, the last Christian Crusader strongholds on the mainland of the Near East having been wiped out in 1291. At the moment a new Islamic power had recently come to the fore, but the Ottomans had their eye fixed on the rump that remained of the Byzantine Empire. In addition, they were primarily a land power, and for the moment the remaining Latin Christian entities in the region could hold their own on the seas. Along with the Knights of Saint John (the Hospitallers) the kings Cyprus were the inheritors of Crusading tradition. The royal family were in fact the titular kings of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, who had fled to the island just off the coast of the Levant. Reduced as they were, this Crusader heritage continued in the form of see-born raids, and were remarkably successful given their limited resources.

Unlike his father, Peter decided to embrace this tradition and began with in a raid on Korikos, a fortified harbour in the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. His primary focus of activity was along the coast of Asia Minor, since the Christian Armenians in Cilicia had strong relations with the Kingdom of Cyprus via marriage ties. In January 1360, the residents of Korikos sent their representatives to Cyprus to ask for protection, since their city was threatened by the Turks. Peter sent some of his men lead by the knight Roberto de Luisignan. The Turks were unable to break the Cypriot siege of Korikos.

The siege of Korikos, was seen as a threat by Muslim leaders of Asia Minor and they allied against Peter, planning to attack him on his home island. They attacked Cyprus with many ships but Peter obtained aid from the Knights of Saint John from Rhodes. Other help came from the Pope and even from pirates. In July 1361, Peter mastered a fleet of 120 ships. With his force, Peter attacked Asia Minor, continuing his policy of preemptive attacks. On 23 August 1361, Cypriot forces landed in Antalya and Peter conquered the city after a siege on 24 August 1361. After this victory, the remaining emirs of the region offered Peter an annual tribute. Peter accepted the offer and sent his flags, coats of arms and symbols to be raised in many cities of Asia Minor. He stayed in Antalya until 8 September 1361. Then he went to other cities, whose some of them their emir worshiped on him, gave him presents, emir's castle keys and many others. He returned as a trophy winner in Cyprus on 22 September 1361.

Antalya emir, Tekke, after he lost his city, he took big army and after many attacks tried to occupy his city. After hard battles, Cypriots achieved to keep the city and also to siege the guard in the region of Myrres.[citation needed]

Tour to Europe[edit]

Meanwhile, King Peter still faced a serious problem of his recognition as holder of the throne of Cyprus, since his nephew Hugh, went to Pope to ask for the throne with the support of the King of France. Since Peter had sent nobles as his representatives to Pope to support him without result, he had to go their to visit Pope by himself. At the end of October 1362, he left from Paphos to Rhodes and then to Venice and he was accepted there with honours. He went to Avignon and visited the Pope together with the claimant of the throne of Cyprus. Peter was recognised as King and Hugh ensured a high annual benefit, solving the problem.

Taking as an advantage his trip in Europe, he tried to convince the powerful rulers to strengthen him, organizing a big crusade to "liberate" the Holy Land and the Kingdom of Jerusalem which belonged to him. That issue was discussed with the new elected Pope, after the death of the previous one. For the same reason he travelled in England, Germany and France. During his visit in England the historical banquet of the Five Kings took place.

He also visited some powerful cities like Genoa, Venice, Prague and Cracow, where he participated in a gathering of monarchs where guests of the Polish king were Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, King Louis I of Hungary, King Valdemar IV of Denmark, Siemowit III of Masovia, Bolko II of Świdnica, Władysław Opolczyk, Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria, Bogislaw V, Duke of Pomerania, Casimir IV, Duke of Pomerania, Otto V, Duke of Bavaria and Louis VI the Roman . During the festivities in Kraków King Peter achieved a feat of chivalry - he won the royal Tournament (medieval). Also travelled on, meeting several monarchs in London, at the meeting of kings of England, Scotland, France and Denmark. Everywhere he was accepted with honours and expensive presents, however he did not achieve to persuade those monarchs to compete in a new Pan-European and Pan-Christian crusade in Middle East.

Meanwhile, Cyprus, which was governed by Prince John, brother of Peter who remained as vice-King, faced many problems: the big epidemics of 1363, which ruined many residents of Cyprus (one of them was Eschiva, Peter's sister), the Turks who heard that the Cypriot people were dying, began new raids and pillages in the island. At the same time an episode between Cypriots and Genoese navies in Famagusta became a political issue and had many fights and killings. Peter who happened to be in Genoa, negotiated and signed a treaty with Genoese which was declaring what rights the Genoese colonisers of Cyprus could have.

Alexandria Crusade[edit]

Main article: Alexandrian Crusade

His father Hugh attempted to stop his desire to lead a new crusade and retake Jerusalem, but upon his death Peter began his plans in earnest. He travelled through Europe attempting to garner support for his expeditions and on 11 October 1365 he led a mixed Cypriot and Western force of Crusaders (on 70 ships) to sack Alexandria (see Alexandrian Crusade). However, the European knights refused to follow him to attack Cairo, and he was obliged to return to Cyprus, the only permanent result of his expedition being the enmity of the Sultan of Egypt. Reprisals followed against Christian merchants in Syria and Egypt, and Pope Urban V advised Peter to make peace with the Sultan after unsuccessfully attempting to raise support among the European monarchs.

Attacks to Lebanon and Syria[edit]

Peter continued his crusade this time aiming to attack Beirut. However his military operations ended after intervention of the Venetians willing to offer Peter high compensations for his military preparations, in order to not attack against Damascus. He crusaded and raided Tripoli in January 1366, before the terms of service of his European reinforcements could expire. He attempted to again raise a force in Europe in 1368, but was unsuccessful. Urban V again counseled peace, and Peter was compelled to join the Pope and the Venetians in making a peace treaty with Egypt.

The commerce with Middle East, benefited Cyprus a lot, and because of Peter, Famagusta was one of the richest cities in the Mediterranean during his time. Also some befriended financiers of Peter were rich tradesmen from Famagusta, who could influence him. But the Sultan could not tolerate any more his insult by the capture of Alexandria and could not accept a friendly arrangement with Peter. So the attack against Tripole was a clear message to the Sultan; either he signed peace and could begin again the trade or to suffer continued attatacks. The sultan wanted to create a movement of distraction, so he strengthened the emirs of Asia Minor and assembled an army to attack Korikos. Peter reinforced the garrison in Korikos with fresh troops and they repulsed the Turkish attack. In May 1367, the garrison in Antalya revolted because the delayed payment of their wages. Peter immediately sailed there and imposed the order, decapitating the ring leaders of the revolt.

After all of this it was finally agreed peace with the Sultan of Cairo, which didn't become possible to be signed. So in 1367 there were other attacks to the Syrian coasts, capture and pillage again of Tripoli and other cities across the Syrian coast. As Leontios Makhairas writes, the reason that Peter could not keep Tripoli was because the city did not have walls. Among the other pillaged cities by Cypriots was Latakia. So the peace with Sultan seemed difficult.

Finances[edit]

For all of his trips around Europe and of the wars, he needed a lot of money. Despite the high state income he needed to gain even more money, thus he gave to Cypriot serfs the right to buy their freedoms. By this rule, many Cypriots were benefited. Another source of income were his raids on the Islamic Levante.

His Death[edit]

While in Rome, he received an appeal from the barons of Armenia, nominating him as King and imploring him to deliver their country. He returned to Cyprus, but was rapidly plunged into domestic troubles. Queen Eleanor had been unfaithful during his long absences in Europe, and he retaliated by tyrannizing her favorite nobles, alienating even his brothers. On 17 January 1369 he was assassinated by three of his own knights, in his own bed at the Palace of La Cava, Nicosia.

Despite the harshness that brought a premature end to his life, his knight-errantry and crusading zeal led him to be regarded as the epitome of chivalry. He founded the Chivalric Order of the Sword in 1347, which was dedicated to the recovery of Jerusalem. He was buried in the church of St. Dominic's of Nicosia, the traditional burial place of the Kings of Cyprus. He was succeeded by his son Pierre II le Gros de Lusignan.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Christoforaki, Ioanna. Sainted Ladies and Wicked Harlots: Perceptions of Gender in Medieval Cyprus
  2. ^ Richard 1950

References[edit]

Preceded by
Hugh IV
King of Cyprus
1358–1369
Succeeded by
Peter II
Titular King of Jerusalem
1358–1369