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Sibylla of Jerusalem
Sibylla of Jerusalem (c. 1160 - 1190) was Queen of Jerusalem from 1186 to 1190. She was the eldest daughter of Amalric I of Jerusalem and Agnes of Edessa and sister of Baldwin IV. She was the paternal granddaughter of Queen Melisende. Though her mother's marriage to her father was annulled, the church ruled that she was the legitimate heir to her father King Amalric.
Sibylla was raised by her great-aunt, the abbess Ioveta of Bethany. Melisende founded the well-appointed convent in 1138 for her sister Ioveta to rule as abbess, and died there in 1163. In the convent Sibylla was taught scripture and other church traditions. In her childhood she was not close to her mother Agnes. Mother and daughter would become closer later in life, however, as Agnes's political suporters would in turn gravitate towards Sibylla.
Once her brother became king as Baldwin IV, she was his heir and her choice of husband became a paramount concern in the kingdom. Raymond III of Tripoli, in his capacity of regent during Baldwin's minority, arranged for Sibylla to marry William Longsword of Montferret, newly created count of Jaffa and Ascalon. In autumn 1176 they were married. William died in June of 1177, leaving Sibylla widowed and pregnant. Sibylla named her son Baldwin (the future Baldwin V), in the tradition of the dynasty.
The widowed princess remained a prize for ambitious nobles and adventurers seeking to advance themselves and take control of Jerusalem. Philip of Flanders arrived in 1177 and demanded to have Sibylla married to one of his own vassals. Philip was himself a distant cousin of Sibylla, and by marrying her to his vassal he could control the kingship of Jerusalem. The Haute Cour of Jerusalem, the royal council, led by Baldwin of Ibelin, rebuffed Philip's advances. In disgrace Philip left Jerusalem to campaign in Antioch. Additionally, the Ibelin family manoeuvered to have the princess marry one of their own. At Easter, 1180, Raymond III of Tripoli (the former regent) and Bohemund III of Antioch entered the kingdom with the intent of choosing a husband for Sibylla themselves.
Baldwin IV's reign
Agnes of Courtenay, now back at court after having been exiled when her marriage to Amalric I was annulled, advised her son to have Sibylla married to the newly-arrived Frankish knight Guy of Lusignan, her client. Guy offered Agnes his loyalty, in exchange Agnes promoted his interests. By this Agnes hoped to foil any atempt by Raymond and Bohemund, her political rivals, from marrying her daughter into the rival court faction.
Sibylla bore her new husband two daughters, Alice and Maria. By all accounts their marriage was a happy one, for when Baldwin IV deposed Guy as his regent in 1183, and attempted to have the marriage annuled in 1184, Sibylla refused to participate. Though her husband was in disgrace for his behaviour as regent, there seems to be little evidence that Sibylla herself was held in disfavour.
The princess' loyaty to her husband did cost her place in the order of succession. Guy had become very unpopular and the king could not let him have even an indirect influence in government. Agnes proposed a compromise that would place Baldwin V above Sibylla in the order of succession, with Raymond III of Tripoli acting as regent for Baldwin V, though this compromise would allow Agnes' own political rival Raymond more influence in government.
Agnes died at her estates in Acre, sometime in 1184. Baldwin IV himself would expire in early 1185, leaving Sibylla's son as king. During this time Saladin's army continued its invasion of the kingdom.
Baldwin V died by early 1186, leaving Sibylla as his heir. Initially, the compromise of 1183 allowed for the Haute Cour and Western lords to decide who should be next monarch, Sibylla or her half-sister Isabella. Had Sibylla not been married to Guy she would have become queen.
Sibylla attended her son's funeral, arranged by her uncle Joscelin III of Courtenay. With her was an armed escort, with which she garrisoned Jerusalem. Raymond III, who was jealous to protect his own influence and his new political ally, the dowager-queen Maria Comnena, was making arrangements to summon the Haute Cour when Sibylla was crowned queen by Patriarch Heraclius. Raynald of Chatillon gained popular support for Sibylla by affirming that she was "li plus apareissanz et plus dreis heis dou romoame". With the clear suport of the church Sibylla was undisputed soverign.
Sibylla was crowned alone, as sole Queen. Bernard Hamilton wrote "there is no real doubt, following the precedent of Melisende, that Sibylla, as the elder daughter of King Amalric, had the best claim to the throne; equally, there could be no doubt after the ceremony that Guy only held the crown matrimonial." However, before she was crowned she agreed with oppositional court members that she would annull her marriage to please them, as long as she would be given free choice in her next husband. The leaders of the Haute Cour agreed, and Sibylla was crowned thereafter. Taking her choice as husband, to the astonishment of the rival court faction, she remarried Guy. The queen granted Guy the crown matrimonial. Humphrey IV of Toron, princess Isabella's husband, disassociated himself from the Ibelins and swore fealty to Sibylla, wrecking their plans to hold a rival coronation for Isabella. Many of the opposition barons soon followed suite, with the Ibelins (save Baldwin of Ibelin, who left the kingdom, never to return) and dowager-queen last.
Sibylla had shown great cunning and political prowess in her dealings with the members of the opposition faction. She inherited her mother's factional suporters and the Courtenays, while her rivals were led by her step-mother, the dowager-queen Maria, in Nablus, as well as the Ibelin family and Raymond III of Tripoli.
The queen's chief concern was to check the advance of Saladin's armies as they advanced into the kingdom. Guy was dispatched to the front but was taken prisoner at the Battle of Hattin on July 4, 1187. The dowager-queen joined her step-daughter in Jerusalem as Saladin's army advanced. By September, 1187, Saladin was besieging the Holy City, and the queen personally led the defense, along with Patriarch Heraclius and Balian of Ibelin, who had survived Hattin. Jerusalem capitulated on October 2, and Sibylla was permitted to escape to Tripoli with her daughters.
Guy was released from his imprisonment in Damascus in 1188, and the queen joined him when they marched on Tyre, the only city in the kingdom that had not fallen. Conrad of Montferrat, who took charge of the city's defenses, denided them entrance. After months spent outside the city's walls, the queen followed Guy when he led a vanguard of the newly arrived Third Crusade. The queen followed her husband to Acre, where he was beseiging the city. There, on July 25, 1190, the queen died of an epidemic which was sweeping through the camp. Her daughters also died of the same epidemic. Bernard Hamilton wrote "had Sibylla lived in more peaceful times she would have excercised a great deal of of power since her husband's authority patently derived from her," and that only the conquest by Saladin brought her rule to a speedy end.
- Medieval Woman, edited by Derek Baker. Ecclesiatical History Society, 1978
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