Peter I of Cyprus

Peter I of Cyprus

Peter I of Cyprus or Pierre I de Lusignan (Nicosia, October 9, 1328 – Palace of La Cava, Nicosia, January 17, 1369) was King of Cyprus, Latin King of Armenia from 1361 or 1368 and Titular King of Jerusalem from his father's abdication on November 24, 1358 until his own death in 1369. He was the second son of Hugh IV of Cyprus, the first by his second wife Alice of Ibelin. He also received the title of Titular Count of Tripoli when young, in 1346. He was the greatest King of Cyprus on military basis, where he had great success and also big plans, though he didn't accomplish them, because of his character which caused internal disputes and also his death at the age of 40 after being murdered by the nobles of his Kingdom.


Soon after June 28, 1342 he married Eschive de Montfort (1300-1313 – before 1350), only daughter and heiress of Honfroy de Montfort (1305 – June 24, 1326), Constable of Cyprus and Titular Lord of Toron, and his wife, whose name is unknown. Eschiva died before 1350 while Peter was still a teenager and the marriage was childless. In 1353 he married Leonor de Aragon-Gandia (1333 – December 26, 1416 in Barcelona and buried there), crowned Queen Consort of Cyprus on November 24, 1358 and Titular Queen of Jerusalem April 5, 1360, Co-Regent of Cyprus in January, 1369, daughter of Pedro, Infante of Aragon, Conde de Ribagorza, Ampurias y Prades, Seneschal of Catalonia (1305 – Pisa, November 4, 1381), and wife, married at the Castellon de Ampurias on May 12, 1331, Jeanne de Foix (d. before November, 1358), daughter of Gaston I, Count of Foix, and sister of Infante Don Alfonso, Duke of Gandia, pretender to the Aragonese crown. Joanna l'Aleman was his long-time mistress.

He had three children from his second marriage to Leonor de Gandia or de Aragon:
*Pierre II de Lusignan (c. 1357-1382), succeeded him as King of Cyprus and Jerusalem
*Marguerite or Marie de Lusignan (ca 1360 – ca 1397), once engaged to Carlo Visconti and married in 1385 to her cousin Jacques de Lusignan (d. 1395/1397), Titular Count of Tripoli, grandson of Jean de Lusignan and wife Alix d'Ibelin, and had issue
*Eschive de Lusignan (d. before 1369), died young

Early life and his crowning

Constable successor of Hugh to the Cypriot throne was his first son, Guy. Because Guy, who had married Marie of Bourbon, died before his father, couldn't heir Hugh. His son who was named Hugh as well, demanded the throne for the reason that his father was constable successor of the throne. His demands were rejected for the reason that his father could not be heir of someone who lived more than him. As Leontios Makhairas writes, before Hugh IV's death, he crowned his son Peter as King of Cyprus and recognized him constable successor in Santa Sophia, Nicosia on November 24, 1358.

When he was young, in 1349 he secretly travelled to Europe for trip with his brother John and that upset his father who sent ships to find his sons and bring them back. When they were brought back, he imprisoned them because they left without his permission.

Because Cyprus was surrounded by countries which were under Muslim rule, it became an advanced outpost of the Christian West Forces of the Middle East, after the expulsion of the Latins, especially from Palestine the previous century. Peter understood the importance of his kingdom, and believed that his mission was to fight the Muslims. He was probably ambitious to take back again the lost Kingdom of Jerusalem which belonged to the Lusignan Kings, who still were crowned as Kings of Jerusalem in Famagusta. Peter was crowned as Titular King of Jerusalem in Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Famagusta on April 5, 1360, in which Throne he succeeded on his father's death.

Wars against Turks

Neighboring Muslim countries did not pose a serious threat to the Kingdom of Cyprus because they lacked resources needed to conquer the island. Their raids resembled piracy more than military invasions.

However, Peter decided that Cyprus could and should attack, instead of waiting an attack. The beginning of his attacks was in Korikos, a fortified harbour in the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. His ambitions for siege were in Asia Minor, since the Armenian Kingdom, which was almost destroyed by Turks, had strong relations with the Kingdom of Cyprus because of the weddings, the royal family of the Kingdom of Armenia was relative with the royal family in Cyprus.

In January 1360, the residents of Korikos sent their representatives in Cyprus to ask from Peter to protect them, since their city was directly threatened by Turks, and few years before they asked the help from Peter's father Hugh IV, who declined. Korikos demanded to be under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Cyprus which was responsible to defend it. Peter believed that was his chance for a bridgehead in Asia Minor. He answered positive and sent military defence there with leader, the knight Roberto de Luisignan. The Turks reacted in the siege of Korikos by the Cypriots but their attacks were defended successfully.

The siege of Korikos, was seen as a threat by Muslim leaders of Asia Minor and they allied against Peter, planning to attack him on his home island. They attacked Cyprus with many ships but Peter obtained aid from the Knights of Saint John from Rhodes. Other help came from the Pope and even from pirates. In July 1361, Peter mastered a fleet of 120 ships. With his force, Peter attacked Asia Minor, continuing his policy of preemptive attacks. On August 23, 1361, Cypriot forces landed in Antalya and Peter conquered the city after a siege on 24 August, 1361. After this victory, the remaining emirs of the region offered Peter an annual tribute. Peter accepted the offer and sent his flags, coats of arms and symbols to be raised in many cities of Asia Minor. He stayed in Antalya until September 8, 1361. Then he went to other cities, whose some of them their emir worshiped on him, gave him presents, emir's castle keys and many others. He returned as a trophy winner in Cyprus on September 22, 1361.

Antalya emir, Tekke, after he lost his city, he took big army and after many attacks tried to occupy his city. After hard battles, Cypriots achieved to keep the city and also to siege the guard in the region of Myrres.fact

Tour to Europe

Meanwhile, King Peter still faced a serious problem of his recognition as holder of the throne of Cyprus, since his nephew Hugh, went to Pope to ask for the throne with the support of the King of France. Since Peter had sent nobles as his representatives to Pope to support him without result, he had to go their to visit Pope by himself. At the end of October 1362, he left from Paphos to Rhodes and then to Venice and he was accepted there with honours. He went to Avignon and visited the Pope together with the claimant of the throne of Cyprus. Peter was recognised as King and Hugh ensured a high annual benefit, solving the problem.

Taking as an advantage his trip in Europe, he tried to convince the powerful rulers to strengthen him, organizing a big crusade to "liberate" the Holy Land and the Kingdom of Jerusalem which belonged to him. That issue was discussed with the new elected Pope, after the death of the previous one. For the same reason he travelled in England, Germany, France and also visited some powerful cities like Genoa, Venice and Prague. He met several monarchs in London, at the meeting of five kings: Cyprus, England, Scotland, France and Denmark. Everywhere he was accepted with honours and expensive presents, however he did not achieve to persuade those monarchs to compete in a new Pan-European and Pan-Christian crusade in Middle East.

Meanwhile, Cyprus, which was governed by Prince John, brother of Peter who remained as vice-King, faced many problems: the big epidemics of 1363, which ruined many residents of Cyprus (one of them was Eschiva, Peter's sister), the Turks who heard that the Cypriot people were dying, began new raids and pillages in the island. At the same time an episode between Cypriots and Genoese navies in Famagusta became a political issue and had many fights and killings. Peter who happened to be in Genoa, negotiated and signed a treaty with Genoese which was declaring what rights the Genoese colonisers of Cyprus could have.

Alexandria Crusade

His father Hugh attempted to stop his desire to lead a new crusade and retake Jerusalem, but upon his death Peter began his plans in earnest. He travelled through Europe attempting to garner support for his expeditions and on 11 October, 1365 he led a mixed Cypriot and Western force of Crusaders (on 70 ships) to sack Alexandria (see Alexandrian Crusade). However, the European knights refused to follow him to attack Cairo, and he was obliged to return to Cyprus, the only permanent result of his expedition being the enmity of the Sultan of Egypt. Reprisals followed against Christian merchants in Syria and Egypt, and Pope Urban V advised Peter to make peace with the Sultan after unsuccessfully attempting to raise support among the European monarchs.

Attacks to Lebanon and Syria

Peter continued his crusade this time aiming to attack Beirut. However his military operations ended after intervention of the Venetians willing to offer Peter high compensations for his military preparations, in order to not attack against Damascus. He crusaded and raided Tripoli in January 1366, before the terms of service of his European reinforcements could expire. He attempted to again raise a force in Europe in 1368, but was unsuccessful. Urban V again counseled peace, and Peter was compelled to join the Pope and the Venetians in making a peace treaty with Egypt.

The commerce with Middle East, benefited Cyprus a lot, and because of Peter, Famagusta was one of the richest cities in the Mediterranean during his time. Also some befriended financiers of Peter were rich tradesmen from Famagusta, who could influence him. But the Sultan could not tolerate any more his insult by the capture of Alexandria and could not accept a friendly arrangement with Peter. So the attack against Tripole was a clear message to the Sultan; either he signed peace and could begin again the trade or to suffer continued attatacks. The sultan wanted to create a movement of distraction, so he strengthened the emirs of Asia Minor and assembled an army to attack Korikos. Peter reinforced the garrison in Korikos with fresh troops and they repulsed the Turkish attack. In May 1367, the garrison in Antalya revolted because the delayed payment of their wages. Peter immediately sailed there and imposed the order, decapitating the ring leaders of the revolt.

After all of this it was finally agreed peace with the Sultan of Cairo, which didn't become possible to be signed. So in 1367 there were other attacks to the Syrian coasts, capture and pillage again of Tripoli and other cities across the Syrian coast. As Leontios Makhairas writes, the reason that Peter could not keep Tripoli was because the city did not have walls. Among the other pillaged cities by Cypriots was Latakia. So the peace with Sultan seemed difficult.


For all of his trips around Europe and of the wars, he needed a lot of money. Despite the high state income he needed to gain even more money, thus he gave to Cypriot serfs the right to buy their freedoms. By this rule, many Cypriots were benefited. Another source of income were his raids on the Islamic Levante.

His Death

While in Rome, he received an appeal from the barons of Armenia, nominating him as King and imploring him to deliver their country. He returned to Cyprus, but was rapidly plunged into domestic troubles. Queen Eleanor had been unfaithful during his long absences in Europe, and he retaliated by tyrannizing her favorite nobles, alienating even his brothers. On 17 January, 1369 he was assassinated by three of his own knights, in his own bed at the Palace of La Cava, Nicosia.

Despite the harshness that brought a premature end to his life, his knight-errantry and crusading zeal led him to be regarded as the epitome of chivalry. He founded the Chivalric Order of the Sword in 1347, which was dedicated to the recovery of Jerusalem. He was buried in the church of St. Dominic's of Nicosia, the traditional burial place of the Kings of Cyprus. He was succeeded by his son Pierre II le Gros de Lusignan.

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