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“Third Crusade” 820th Anniversary Series: Queen Sibylla Dies November 3, 2010

Posted by rwf1954 in Guy of Lusignan, history, medieval period, Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, the crusades, third crusade, Uncategorized.
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(This post is the third of an occasional series of posts following 820th anniversary highlights of what history now calls the “third crusade.” My novel, The Swords of Faith, tells the story of this legendary clash between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin.) 


Queen Sybilla of Jerusalem died 820 years ago today. This event, though far away from Richard the Lionheart and Philip II of France in Sicily, was to have a dramatic effect on how the key western Christian leaders of what history now calls the “third crusade” would interact. An epidemic, with no regard for status or position, raged through the camps of the Christians attempting to besiege Acre. The siege had gone on over a year, since August of 1189, and the Christian forces besieging Acre had now themselves become besieged, locked in a messy, withering stalemate. The conditions around the Christian camp deteriorated, leading to the epidemic that would claim many Christian lives, including that of Queen Sibylla.

Queen Sibylla was not the ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. She made no command decisions. But her bloodline gave legitimacy to the reign of the King of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan. King Guy had been involved in a dispute with Conrad of Monferrat over who should be the King of Jerusalem. Conrad had saved the key Christian coastal foothold of Tyre, on the verge of surrender three years before, at a time right after King Guy’s blunders on the battlefield had given Saladin the opportunity to wipe out the Christian forces at Hattin. Conrad could make the case that he had been essential in saving the Christian position in the eastern Mediterranean while Guy had been a key reason for its near obliteration. King Guy’s marriage to Queen Sibylla had also been the subject of some controversy when it occurred back in 1180. But as long as Sibylla lived, King Guy technically had the legitimate claim to the throne.

With the death of Queen Sibylla, her younger sister Isabella was the key to the throne. Conrad looked to change the circumstances of this issue in the simplest way possible, by taking Isabella as his wife. There were only two problems with this idea. Isabella was already married—to Humphrey of Toron, who was present at the camps at Acre. And Conrad was also married to at least one other woman, back in Italy. Conrad would spend most of November dealing with these problems. Stand by for updates in upcoming posts.

Previous 820th Anniversary Posts:

July 4th – The 820th Anniversary of the Launch of the “Third Crusade”

October 4th – Richard the Lionheart Sacks Messina

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