Saturday, October 27, 2007

Maria of Antioch

Empress of Byzantium

Maria was the daughter of Constance of Antioch (d.1162) and Raymond of Poitiers (d.1149), sister of Bohemond II, Prince of Antioch and Baldwin, and was cousin of King Baldwin III of Jerusalem (d.1162). Maria was famed for her beauty, rivalled only by Melisende of Tripoli. A marriage alliance was sought between Antioch and Constantinolpe, and Maria was married to Emperor Manuel (Dec.1160).

Unfortunately for her, Maria was not popular and was disliked by people of Constantinople as a Latin (they being Greek). After the death of Manuel (1180), Maria was regent for her son Alexius II (1180 - 1182). It was during this time that Maria took a lover, her advisor Alexius Comnenus.

But Maria's regency was opposed by her stepdaughter Maria Comnena (daughter of Manuel by a former wife) and her husband Ranier of Montferrat (brother of Conrad, who married Isabella, Queen of Jerusalem). Maria begged for aid from her brother-in-law Bela III of Hungary - but this was not forthcoming.

Andronicus Comnenus was sent for by popular acclaim and was crowned co-Emperor. He eventually assumed total control of Constaninople. Maria was condemned to be strangled, her son forced to sign the warrant by new Emperor Andronicus. Her son was murdered two months later (1182).

~~~ Melisende (first pub: 1998 Women of History)

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