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Helena Palaiologina

Queen Consort of Cyprus
The basics
About
Date of birth Mystras, Sparti, Sparta, Peloponnese Region
Date of death Apr 11, 1458
Family
Mother: Cleofa Malatesta
Father: Theodore II Palaiologos Lord of Morea
Spouse: John II of Cyprus
Children: Charlotte Queen of Cyprus Cleopha of Cyprus
The details
Biography

Helena Palaiologina (Greek: Ἑλένη Παλαιολογίνα) (3 February 1428 – 11 April 1458) was a Byzantine princess of the Palaiologos family, who became the Queen consort of Cyprus and Armenia, titular Queen consort of Jerusalem, and Princess of Antioch through her marriage to King John II of Cyprus and Armenia. She was the mother of Queen Charlotte of Cyprus.

She poisoned her son-in-law John of Portugal, and ordered the nose of her husband's mistress to be cut off. She did, however, welcome and assist many Byzantine refugees in Cyprus after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Family

The castle of Mistras, birthplace of Helena Palaiologina

Helena was born in the castle of Mistras, Morea, Greece on 3 February 1428, the only child of Theodore II Palaiologos and Cleofa Malatesta. Her paternal grandparents were Manuel II Palaiologos and Helena Dragas, and her maternal grandparents were Malatesta I, Count of Pesaro and Isabella Gonzaga. Her many uncles included Byzantine emperors John VIII Palaiologos and Constantine XI Palaiologos. When she was five years old, her mother died. Her father never remarried as he was occupied in the war which was fought against the Latin states in Greece for the unification of Morea.

Marriage and issue

Helena and her daughters

On 3 February 1442 at the Cathedral of Saint Sophia in Nicosia, Helena married King John II of Cyprus and Armenia, titular King of Jerusalem and Prince of Antioch. He was the son of King Janus of Cyprus of the Lusignan dynasty and Charlotte de Bourbon-La Marche. Helena was John's second wife, his first wife Amadea of Montferrat having died in September 1440. She had turned fourteen years old on the day of her wedding, and John was twenty-seven. The Chronicle of Amadi recorded the arrival in Cyprus on 2 February 1442 of Madama Helena Palaeologo de la Morea and her subsequent marriage the following day.

Shortly after their marriage, Helena ordered the nose of her husband's beautiful mistress, Marietta de Patras, to be cut off. Marietta had borne John a son, James several years before his marriage to Helena. Later, Helena and James would become bitter enemies, each striving to gain influence over King John. Helena resented her husband having appointed James Archbishop of Nicosia when he was sixteen years old. When the boy murdered Iacopo Urri, the Royal Chamberlain on 1 April 1457, he was removed from office, and he fled the island, but King John pardoned him and the archbishopric was restored to him.

Together John and Helena had two daughters:

  • Queen Charlotte of Cyprus (28 June 1444 – 16 July 1487), married firstly in May 1456 Infante John of Portugal; secondly on 4 October 1459, Louis of Savoy, Count of Geneva, by whom she had an unnamed son who died within a month of his birth. Charlotte succeeded to the throne of Cyprus in 1458.
  • Cleopha de Lusignan (died 8 June 1448)

Queen of Cyprus

Helena was largely responsible for the revival of Greek influence in Cyprus due to the numerous members of the Byzantine court who arrived in her wake and were given positions at the Lusignan court. This led to a renewal of ties with the Byzantine Empire. After the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, she welcomed and gave assistance to many Byzantine refugees who had fled to Cyprus. She was described as having been "stronger in character than her husband". She took charge of the kingdom, and her policies in favour of the Orthodox faith and Greek culture enraged the Franks who looked upon her as a dangerous enemy; however she had become far too powerful for them to attack. Pope Pius II also condemned her for supporting the Orthodox Church, and her endowment of 15,000 ducats per annum to the monastery of Saint George of Mangana also drew much criticism as it was considered to have been "extravagant generosity in impoverished times". The Greek Cypriots, on the other hand, had always revered Helena as a great heroine due to her bold, decisive character in looking after their interests.

In 1457, she poisoned her son-in-law, Infante John of Portugal, who had given his support to the Catholic party, thus incurring her wrath and enmity; also she wished for her daughter to marry Louis of Savoy. This second marriage Helena did arrange for her daughter, Charlotte; however, the marriage between Charlotte and Louis took place in 1459, when Helena and King John were both dead, and Charlotte by that time had succeeded her father as Queen Regnant of Cyprus.

Death

Helena died on 11 April 1458 in the fortress of Nicosia where she and King John had barricaded themselves during the insurrection of his illegitimate son, James. She was buried in the Royal Monastery of Saint Dominic's. John died the same year, and was succeeded by his only surviving legitimate child, Charlotte.

As Charlotte's only child died in infancy, Helena has no surviving descendants.

Ancestry

16.Andronikos III Palaiologos
8. John V Palaiologos
17.Anna of Savoy
4. Manuel II Palaiologos
18.John VI Kantakouzenos
9. Helena Kantakouzene
19.Irene Asanina
2. Theodore II Palaiologos
20.Dejan Dragas
10.Constantine Dragas
21.Theodora of Serbia
5. Helena Dragas
22.
11.
23.
1. Helena Palaiologina
24.Malatesta II Malatesta
12.Pandolfo II Malatesta
6. Malatesta dei Sonetti, Count of Pesaro
13. Paola Orsini
3. Cleofa Malatesta
14.
7. Isabella Gonzaga
15.
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