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CYPRUS UNDER RICHARD I AND THE TEMPLARS


 

 

First a brief overview of his life

THIRD CRUSADE
RICHARD TAKES CYPRUS
REVOLT OF THE CYPRIOTS
THE TEMPLARS

 

Richard I king of England, surnamed COEUR DE LION was the third son of King Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was born on 8th September 1157, either at Oxford or at Woodstock, but was brought up amongst the knights and troubadours of Poitou, in Aquitaine, with which duchy, his mother's patrimony, he was whilst still a child invested by his father. In England Richard did not spend in all his life a full twelvemonth ; after be became king he spent only twenty‑six weeks in his kingdom, seventeen weeks when he landed to take the crown and to go through the coronation ceremony at Westminster, and nine weeks when he came back from his imprisonment. It may indeed reasonably be doubted whether he could speak English. A favourite of his unprincipled mother, he was induced by her to join his brothers Henry and Geoffrey in their rebellion  (1173) against their father, Henry II.

Henry II had his eldest son, Prince Henry, crowned king as his successor during his own lifetime; and in 1183 lie ordered that his younger brothers should do homage to him. Richard obeyed with the greatest reluctance thereupon the ungrateful Prince Henry at once picked a quarrel with him, and marched all army into his duchy of Aquitaine. King Henry hastened to the assistance of the Young duke, whilst the other brother Geoffrey sided with the prince. But the sudden sickness and death of the ingrate put an end to the quarrel. In the spring of 1189 Richard was in his turn in arms against his father. Philip of France, the pertinacious foeman of King Henry, mingled in the strife; and eventually Richard joined forces with his father's enemy, did homage to him, and took the field against the old king. A reconciliation was rendered more difficult because of Richard's jealousy of John, his father's favourite.

Richard became king of England, Duke of Normandy, and Count of Anjou on 5th July 1189, and was crowned king of England on the 3rd September following. But he had already taken the vows of the crusader; and, besides his coronation, he had another object in coming to England : he wanted to raise funds for his crusade. He effected this latter purpose in a brief space of time by selling whatever he could get a purchaser for. About midsummer 1190 he met Philip of France at the rendezvous, Vezelai in France; but from Lyons he made his way by a different route from Philip to Messina in Sicily.

Both kings spent the winter at Messina, and their mutual jealousy came within a hair's ‑breadth of a rupture. The throne of Sicily had just been seized by the Norman Tancred, an illegitimate son of King Roger, though the lawful heir was Henry of Hohenstaufen, son of Frederick Barbarossa, and afterwards the Emperor Henry VI. Moreover, Tancred detained in custody Johanna, widow of the late king (William the Good) and sister of Richard I, together with her very large dowry. But he made his peace with Richard by giving up to him his sister and her possessions, and by betrothing his little daughter to the boy Arthur (son of Richards dead brother Geoffrey), whom Richard now declared to be his heir. On his way to Palestine in the spring of 1191, part of the fleet of the English king was driven on to the island of Cyprus, and the crew were most inhospitably treated by the reigning sovereign, Isaac Comnenus a nephew of the emperor of Byzantium, who had revolted from his liege lord. Richard sailed back from Rhodes, routed Isaac in battle, deposed him, and gave his crown to Guy of Lusignan. In Cyprus, too, he married Berengaria of Navarre, whom his mother had brought to him at Messina. At last, on 8th June, the English king landed near Acre, and shortly afterwards that stronghold surren­dered , the siege having lasted two years. Richard took his full share of the jealousies, animosities, and disagreements, though not of the treacheries. that made the Christian crusading host a hotbed of commotion. The glorious exploits of Richard

the Lion‑hearted - his march to Joppa along, the seashore, his approach upon Jerusalem at Christmas ‑ his capture of the fortresses in the south of Palestine, his second advance in the summer of 1192 on Jerusalem (the city he never beheld) and his relief of Joppa made his name ring throughout the East and excited the wonder and admiration of Christendom, but brought no real advantage to the crusading cause. Richard in September concluded a peace with Saladin for three years, three months, and three days, and in his impulsive, impatient way, started off home alone without waiting for his army and fleet. A storm shipwrecked him near the north end of the Adriatic. In disguise be began to make his way through the dominions of his bitter enemy, the Archduke of Austria. He was recognised, seized, and handed over to the Emperor Henry VI. (March 1193). The emperor demanded a heavy ransom for his release, but promised to give him the kingdom of Arles in addition to his liberty. Richard's loyal subjects raised the money; and greatly, to the chagrin of Philip of France and Richard's brother John, the captive king returned home (13th March 1194). In England in the meantime Longchamp (q.v.) had made himself so unpopular that Richard had been obliged to supersede him, appointing in his place Walter of Coutances, Archbishop of Rouen. It was John, however, who exercised the greatest power in the realm. And although he used his utmost endeavours to prevent Richard's return from his captivity, Richard generously forgave him. After distributing judicious rewards and punishments, raising what money be could, making arrangements for the governance of the kingdom, and being crowned again the emperor is said to have forced his captive to resign his crown and take it back as a fief of the empire ‑ Richard proceeded to France, and spent the rest of his life there, warring against Philip. England was governed in his absence by Hubert Walter, Arch bishop of Canterbury, Who by the measures he took to raise the vast sums demanded by his master, trained the English people in habits of self ‑government. The most important constitutional advances made under Hubert's rule were the formulation of the methods for electing the county grand juries and an arrangement for keeping the pleas of the crown by officers who may be regarded as the forerunners of the modern coroner. Richard was shot, on 7th April 1199 by an archer of the Viscount of Limoges, whilst besieging that nobleman's castle of Chalus‑Chabrol. and was buried in the abbey church of Fontevraud.

Richard cannot be called a good king : his only thought for his subjects was how to get money from them. He was not a faithful husband : he was an undutiful son, Yet, on the other hand, he treated his perfidious brother John in the most forgiving spirit and was not incapable of noble and generous acts. His impulsive, hot‑headed temperament made him at times cruel, but never vindictive. He was an adventurer, with a Passionate love for contention and strife; he fought for warlike glory not for victory or re advantage; he had all the personal courage and self‑confidence of the born warrior; and a very large share of that careless indifference or magnanimity that is frequently associated with a bold and self‑reliant character. In matters of dress and ceremony he loved magnificence and was both ostentatious and extravagant. In person he was tall and ruddy, very skilful in the use of his weapons, and possessed of great personal strength. A fair scholar. he also had the knack of writing verses and has been called a poet.



  **THIRD CRUSADE


To understand the events which ended the tyranny of Isaac Commenus in Cyprus, it is necessary to return to the history of the kingdom of Jerusalem. The success of the First Crusade had been largely due to disunion between the Moslems of Asia and of Egypt, but in 1171 Saladdin made himself
the supreme ruler of Islam in the East and prepared jihad or holy war for the recovery of Jerusalem from the crusaders.


The marriage of Sybilla, heiress to the kingdom of Jerusalem, to the French adventurer Guy de Lusignan caused dissension among the crusaders. For Guy was hated by powerful rivals for the crown and, when he came to the throne in 1186, he was unable to exercise any real control over his kingdom. The tide had turned, and Saladdin at last delivered his attack with united forces and with a spirit equal to that which had fired the Christians of the First Crusade, for to the Moslems also Jerusalem was a holy place.


In 1187, on the sandy plains of Hittin under a scorching July sun, the army of Guy de Lusignan was utterly defeated and, after a fortnights siege, Jerusalem was taken. Of the kingdom itself nothing was left except the city of Tyre, together with the principalities of Antioch and Tripoli in the
north. The fall of Jerusalem sent a shock throughout Christendom. The three great monarchies of Europe at that time, England, France, and Germany, sinking their political rivalries for the common aim, collected revenues and armies for the Third Crusade.


To recover Jerusalem, the first aim was to establish a base of operations on the coast of Palestine, and for this reason the object of the Third Crusade was the capture of Acre. The siege of Acre, one of the great sieges of history, had been begun in 1189 by Guy de Lusignan who, captured by Saladdin
at the battle of Hittin and released on parole, had at once broken his word and returned to the attack. The Germans marched overland to Acre. Philip, king of France, and Richard Coeur de Lion, of England, agreed to take the sea route to the Holy Land together, and in 1191 they left Sicily, where they had wintered.


While Philip sailed straight for Acre, the fleet of Richard was scattered by a storm and took refuge in Crete and Rhodes. Three of his ships were driven to the shores of Cyprus, where they were wrecked and sank in sight of the port of Limassol. hose of the crews who escaped to land were taken prisoners by the order of Isaac Commenus and their property confiscated. Another English ship reached the harbour having on board Johanna, the Queen Dowager of Sicily, sister to Richard, and his affianced bride, Berengaria of Navvare.


Isaac was attempting by cajolery and then by threats to induce the princesses to land, when Richard with the rest of his fleet reached the port of Limassol. Hearing of the outrages which had been inflicted upon his shipwrecked subjects and the insults offered to his sister and to his affianced bride, he instantly demanded satisfaction. Isaac, who had assembled his forces to repel the English, answered these demands with threats. Richard immediately determined to give battle. Beside the natural desire to avenge his wrongs, the island of Cyprus offered a convenient base for the operations in Palestine and a source of men, treasure, and timber for the prosecution of the campaign. Moreover, it was reported that Isaac, having rebelled against his emperor, was secretly in league with Saladdin.



RICHARD TAKES CYPRUS

Richard thereupon landed his followers in boats, and at the head of his men, attacked the Cypriots on the shore. The islanders were ill-equipped and no match for the English archers and armoured knights, who defeated them with great slaughter. The fall of night enabled Isaac to withdraw the remnants of his forces to the hills, where they encamped five miles from Limassol. Richard attacked their camp before dawn, and taken by surprise, Isaac barely escaped with a few men. The next day many of the Cypriot nobles came to the king of England and gave him their allegiance. Three days later Guy de Lusignan, king of Jerusalem, and many of his counts came to meet Richard in Cyprus, and swore fealty to him. Isaac, seeing that his people were deserting him, sent an embassy to Richard offering to pay 20,000 marks of gold, to send 500 men- at-arms to take part in the crusade, and to surrender his daughter and his castles as a pledge for his good behaviour. These conditions being accepted, Isaac came to Limassol and swore solemn allegiance to the king of England, but the same night, fearing treachery, he made his escape and denounced the treaty. Richard then placed a large force
under the command of Guy de Lusignan with orders to pursue and capture Isaac, while he himself with his ships sailed round the island seizing all the towns and ports on the coast. But Isaac managed to escape to the stronghold of Kantara.


On 12 May, 1191, Richard, king of England, was married at Limassol to Berengaria, daughter of the king of Navvare, and on the same day Berengaria was crowned queen of England by John, bishop of Evereux. After this, hearing that the daughter of Isaac had taken refuge in Kyrenia, Richard went there with his army and received her submission. She was entrusted to the care of Berengaria, and some ten years later married a French knight, a relative of Baldwin, count of Flanders. Isaac, who had fled to the Karpass in the hope of escaping by boat to the mainland, was at last taken prisoner in the abbey of Cape St. Andrea at the eastern point of the island. He was bound in fetters of silver and imprisoned in the castle of Markappos in Syria, where he died soon after in captivity.



REVOLT OF THE CYPRIOTS


Richard, with much treasure taken from Isaac, then set sail for Acre, accompanied by the king of Jerusalem, the prince of Antioch, the count of Tripoli, and the nobles who had joined him in Cyprus. Garrisons were placed in the towns and castles of Cyprus, and the island was left in charge of Richard of Camville and Robert of Tornham.


The conquest of Cyprus by Richard had far-reaching results. It was the first step in the subjection of the eastern empire to the crusades, which was to be followed fifteen years later by the capture of Constantinople itself by the crusaders and the division of the empire into feudal fiefs. For Cyprus, it was the beginning of a domination by western powers for nearly 400 years and the introduction of the feudal system of Normans and of the Latin Church into an island which hitherto been Orthodox in its faith.


The Cypriots, on the departure of the English king, began to realise that their ancient freedom was in danger and resolved to attempt to regain their independence. They proclaimed as emperor of Cyprus a monk who was said to be a relative of Isaac Commenus, and raised the standard of revolt. But, Robert of Tornham, the king’s lieutenant, was aware of the projected rising and made a sudden attack on the insurgents before their plans were matured. The Cypriots were defeated and their leader was taken and hanged. The news of this revolt caused Richard to regard the possession of Cyprus as a doubtful gain. He could not spare the troops for holding the island by force, nor was it of any use as a base unless it were securely held. Being greatly in need of money for carrying on the campaign in Palestine, he therefore sold the island to the Templars for the sum of 100,000 bezants, of which 40,000 were to be paid at once and the remainder by instalments.
 



THE TEMPLARS


The Knights Templar formed one of the three great military orders of knighthood, founded in the twelfth century to protect the pilgrims who flocked to Jerusalem after the First Crusade. At the head of the order was the Master of the Temple at Jerusalem until 1291, when, on the fall of the Latin kingdom, the headquarters of the order moved to Cyprus.


In 1128 the rule of the order was sanctioned by the Council of Troyes. In a few years, the order was established in almost every kingdom of Latin Christendom, each establishment being richly endowed with lands by kings and princes and with the gifts of grateful pilgrims. Spiritual privileges were granted by the Popes. As defenders of the Church, the Templars were exempted from payment of tithes and gradually became free from the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishops, owning spiritual allegiance to the Pope alone. The result was that scarce twenty-five years after its foundation the order was at open feud with the bishops and clergy. But, protected by the Pope and endowed with great wealth, the Position of the Templars was secure so long as the crusading spirit lasted in Europe.


It was with the support of the Templars that, on the death of Baldwin V, Sybilla and Guy de Lusignan were crowned at Jerusalem, without the knowledge or consent of the barons of the realm. The rule of the Templars in Cyprus was marked by great severity and they quickly incurred the hatred of the Cypriots by their harsh exactions. At length, in despair at their treatment and seeing that Templars were few in number, the islanders determined to attempt a general massacre of the knights on Easter Day, 1192. The Templars
became aware of the plot and took refuge in their stronghold at Nicosia, since they were too few to meet the insurgents in the open. They offered to leave the island if their lives were spared, but as this offer was rejected, they determined to fight rather than to be starved into submission.


Sallying into the streets at dawn, they took the Cypriots unawares and slaughtered great numbers, sparing neither age nor sex. The rebellion was crushed, but the Templars felt unable to hold Cyprus by force and they therefore asked Richard to take back their purchase. This he agreed to do, and the Templars retired to Syria, retaining, however, some of their possessions in Cyprus.


Meanwhile Sybilla, the hereditary queen of Jerusalem, had died and the opposition to the rule of Guy, her husband, increased. The crusaders determined to elect a new king, and their choice fell on Richard's nephew, Henri, count of Champagne, who with the consent of his uncle, was elected king of Jerusalem. Guy de Lusignan thus lost the crown of Jerusalem, but as he had originally come from Richard's duchy of Aquitaine and had long been a vassal of the English king, Richard offered him the sovereignty of Cyprus in compensation for the loss of his kingdom. It is uncertain, however, whether
Cyprus was transferred to him as a free gift or on the same terms as the island had been sold to the Templars. It is probable that Guy undertook the debt, but it is unlikely that he ever paid it.


**From: Newman, P., (1940), " A Short History of Cyprus ", Longmans, Green &
Co., London.


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** From: Newman, P., (1940), "A Short History of Cyprus", Longmans, Green &
Co., London.