Helena Palaiologina, Despotess of Serbia

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Helena Palaiologina
Despotess of Serbia
Tenure 24 December 1456 – 20 January 1458
Born 1431
Despotate of the Morea, Byzantine Empire
Died 7 November 1473 (aged 42)
Spouse Lazar Branković, Despot of Serbia
Issue Jelena Brankovic
Milica Brankovic
Jerina Brankovic
House Palaiologos
Father Thomas Palaiologos, Despot of the Morea
Mother Catherine Zaccaria
Religion Eastern Orthodoxy

Helena Palaiologina (Greek: Ελένη Παλαιολογίνα, Serbian: Јелена Палеолог/Jelena Paleolog; 1431 – 7 November 1473) was a Byzantine princess who married Serbian Despot Lazar Branković, who ruled from 1456 until his death in 1458. After Smederevo fell to the Ottoman Turks on 20 June 1459, she fled Serbia for 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. Her first cousin, also Helena Palaiologina, became Queen consort of Cyprus.

Marriage and issue[edit]

In October 1446 she left Glarentza Peloponnese for Semendria Serbia, where she married Lazar Branković, son of Lord Đurađ Branković 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 a year of rule, Mihailo Anđelović was chosen to lead a council of men, becoming the de facto ruler of Serbia. Palaiologina, together with her brother-in-law, Stefan Branković, made a bid to seize power. In March 1458, when the Ottomans invaded Smederevo, and local rebel Serbs took Anđelović prisoner and Palaiologina and Branković 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, through the arranged marriage to his eldest son, Stephen Tomašević, of her eldest daughter, Helena-Maria, which took place on 1 April 1459.[3]

On 20 June 1459, the Ottomans launched a major assault against Smederevo and succeeded in taking the city, effectively ending the despotate in Serbia. Palaiologina was compelled to leave and, in April 1462, she arrived in Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik), where she stayed for a year. During this time, she arranged the marriage of her daughter Milica. In June 1463 she moved to Corfu, joining her mother and brothers who had taken refuge there. 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, Medieval Lands database, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy ,[self-published source][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
Despotess of Serbia
Succeeded by
Maria Branković