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Melisende of Jerusalem

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Melisende (1105-1160?) was Queen of Jerusalem (r. 1131-1153)

Melisende was the eldest daughter of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and the Armenian-born Queen Morphia. At this time Jerusalem had been recently conquered by Christian Franks, who won it from the Turks in in 1099 during the First Crusade. Melisende was nominated as the successor of her father in 1128. In 1129 she married Fulk V of Anjou. Prior to her father's death in 1131, Melisende was pronounced sovereign and was crowned to rule jointly with her father. In 1131, she and Fulk effectively became joint rulers of Jerusalem. Unfortunately, Fulk largely ignored and neglected Melisende, other than to father two sons (Baldwin and Amalric) upon her.

In 1132, however, Melisende was accused of having an ongoing affair with Fulk's biggest rival, the rebel Hugh II of Le Puiset. The Kingdom of Jerusalem become divided between the supporters of Melisende and those of her husband. Melisande, however, prevailed, possibly due to her threat to employ the Hashshashin. Her terms for the resulting peace included her admission to the inner councils of the kingdom. Thereafter, wrote the historian William of Tyre, Fulk "never tried to initiate anything, even in trivial matters, without her foreknowledge."

In the years afterwards she became known as a great patron of the arts and founded a large abbey at Bethany. She gave political support to her sister Alice in a regency question, and was present at her sister Hodierna's marriage to Count Raymond II of Tripoli in 1137. She is said to have had a succession of lovers, as well. After Fulk's death in 1143 Melisende became regent for her 13 year old son, Baldwin III of Jerusalem, and they were crowned together in Melisende's third co-rulership.

Melisende proved reluctant to let go of power. She worked to keep her son out of positions of influence, and largely ignored the date of his majority in 1145. Baldwin desired a second coronation, but the request was denied by his mother, which triggered a full-blown rift in 1152. Complaining to the high court of the kingdom that his mother would not let him rule, Baldwin demanded that the realm be divided between mother and son. In the subsequent agreement between them, Melisende ruled Judea and Samaria and Baldwin the north. This arrangement, however, proved unstable. The nobility withdrew their support from Melisande, who eventually yielded her territories (except Nablus) to her son. Surprisingly, the two became close afterwards, with Melisande acting as Baldwin's closest advisor, and even as his regent in his absence. Melisende also retained ecclesiastical patronage over the church in the Kingdom of Jerusalem till her death at the convent of Bethany in 1160 or 1161.

Preceded by:
Kingdom of Jerusalem Followed by:
Baldwin III

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