Guy of Lusignan

From Academic Kids

Guy of Lusignan (died 1194) was a French knight who, through marriage, became king-consort of Jerusalem, and led the kingdom to disaster at the Battle of Hattin in 1187.


Arrival in Jerusalem

Guy was a son of Count Hugh VIII of Lusignan, in Poitou, France, at that time under Queen Eleanor, her third son Richard Lionheart, and her husband the English king Henry II. In 1168 Guy and his brothers ambushed and killed Patrick of Salisbury, 1st Earl of Salisbury, who was returning from a pilgrimage. They were banished from Poitou by their overlord, Richard, then (acting) Duke of Aquitaine. Along with his brother, Amalric, Guy went to Jerusalem in the 1170s, where he became a client of Agnes of Courtenay, the divorced mother of King Baldwin IV, who held the county of Jaffa and Ascalon. Amalric became soon Agnes's constable in Jaffa, and, as rumors alleged, also her lover. Agnes was concerned that her political rivals, headed by the regent Raymond III of Tripoli, were determined to exercise more control by forcing Agnes' daughter, the princess Sibylla, to marry someone of their choosing. Agnes foiled these plans by advising her son to have Sibylla married to Guy. To this he agreed, and Guy and Sibylla were hastily married at Eastertide 1180. By his marriage he also became count of Jaffa and Ascalon and bailiff of Jerusalem. The young Sibylla already had one child, a son from her first marriage. As Agnes' marriage with the late king had been annulled, Sibylla had a problem: those who opposed her regarded her as illegitimate and not eligible as heiress of the kingdom. During the reign of Baldwin IV, these pretexts were not uttered, as they could have angered the king, who had the same legitimacy problem.

An ambitious man, Guy convinced Baldwin IV to name him regent in early 1182, much to the displeasure of the Haute Cour. However, Guy's behavior as regent soon outraged the court. Many native born Frankish settlers (the descendants of the original crusaders), wanted to make peace with Saladin, sultan of Egypt, having become weary of the constant warfare and threats on their borders. But Guy and Raynald of Chatillon, and other newly-arrived crusaders, were there to fight. Guy's continuous provocations against Saladin threatened any peace between Jerusalem and Egypt.

Agnes herself was displeased at Guy's disgrace, and refused to come to his defense. Throughout late 1182 and early 1183 Baldwin IV tried to have his sister's marriage to Guy annulled, showing that Baldwin still held his sister with some favour. Baldwin IV had wanted a loyal brother-in-law, and was frustrated in Guy's hard-headedness and disobedience. Sibylla was held up in Ascalon, though perhaps not against her will. Unsuccessful in prying his sister and close heir away from Guy, the king and the Haute Cour altered the succession, placing Baldwin V, Sibylla's son from her first marriage to William of Montferrat, in precedence over Sibylla, and decreeing a process to choose the monarch afterwards between Sibylla and Isabella (whom Baldwin and the Haute Cour thus recognized as at least equally entitled to succession as Sibylla), though she was not herself excluded from the succession. Guy kept a low profile from 1183 until his wife became queen in 1186.

King-Consort of Jerusalem

When Baldwin IV finally succumbed to his leprosy in 1185, Baldwin V became king, but he was a sickly child and died within a year. Guy went with Sibylla to Jerusalem for his step-son's funeral in 1186, along with an armed escort, with which he garrisoned the city. 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 rouame". With the clear support of the church Sibylla was undisputed sovereign.

However, before she was crowned she agreed with oppositional court members that she would annul her marriage with Guy 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 removed the crown from her head and handed it to Guy, permitting him to crown himself. Humphrey IV of Toron, husband of Sibylla's half-sister Isabella, was Raymond III and the Ibelins' choice for the kingship. As Sibylla's parents marriage had been annulled and both she and Baldwin had been legitimized by the church, Isabella was seen by many as the legal heiress. However, Humphrey would not assert his claim, and he disassociated himself from them, swearing fealty instead to Sibylla. Humphrey would become one of Guy's closest allies in the kingdom.

Sibylla was crowned alone, as sole queen. As Bernard Hamilton writes, "there could be no doubt after the ceremony that Guy only held the crown matrimonial."

Fall of Jerusalem

Immediately the chief concern in the kingdom was checking Saladin's advance. In 1187 Guy attempted to relieve Saladin's siege of Tiberias, against the advice of Raymond III; Guy's army was surrounded and cut off from a supply of water, and on July 4 the army of Jerusalem was completely destroyed at the Battle of Hattin. Guy was one of the very few captives spared by the Saracens after the battle, along with his brother Geoffrey, Raynald, and Humphrey.

The exhausted captives were brought to Saladin's tent, where Guy was given a goblet of water as a sign of Saladin's generosity. When Guy offered the goblet to his fellow captive Raynald, Saladin knocked the goblet away, saying that since Guy did not ask permission to offer Raynald the water, that Saladin was not obliged to show them mercy. When Saladin accused Raynald of being an oath-breaker, Raynald replied that "kings have always acted thus". Saladin then executed Raynald himself, beheading him with his sword. When Guy was brought in, he fell to his knees at the sight of Raynald's corpse. Saladin bade him to rise, saying, "Real kings do not kill each other."

Guy was imprisoned in Damascus, while Sibylla remained behind to defend Jerusalem, which was handed over to Saladin on October 2. Sibylla wrote Saladin and begged for her husband's release, and Guy was finally granted release in 1188 and allowed to rejoin his wife. Guy and Sibylla sought refuge in Tyre, the only city remaining in Christian hands, thanks to the defense of Conrad of Montferrat.

Conrad denied sanctuary to Sibylla and Guy, who camped outside the city walls for months. Guy soon joined a vanguard of the newly arrived Third Crusade. The queen followed him but soon died of an epidemic, along with the daughters she had borne him. According to the surviving members of the Haute Cour, with Sibylla's death Guy lost the authority he held as king-consort, and the crown passed to Isabella. However, Guy continued to demand recognition as king, and only in 1192 dropped his claim after being recognized in Cyprus.

Lord of Cyprus

In 1191, Guy left Acre with a small fleet and landed at Limassol. He was seeking support from Richard Lionheart, whose vassal he had previously been in France. He swore fealty to King Richard, and attended the marriage ceremony of Richard and Berengaria of Navarre. He participated in the campaign against Isaac Comnenus of Cyprus, and so impressed Richard that Guy became Richard's candidate for King of Jerusalem.

King Philip II of France supported instead Conrad of Montferrat, who was chosen king of Jerusalem in 1192 by right of his wife Isabella; Conrad had had Isabella and Humphrey's marriage annulled and married her himself. Conrad was soon assassinated and Isabella married Henry II of Champagne; when he died in 1197, Isabella married Guy's brother Amalric. Meanwhile, Guy was compensated for the loss of his kingdom by purchasing Cyprus from the Templars, who had themselves purchased it from Richard, who had conquered it en route to Palestine. Technically Guy was Lord of Cyprus, it not yet being a kingdom, and used the royal title (if used at all) as a remnant from Jerusalem, which was not necessarily held fully legally. Guy died in 1194 without surviving issue and was succeeded by his brother Amalric, who received the royal crown from Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor. Descendants of the Lusignans continued to rule the Kingdom of Cyprus until 1474. Guy was buried at the Church of the Templars in Nicosia.

A largely fictionalized version of Guy is played by Marton Csokas in the 2005 movie Kingdom of Heaven.


  • Bernard Hamilton, "Women in the Crusader States: The Queens of Jerusalem", in Medieval Women, edited by Derek Baker. Ecclesiatical History Society, 1978
  • Guida Jackson, Women Who Ruled, 1998
  • Robert Payne, The Dream and the Tomb, 1984
  • Reston, James. Warriors of God: Richard the Lion-Heart and Saladin in the Third Crusade, 2001.

Preceded by:
Baldwin V
King of Jerusalem
(with Sibylla, 1186–1190)
Succeeded by:
Isabella and Conrad
Preceded by:
King of Cyprus
Succeeded by:

Template:End box

A later Guy of Lusignan (died 1344) became Constantine IV of von Lusignan es:Guy de Lusignan fr:Guy de Lusignan pl:Gwidon z Lusignan


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