- Irene Palaiologina of Trebizond
Irene Palaiologina (Greek: Ειρήνη Παλαιολογίνα, "Eirēnē Palaiologina"), (c. 1315 – after 1341) was Empress of Trebizond from
April 6, 1340to July 17, 1341. She was an illegitimate daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos, and she married Emperor Basil of Trebizondin 1335.
Soon after the marriage, however, Basil took a mistress, also named Irene, and in 1339 divorced Irene Palaiologina with the connivance of the local clergy. Her cause was backed by Patriarch
John XIV of Constantinopleand she probably still retained some position of influence in Trebizond. On April 6, 1340, she probably poisoned Basil and seized the throne for herself by what reads in Gregoras' text as a palace coup. Her position was tenuous, because of the means by which she gained the throne and because of her own origins - she was not a member of the ruling Komnenian dynasty. To shore up this position, she sent off her dead husband's second wife and sons to Constantinoplewhere they could be watched over by her father.
In spite of her precipitous actions, Irene found the cares of government beyond her and appealed to her father to send her a husband from amongst the Byzantine nobles, who would rule the Empire and help fight off her mounting enemies. However Andronikos III died on
June 15, 1341before he could answer his daughter's request, but it mattered little since she soon fell in love with her Grand Domestikos and split her court into factions by her unseemly favor of this man.
The first round of the civil war began shortly after her accession. Three opposing parties had formed: first was that of Irene, the family of Amytzantarants, and her Byzantine mercenaries provided courtesy of her father; second was of the opposing nobles under the Lord of Tzanich, the captain-general of the Scholarioi and a part of the imperial bodyguard loyal to the memory of their late Emperor, and the third party was that of the Grand Duke John the Eunuch of Limnia. The rebel nobles encamped themselves in the Monastery of St. Eugenios in the capital, but Grand Duke of Limnia decided to join Irene and helped her deal with the rebels. They bombarded the monastery, destroying it almost completely, and defeated the rebels in early July 1340.
In the same time, affairs of the Empire went worse as the Turkmen attacked Trebizond and marched up to the walls of the capital itself. A first attack was repelled but the second could not be stopped by the demoralized army of Irene, and the Turkmen set fire to much of Trebizond without being able to capture it. The catastrophe was exacerbated by the outbreak of an epidemic, which Panaretus states as having come about from the foul stench of the rotting corpses of horses and men.
The remaining nobles who had escaped the massacre in the Monastery of St. Eugenios, seeing that her incompetent rule would cause a catastrophe, decided to find a legitimate claimant to the throne in the person of the daughter of Alexios II, Anna Anachoutlou. They convinced her to abandon her monastic vows and acclaimed her Empress in Lazica. Irene, when she heard of the revolt, executed all of the nobles and prisoners from the St. Eugenian massacre, but it was of no avail. The Empress's unpopularity by now was so horrible that as soon as Anna arrived at the city walls Irene was deposed on July 17, 1341. She was later sent off to Constantinople and we know nothing further of her fate.
* [http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/BYZANTIUM%2012611453.htm#EirenePdied1341 Her profile in "Medieval Lands" by Charles Cawley]
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