Academic journal article Journal of Cyprus Studies

Women and the Pursuit of Power in the Thirteenth Century: The Case of Alice, Queen-Regent of Cyprus (1218-1232) *

Academic journal article Journal of Cyprus Studies

Women and the Pursuit of Power in the Thirteenth Century: The Case of Alice, Queen-Regent of Cyprus (1218-1232) *

Article excerpt


For the medievalists, the study of women's public role in medieval societies is an arduous task, because of the nature of the sources which reflected the societies' misogynistic approach to the treatment of the gender roles in the middle ages. Yet, a number of Lusignan queens challenge the public role of women. Drawing on a range of narrative and documentary sources, this article challenges the established image of the Queen Alice of Cyprus. Through such a study, we can complement our understanding of politics in the Outremer by challenging the male-centric interpretations of the thirteenth century, where women's public role is often ignored. This paper further explores Queen Alice's contribution to political events, how she pursued and exploited the means to power, and more importantly, how her challenge was encountered by the patriarchal society, particularly by the Church of Rome.

Keywords: Queen Alice, Cyprus, Lusignan, Women's history.


Kadinlarin kamusal alandaki rollerini calismak bir Ortacag tarihcisi icin kaynaklarin, o donemin toplumunun genel kadina ayrimci yaklasimini yansitmasi bakimindan cetin bir ugrastir. Ancak, bazi Luzinyan kraliceleri ortacagda kadinin kamusal alandaki rolu okumalarini sarsmaktadir. Bu makale, cok cesitli anlati ve belgesel kaynaklar uzerinden Kibrisli Kralice Alice'in literaturdeki yerlesmis imgesini sorunsallastirmaktadir. Boyle bir calisma ile onucuncu yuzyil kadininin kamusal hayattaki yerinin hep ihmal edildigi "denizasiri" politik yapisini anlayisimizi kolaylasacaktir. Dolayisiyla burada Kralice Alice'in politik olaylara katkisi, guc odaklarini nasil elde ettigi ve kullandigi, ve daha da onemlisi bu tutumunun ataerkil toplum ve ozellikle Roma Klisesi tarafindan nasil karsilandigi uzerinde durulacaktir.

Anahtar Kelimeler: Kralice Alice, Kibris, Luzinyan, kadin tarihi.


In the historiography of medieval Cyprus, women's role in the body politic has long been overlooked in favour of the so-called august areas of study, shaped by the male-centric nature of the narrative sources, which concentrates on the development of governments and institutions, and centres on the nature of the Latin Church and the Frankish government. (1) Whilst over the last decade there has appeared a proliferation of research into diverse areas as Lusignan art, culture and commerce, comparative study in the field of gender history continues to remains pitifully barren. (2) This paper makes women the focus of inquiry as active subjects and agents in the history of the Kingdom of Cyprus. Retracing some of the groundbreaking work on women and power in medieval societies, carried out by new crop of medievalists, it addresses women's active role in public life and their strategies for empowerment. (3) Significantly, this paper confronts the established notion that medieval political power is traditionally associated with men, and women who exercised potesta were anomalies. Finally, it challenges the traditional image of Lusignan queens as portrayed in the misogynistic historical interpretation, indifferent to the fact that nearly all actors were male.

Queen Alice of Cyprus and Jerusalem was an accomplished political player, whose single-minded pursuit of power exercised the combined guiles of the powerful Ibelins, the Houses of Champagne and France, as well as Honorius III, one of the cleverest minds who sat at the throne of St Peter. She is a key figure in understanding the marriage and inheritance debates that shaped the political history of western Christendom during one of the most exigent periods in the Outremer. Her struggle for empowerment highlights the range of opportunities open to queen-regents in the thirteenth century. In assessing these, certain questions needs exploring; to what extent the rule of queens in the East made more difficult by not having access to the properties in the West? What strategies did women employ for political empowerment? …

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