Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview

MELISENDE, QUEEN OF JERUSALEM
(ca. 1102-1161)

Middle East
Queen Regent and Patron of the Arts and the Church

Melisende, the eldest daughter of King Baldwin II (ruled 1118- 1131) and his wife Queen Morphia, governed the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, a kingdom established during the First Crusade (ca. 1099), for a period of approximately thirty years. A capable administrator, as well as an influential patron of the arts and of the Church, Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem, received acclaim from contemporary figures, such as William of Tyre (ca. 1130-1186), the historian of the Latin East.

Queen Morphia, in bearing four daughters--Melisende, Alice, Hodierna, and Joveta--to her husband instead of the desired male heir, might have been regarded as having failed to secure the succession to the throne. Lacking a male heir, King Baldwin II arranged a suitable marriage for his eldest daughter and acknowledged heir, Melisende, in 1129 with Fulk V, Count of Anjou. When Melisende gave birth to the future king, Baldwin III (ca. 1130-1163), the question of the future succession was secured.

Baldwin II's public recognition of both Melisende and Fulk as his kingdom's joint heirs, named along with their son Baldwin III, suggests his confidence in his eldest daughter's capacity to rule. Shortly after her father died in 1131, King Fulk and Queen Melisende were jointly crowned in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Once crowned, King Fulk appears to have tried to exclude Melisende from wielding any real power. A period of five years elapsed without Fulk's associating Melisende's name with his in any public act. By eliminating Melisende from her share in governing the kingdom, Fulk kept her from being able to exercise the patronage necessary to maintain and to increase her own group of loyal supporters.

As Baldwin II's legal heir, Queen Melisende already had a loyal

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