Melisende of Jerusalem

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Melisende (1105 – 11 September 1161) was Queen of Jerusalem from 1131 to 1153, and regent for her son between 1153 and 1161 while he was on campaign. She was the eldest daughter of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem, and the Armenian princess Morphia of Melitene. She was named after her paternal grandmother, Melisende of Montlhery, wife of Hugh I, Count of Rethel. She had three younger sisters: Alice, princess of Antioch; Hodierna, countess of Tripoli; and Ioveta, abbess of St. Lazarus in Bethany. Hodierna's daughter, Melisende of Tripoli, was named in honor of the queen.


Crown Princess

Jerusalem had recently been conquered by Christian Franks in 1099 during the First Crusade, and Melisende's paternal family originally came from the County of Rethel in France. Her father Baldwin was a crusader knight who carved out the Crusader State of Edessa and married Morphia, daughter of the Armenian Prince Gabriel of Melitene, in a diplomatic marriage to fortify alliances in the region.[1][2] Melisende grew up in Edessa until she was 13, when her father was elected as the King of Jerusalem as successor of his cousin Baldwin I. By the time of his election as king, Baldwin II and Morphia already had three daughters.[1] As the new king, Baldwin II had been encouraged to put away Morphia in favor of a new younger wife with better political connections- one that could yet bare him a male heir. Armenian historian Matthew of Edessa wrote that Baldwin II was thoroughly devoted to his wife,[1] and refused to consider divorcing her.[1] As a mark of his love for his wife, Baldwin II had postponed his coronation until Christmas Day 1119 so that Morphia and his daughters could travel to Jerusalem, and so that Morphia could be crowned alongside him as his queen.[1] For her part, Morphia did not interfere in the day to day politics of Jerusalem, but demonstrated her ability to take charge of affairs when events warranted it.[1] When Melisende's father was captured during a campaign in 1123, Morphia hired a band of Armenian mercenaries to discover where her husband was being held prisoner,[1] and in 1124 Morphia took a leading part in the negotiations with Baldwin's captures to have him released, including traveling to Syria and handing over her youngest daughter Yveta as hostage and as surety for the payment of the king's ransom.[1] Both of her parents stood as role models for the young Princess Melisende, half Frankish and half Armenian, growing up in the Frankish East in a state of constant warfare.

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