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Maria Comnena (c. 1150-between 1208 and 1217) was the second wife of King Amalric I of Jerusalem and mother of Isabella of Jerusalem. She was the daughter of Ioannes Comnenus, sometime Byzantine dux in Cyprus, and Maria Taronitissa, a descendant of the ancient Armenian kings. Her sister Theodora married Prince Bohemund III of Antioch, and her brother Alexios was briefly emperor of Thessalonica.

After the annulment of his first marriage to Agnes of Courtenay, Amalric was anxious to forge an alliance with Byzantium and asked the emperor Manuel for a bride from the imperial family. Maria was the emperor's grandniece and he bestowed upon her a rich dowry. The marriage of Amalric and Maria was celebrated with much fanfare at Tyre, on August 29, 1167.

Maria bore him a daughter, Isabella, in 1172, and a stillborn child some time later. On his deathbed, Amalric left Nablus to Maria, who became dowager-queen upon his death, and Isabella.

In 1177, Maria married Balian of Ibelin. She bore him at least four children:

  • Helvis, who married Reginald of Sidon (widower of Agnes of Courtenay), then Guy of Montfort
  • John of Ibelin, Lord of Beirut and constable of Jerusalem, who married Helvis of Nephin, then Melisende of Arsur
  • Margaret, who married Hugh of Tiberias (stepson of Raymond III of Tripoli), then Walter of Caesarea
  • Philip of Ibelin, bailli (regent) of Cyprus, who married Alice of Montbéliard.

Maria and Balian supported Conrad of Montferrat (uncle of the late Baldwin V) in his struggle for the kingship against Guy of Lusignan. They arranged for Maria's daughter by Amalric, Isabella, to have her first marriage annulled so that she could marry Conrad, giving him a stronger claim to the throne. In this, Maria and Balian gained the enmity of Richard I of England and his chroniclers. The anonymous author of the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi wrote of them:

Steeped in Greek filth from the cradle, she had a husband whose morals matched her own: he was cruel, she was godless; he was fickle, she was pliable; he was faithless, she was fraudulent.

As the grandmother of Alice of Champagne (Isabella's daughter by her third husband, Henry II of Champagne), Maria conducted the marriage negotiations with Cyprus in 1208 – Alice was to marry Hugh I of Cyprus. Blanche of Navarre, Regent and Countess of Champagne, widow of Alice's paternal uncle, provided the dowry for Alice. This is the last time Maria is mentioned, and she was certainly dead by 1217.

Sources

  • Chronique d'Ernoul et de Bernard le Trésorier, edited by M. L. de Mas Latrie. La Société de l'Histoire de France, 1871.
  • La Continuation de Guillaume de Tyr (1184-1192), edited by Margaret Ruth Morgan. L'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 1982.
  • Ambrose the poet, The History of the Holy War, translated by Marianne Ailes. Boydell Press, 2003.
  • Chronicle of the Third Crusade, a Translation of Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, translated by Helen J. Nicholson. Ashgate, 1997.
  • Peter W. Edbury, The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade: Sources in Translation. Ashgate, 1996.
  • Edbury, Peter W. John of Ibelin and the Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1997
  • Payne, Robert. The Dream and the Tomb, 1984
  • Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vols. II-III. Cambridge University Press, 1952-55.



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