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Chapter 30
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
A History of Armenia

by Vahan M. Kurkjian

published by the
Armenian General Benevolent Union of America
1958

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 32

p258 Chapter XXXI
French-Armenian Dynasty: End of Kingdom

Guy de Lusignan (1342‑1344)

Having no male issue, Leon had chosen as his successor Guy de Lusignan, the fifth son of his father's (Oshin) sister Isabelle, who was living in the Greek islands at the time when his mother and brothers lost their lives in Armenia. The throne thus passed to a French petty royal family,a and the preponderance of this foreign influence portended a great change in the national life. Guy, also known as Constantin II, nephew of Henry II of Cyprus and a close relative of the Imperial family of Byzantium, accepted the offer of the crown after some hesitation, and entered Armenian territory, escorted by an armed force.

The powerful neighboring Moslem states, uneasy over this change in the royal line of Armenia and at the tightening of the connections between that country and Europe, now sought a pretext for intervention by demanding payment of the annual dues which they had been collecting from Leon IV. Guy rejected their demands and for a time succeeded in thwarting their attempts to collect the money by force. Meanwhile, following the policy of his immediate predecessors, Guy was endeavoring to bring about a union with the Roman church, in the hope of receiving the military and financial aid so indispensable for the safety of his country. He sent two embassies to Avignon, France, the new seat of the Papacy, and convened an assembly to discuss the terms of the proposed union. The King's project was rejected by some of the nobles, who preferred to obtain peace through concessions to the Moslems rather than try to withstand them, relying on help from the West. During a riot fomented by his enemies, Guy, together with many of his Frankish p259bodyguards, was killed after a brief reign of two years. This, says the chronicle of Jehan Dardel,b the friar confessor of Leon V, the last king, was "grand dommage pour la chrétienté que la mort d'un si bon prince, car il était hardy, preux et de moult grand entreprise."1

Constantin III (1344‑1363)

The nobles now elected Constantin, son of the Marshal Baghdin (Baldwin) of Neghr, who had died in the dungeon of the Emir of Aleppo in 1336. He was the first of the kings of Cilician Armenia in whose veins ran no drop of Hetoumian blood; but he was related to the royal house through his marriage with Marie, daughter of Oshin, the Baille, and Jeanne of Anjou.


[image ALT: An engraving of the obverse and reverse of two coins. The obverse of each depicts a man on a horse, holding a scepter, and the reverse depicts a lion passant surmounted by a cross. They are coins of Constantine III, king of Armenia.]
Coins of Constantin III, King of Armenia

The first domestic act of the new king was a shameful portent of his future course. With the intention of uprooting the Lusignan connection from the local scene, he confiscated all the property of the Lady Soultan, a daughter of King Gorgi VII of Georgia and wife of Jean de Lusignan, the brother of King Guy-Constantin II. The King then confined the princess, together with her two sons, Bohemund and Leon, aged five and two years respectively, in the island-castle of Gorigos. Warned of further treacherous designs of the King, the Lady Soultan succeeded in escaping, with her children, to the island of Cyprus on a fishing boat. The King of Cyprus, Hugues IV (de Lusignan), took the refugees under his protection, the little boys being the grandsons of his paternal uncle.

Invaders ousted

The Armenians, compelled to battle during all this time against p260their enemies, once again lost the port of Ayas. The situation was growing worse day by day, and there were no signs of any intervention or aid from European powers. Thanks to the help of Dieudonné de Gozon, the Grand Master of Rhodes, the port of Ayas was given back to Armenia in 1347, but about the end of the same year the place was blockaded by the Egyptian fleet, and the Turcomans of Iconium (Konia) marched on Tarsus. Sultan Nassir, however, died about this time and disturbances arising in Egypt over the question of the succession weakened the Memlouks' war effort, with the result that the Armenians, in the next few years, recaptured Ayas, Alexandretta and other territory, and drove away all the marauding bands.

Later on, in 1359, the troops of Sultan Melik-en‑Nasser Hassan invaded Cilicia, laid waste all the land and carried away an immense quantity of booty. The Moslems of Karaman in the meantime, besieged the seaport of Gorigos, which, however, was rescued in 1361 by King Pierre I (de Lusignan) of Cyprus.

Pierre I of Cyprus

The Cypriots thereupon equipped a fleet of one hundred and forty-six galleys, which was joined by the naval forces of the Knights of Rhodes and those of the Pope. Pierre, at the head of this great force, won some signal victories; the notion of inciting Europe to embark on a new Crusade began to seethe in his mind. Accordingly, he set sail for Venice and thence to other capitals of the West, where he succeeded, with the support of Pope Urban V, in arousing some interest and obtaining a considerable sum of money.

Constantin IV (1365‑1373)

In 1363 Constantin III died without leaving any heir. One party in the capital appealed to the Pope, claiming the succession for the heirs of Guy. Urban V, however, preferred Leon, a kinsman of Pierre of Cyprus. But the Nationalist party, scorning the Papal wishes, elected the son of Hetoum the Chamberlain, nephew of the Marshal Bohemund, the father of Constantin II, and enthroned him as Constantin IV. Pierre consented to the "fait accompli", and lent the new sovereign his full support against his foreign enemies. Other Western nations — the Venetians, the Genoese and the Aragonians — remained neutral. They had signed commercial treaties with the p261Sultan of Egypt, despite Papal threats of excommunication against Christians who dared to trade with Moslems.

Raid on Egypt by Pierre I

Pierre I, undismayed by their indifference, organized an expedition and sailed from Venice in 1365 with a fleet of thirty galleys, carrying knights and soldiers of several nationalities — French, Italian, German, English and Greek. With this little army composed of 10,000 infantry and 1,000 horsemen, he made a landing at Alexandria, Egypt, and sacked the city, but abandoned it when a counter-attack was being launched by the Memlouks. From Egypt he turned northward and devastated all the Syrian coast, finally arriving in front of the Ayas, which he could not reduce because of the Armenian King's failure to give him assistance.

The King of Cyprus then returned to the West for additional subsidies and troops. While in Venice, he received a deputation which offered him the crown of Armenia. He took the matter seriously, for, sailing from Venice in 1368, he reached Cyprus with the intention of proceeding to Cilicia to be crowned king of that country; but he was assassinated in Nicosia, by some of his own nobles.

The death of Pierre emboldened the Egyptian, Syrian, and Anatolian foes to commit further ravages in the country. It was during this period of desperate and heroic resistance shown by the Armenians that there arose the intrepid figure of Libarid the Valiant, the last great Armenian general, whose very name spread terror and unwilling admiration among all the Moslem nations of the Near East.

As to King Constantin IV, he was, according to Jehan Dardel — not a wholly unbiased reporter — a tyrannical and selfish ruler, indifferent to the welfare of his country and to any possibility of its deliverance from its Moslem oppressors. He was finally assassinated in 1373, during a palace revolution. His wife, Queen Marie (Mariam), the widow of King Constantin II, who seems to have been always active in political affairs, sent ambassadors to his uncle, Philip of Tarentum (Southern Italy), titular emperor of Constantinople, and then to Pope Gregory XI, who endeavored to rally all Europe to the support of Armenia.

Unfortunately, a quarrel arising between Christian nations was to result in the loss, for all time,c of the cause of Christendom in the p262Levant. Some petty wrangle over precedence between the Venetians and the Genoese flared up in Cyprus. The island was devastated by the Genoese, who then levied a tribute upon it of 40,000 sequins.2 Upon the restoration of peace, Pierre II was crowned at Nicosia as King of Cyprus, and in Famagusta, as King of Jerusalem (January, 1372).

Pope Urges Aid to Queen

Leon, the only surviving grandson of Zabel (Isabelle) of Armenia, had been brought up in Cyprus. Pope Urban V had, as early as 1365, favored him for the throne of Armenia, but the prince had been detained in Cyprus by various intrigues and exigencies. Even before the assassination of King Constantin, the rebellious nobles had confided the regency to Queen Marie. In a letter written on February 1st, 1372, Pope Gregory XI informed Philip IV of Tarentum, that, "Marie, the Queen of Armenia, niece of Philip of Tarentum, requests that the Pope may come to her aid against the Moslems, who have put her realm in great danger. She has sent as ambassador to the Holy See, Johannes, Bishop of Sis, who expresses a wish that the Queen may find a husband from among the Latin princes, capable of defending and governing Armenia. The Pope urges Jehan, Prince of Antioch, Regent of Cyprus, the Venetians, the Genoese and the Knights of Rhodes to help the Armenians. He names Othon of Brunswick, a man combining the necessary qualities, to become the consort of Marie."

Leon De Lusignan chosen as King

But the pontifical letter had no effect. Queen Marie thereupon sent to Pierre II of Cyprus a deputation consisting of the knight Leon of Hamous and two prominent citizens of Sis. The letter credential which the deputation presented was a request for the dispatch to Cilicia of Leon de Lusignan, as the rightful heir to the throne. It was concurred in by the Armenian nobility and clergy, and the two queens, Marie and Jeanne. But Leon, a feudatory of Pierre II, because of the fiefs of his wife, Marguerite de Soissons, was not able, however, to set out at once for Cilicia. The chief reason for the delay, as alleged by King Pierre, was the troubled state of the island due to the recent incursions of the Genoese; but another p263and major reason was the lack of funds with which to finance the journey.

The Armenian envoys returned home by way of Gorigos, the only port that had not fallen into Moslem hands. They were accompanied by the Knight Constant, equerry of the King-elect, and by Manuel the interpreter, to act as guardians of the royal treasury. Upon arriving outside of Sis, these man had to cross the lines of Bektimour, the Governor of Damascus, who had invested the capital — though he was later forced to raise the siege.

Leon Blackmailed for Permission to Leave Cyprus

Matters were meanwhile becoming worse for Leon in Cyprus. The piratical Genoese, now become the lords of the island, demanded as indemnity and interest, exorbitant sums from everybody — from King Pierre down to the humblest citizen. Leon, too, was forced to pay a "tax" of 280 gold livres (36,000 silver besants). His silver plate, his crown and wardrobe were seized, and restored only on payment of 300 ducats. The admiral of the Genoese fleet kept for himself the finest stone of the crown, a ruby. For permission to leave the island, Leon was compelled, moreover, to transfer to Catherine of Aragon, the mother of King Pierre, the fief of his wife, which yielded an annual income of 1,000 gold besants. Leon had also to undertake under oath not to enter the castle of Gorigos, on that west coast of Cilicia which was inhabited mostly by Armenians, but to land on the island. The Cypriots, to whom the main castle of Gorigos had been ceded by the Armenians, denied the local population the happiness of greeting their national sovereign. Leon resented this double humiliation by the Genoese and Cypriots, but refrained from expressing his feelings, for the reason that he might be forced to depend upon both for help against the Egyptians and Turcomans, who were blocking his way to Sis. By selling almost all his valuables, he obtained some cash, for which the King of Cyprus lent him a hundred gendarmes, under the command of the French equerry, Sohier Doulçart. This small force, with the addition of some cross-bowmen and archers recruited at Gorigos, was all that Leon could muster as an army with which to face his enemies. The Genoese admiral, even though he had accepted the sums of money which were sent to him, had refused to supply him with vessels with which to attack Tarsus by way of the river, "because of the trade agreement which the Genoese had made with the Saracens."


[image ALT: An engraving of zzz.]
Castle of Gorigos

p264 Leon Escapes from Cyprus

Pondering the dire consequences which might result from the groundless reports of projects attributed to himself in favor of King Pierre's rivals, Leon saw that he had not a moment to lose. He sent his wife and mother to the city of Gorigos, and, leaving the island where he had remained as he had promised, he set out with a few followers, under cover of the night, and arrived at a spot near the mouth of the Adana River, thirty miles from Gorigos. Doulçart, the knight, joined him the following day with twenty-five horsemen and as many arbalesters. Moving forward cautiously, the party had to avoid Tarsus; the rest of the journey was a hazardous one, the whole country being infested with hostile hordes. Leon procured guides from the bowmen, who were on foot, so that they might traverse shorter and safer mountain trails. Leon and his horsemen, twenty-five in all, rode two days and nights, almost without a halt. They dismounted before dawn at a distance of three miles from Sis, and sent a messenger to inform the city of their coming.

Leon V3 (1374‑1375) greeted with Joy

The citizens, led by the Katholikos, the bishops, priests and nobles came out in great number with music and dancing to welcome their king. They were transported with joy, for many of them had been so discouraged that they were planning to revolt, put the members of the Regency to death and surrender the city to the Moslems. Four days later, a force of a hundred and fifty armed men was dispatched to bring in the mother of Leon and the Queen. They arrived safely at Anazarba, and from there travelled to within a lieue (league) of Sis. Here, they were met by the King at the head of a procession of troops and conceptions, each one with a torch in his hand, making the occasion one of joy and festivity. Little did the jubilant throng dream that the church bells which rang for the coronation of Leon may be said to have tolled also the funeral knell of the last of the Armenian kingdoms.

Finds Empty Treasury

The first care of Leon, after the days of rejoicing, was an examination p265into the state of the treasury. To his bitter disappointment, he found it empty and the accounting unsatisfactory. Upon further investigation and after hearing testimony from government functionaries, he found that the members of the Regency — Mariam, the dowager of Constantin III and Baron Basile — were responsible for the defalcation. They deserved severe punishment, but Leon granted them pardon as a grace in honor of his coronation day.

Leon's Coronation

Leon's wish was that he be consecrated by a Roman bishop, but he found that this desire had to be modified. On September 14th, 1374, the coronation ceremony was performed twice in the cathedral of St. Sophia at Sis; first by the Archbishop of Narbonne in accordance with the Latin ritual, and then under Armenian rites by the Katholikos Boghos (Paul), Queen Marguerite of Soissons, the daughter of Jehan the Baille of Famagusta in Cyprus, was crowned in the same manner.

It is difficult now to say whether this double consecration was a political mistake on the part of Leon, but it certainly offended the Nationalist party and brought about unpleasant consequences.

Siege of Sis

Almost all important cities and castles in Cilicia, except Sis and Anazarba, were occupied by the troops of Melik Ashraf Shaban of Egypt; and two Turcoman chiefs, Davoud Beg and Aboubekr, each with eleven thousand warriors, threatened the very outskirts of Sis. Curiously enough, they did not conduct themselves like ordinary foes, but supplied the Armenians with the necessary provisions. Having received presents from Davoud Beg on his coronation day, Leon returned the courtesy and renewed the truce under the old terms. But a dissatisfied group precipitated a quarrel and Sis was subjected to siege for three months. The Frankish bowmen saved the situation by their skill, and the Turcomans were compelled to abide by the old agreement and to supply the capital with victuals, in consideration of the payment of the stipulated tribute.

The Renegade

There lived in Cairo at this time an Armenian renegade, named Ashot, son of Baron Oshin and brother of Constantin III's wife. The anti-Latin party among the Armenians, claiming that Ashot had p266a right to the crown, encouraged him to come at the head of an Egyptian Army, to take possession of his domain. Jehan Dardel has given the following picture of this invasion, although some scholars do not give full credence to the story.

Treachery in Sis

The Turcoman chief, Aboubekr, a satellite of Egypt, received orders from Cairo to starve the Armenian capital. Within the city, Leon's domestic enemies were secretly negotiating to deliver the city to the besiegers. The King, warned of the intended assault, gathered the population within the upper part of the city and in the castle, both well fortified.

The lower city did not seem likely to be able to hold out long, but the royal palace, surrounded by a massive wall and vast enough to shelter a considerable portion of the citizens, could adequately be defended. Within this enclosure, referred to by Dardel, as "the bourg", were other edifices, among them the metropolitan church of St. Sophia. Because of the ruggedness of the rock upon which they were built, the walls of the castle were irregular and unequal in height. These irregularities divided the castle roughly into three parts, each with flanking towers and bastions, resting upon the three principal pinnacles of the rock. Open spaces separated these distinct constructions, which, however, were connected by sunken ways cut in the rock and along the precipices. The southern side, where the donjon rose, was fortified more carefully than the other points of the stronghold.

Lower City Captured

On January 15th, 1375, Aboubekr, at the head of 10,000 men, captured the lower part of the city, which was given over to pillage, but the upper city and the castle remained impregnable. The anti-Latin faction had decided to obtain peace for themselves by submission to the Sultan. The Katholikos Paul (1374‑1378), was one of the principal authors of this movement, thus "demonstrating," says Dardel, "that he preferred the temporal domination of a Moslem sovereign to the spiritual supremacy of the Pope."

Upper City Evacuated

In response to the appeal of the traitors, the governor of Aleppo, Seifeddin Ishk-Timour, sent 15,000 men to assist the Turcomans, p267and on February 24th the Egyptians were moving under the walls of Sis. More than 30,000 of the enemy thronged around the fortress, amid the ruins of the city and of "the bourg." Leon, anticipating the final assault, assembled the grandees and the clergy, made them all swear on the Gospel to remain loyal to the Christian faith and their sovereign, and promise to die for Christ. He then evacuated the upper city and set it afire by night.


[image ALT: An engraving of zzz.]
Ruins of the Fortress of Sis

King wounded

The enemy began the attack on the following day; but the only accessible point on the steep rocks was the platform which extended in front of the gate. The besieged put up a vigorous resistance, and the King himself was manning an arbalest when he was struck by an iron projectile which broke his jaw and knocked out three teeth. He retired to the castle to have his wound dressed, while the Saracens, considerably mauled, were retreating.

That same evening Ishk-Timour dispatched a letter, informing Leon, "that his lord, the Sultan, wants him (the King) to know that if he is willing to surrender the castle and become a Mohammedan, the Sultan will make him a Grand Admiral and restore his country." Leon's reply was that he would perish rather than renounce his God; but he offered to pay tribute to the Sultan as in the past, if the siege were raised and his possessions restored to him.

Traitor kills King's guards

This rebuff infuriated the Moslem commander, who thereupon intensified the assault. In the meantime he was informed by traitors p268of the King's injury, and that the besieged were in a serious plight because the food supply of the fortress was exhausted. The Nationalists, moreover, won to their way of thinking the Cypriot knight, Matthew Chiappe, who had recently married the widow of King Constantin III. Chiappe was the sort who would stop at no treachery to effect his ends, even making an attempt on the life of the King. Together with a number of Frankish accomplices, he broke into the donjon where the King had his quarters, and killed Leon's Armenian guards to the last man. The King in great fear for the life of his wife and twin infant daughters, imprisoned in the donjon at that moment, took refuge in Queen Mariam's rooms. He offered to pardon the insurgents, but in vain, and a terrific struggle ensued. Four times the loyal Armenians attempted to enter the donjon, and each time failed.

Leon yields

Meanwhile the rebels were letting the enemy in by means of ropes. A Jacobite friar, a companion of the Bishop of Hebron, who happened to be among the prisoners in the donjon, secretly let Armenians enter who took possession of the fort. Other conspirators instigated the mob to turn against the King, and determined to give the place over to the enemy, they admitted them into the outer works. Leon, wounded and in bed, had beside him only his wife and children and the faithful knight, Sohier Doulçart; a few soldiers still defended the donjon keep. Resistance being no longer possible, Leon sent an emissary to enemy headquarters.

Fall of Sis. End of the Kingdom

Receiving a letter of safe conduct from the Egyptian commander, Ishk-Timour, Leon, though scarcely able to walk, rose from his bed, his wounded head in bandages, and descended from the tower, accompanied by his family and escort. And so, on April 13th, 1375, only ten months after his landing on Armenian soil, Leon V gave up his sovereignty, and with it the last Armenian kingdom passed out of existence.4

p269 The Memlouk general made a triumphant entry into the city of Aleppo with the captives in his train — the Armenian King, his Queen and children, the Dowager Queen Mariam, the knight Souhier Doulçart, his wife the Countess of Gorigos, the Katholikos Boghos I, many Armenian barons and dignitaries of Sis. These captives were forced, on many occasions, to prostrate themselves before the conqueror in public. From Aleppo, Leon was taken to Cairo, where he arrived in July. The coming of the Armenian captives brought on a three-day public celebration, noisy with the beating of cymbals and other instruments. Thereafter, yielding to the entreaties of prominent Armenian residents, the infant Sultan, or rather, his all-powerful minister Barquq, released Leon for detention, and allowed him a daily pension of sixty dirhems and privileges accorded to royal prisoners. Nevertheless, he was always under strict police surveillance.

It is through the chronicle of Jehan Dardel, the Franciscan monk, a native of Etampes in France, that the events of the short and tragic reign of Leon V are known to us. This monk's judgment upon p270the "Armins" (Armenians) is quite severe, but mature reflection upon the desperate state of the last defenders of the Christian kingdom against the Moslems and the famine that raged within the castle of Sis, may win for them some indulgence in their final recusancy.

Cilician Armenia Continuously harassed by foes

From the day of the unfurling of the banner of revolt by Roupen, to the hour of Leon's emerging from the castle for his capitulation, Cilician Armenia was a scene of almost perpetual warfare. Hundreds of times its towns and countryside were devastated by the invading Moslems, and its people slain or carried away into slavery. And the fall, one by one, of the Latin states of the Levant, inevitably undermined Armenian morale and fortitude.

For other wrongs suffered by the unfortunate kingdom, most of the blame rests upon the Armenians themselves. On many critical occasions, when the nation was threatened by a foreign enemy, religious intolerance and political and personal ambitions within the State, divided and betrayed it. The call to patriotic duty would have been more eagerly heeded by the Armenians, of course, had they not been disheartened by the action of their fellow-Christian nations, both near and to the west, who sacrificed spiritual and moral interests for the sake of temporal and material gain. It was not unusual for an Armenian landlord to be attacked by a Frankish baron — sometimes backed by a Moslem chieftain also. This explains why, several years after having been greeted as God-sent messengers, the "nation of the Franks" was referred to by Michael the Syrian in his chronicles as "oblivious of all benefactions lavished upon them."

De Morgan's praise of Cilician state

"Whatever it may be, says de Morgan, "the Cilician state, founded by men from far off in the East and Europeanized through its contact with the Crusaders, has left a beautiful page in the grand epic of the Middle Ages. Despite troubles and wars, in the midst of the greatest dangers, the Armenians of Cilicia devoted themselves to literature and arts, built churches, monasteries, castles and fortresses and flourished in commerce. This principality, even in the midst of all the horrors of war, displayed a surprising vitality, by comparison with the timidity with which most other peoples of the p271Near East succumbed to the brute force of foreign conquerors. The heroic resistance which a handful of brave Armenians offered for three centuries, should command our recognition and admiration."

An appraisal by Langlois and others

That this last episode in the story of Armenia is full of romance, is admitted by all those who have studied the subject. In a passing remark about the monuments of Cilicia, Gustave Schlumberger refers to it as "the glorious kingdom of Lesser Armenia." Here is the testimony of Victor Langlois: "Numerous are those events, those brilliant traditions, — and however lamely we may follow the course of Armenia's victories and progress; however hastily we may examine the organization of her aristocracy and clergy; however slightly we may study her relations with the Western nations and the wars which she waged against the enemies, still shall we see that . . . the historical documents of this country contain the memories of a glorious past."


[image ALT: An engraving of zzz.]
View of the Castle of Sahi-Maran (Cilicia)

Leon is ransomed

Leon's life in Cairo was not a happy one. He lost by death not only his wife, Marguerite de Soissons, but also his two children. In March, 1377, the King of Cyprus appealed to the Sultan for the liberation of Leon, but without success. In July of the same year, many pilgrims — nobles, knights, esquires and others — passed through p272Cairo on their way from Europe to Jerusalem. Among them was friar Jehan Dardel. He was invited to say mass for King Leon, engaged in long conversations with him and became acquainted with the story of his misfortunes and his hopes. He was finally persuaded to remain with Leon, as his chaplain and counselor and eventually became his ambassador. Bearing the royal ring and letters addressed to several of the sovereigns of Europe, Dardel left Cairo two years later, on September 11th, 1379. Arriving in Spain, he received from the Kings of Castile and Aragon considerable sums of money to be used toward the purchase of the liberation of Leon. These, plus 3,000 squirrel coats, a golden cup with silver and a gilt jar, at length obtained permission for Leon to leave Egypt. On October 7th, 1382, he sailed from the port of Alexandria, together with Dardel, upon whom, when they reached the Island of Rhodes, he conferred the title of Chancellor. From Rhodes he sailed for Europe, prompted not only by a desire to express his gratitude for assistance, but by new hopes for a betterment of his fortunes.

His life, thereafter, was like that of all exiled kings. The sovereigns of Castile and Aragon were generous towards him, the Pope of Avignon, Clement VII, whom Leon had preferred to the Pope of Rome, awarded to him the decoration of the "Golden Rose," and the King of Navarre, Charles II, whom he visited, lavished gifts upon him. But these favors cost the donors little and availed the wandering monarch nothing. Nowhere did he encounter any disposition to aid him in recovering his domain.

Leon as an Apostle of Peace

Paris, the capital of France, offered the ex-king a more extensive field for diplomatic activity. He was received by King Charles VI, in a manner due to kindred royalty. The appreciation in palace circles of Leon's "sagacity, moderation and penetration," was of more import and value to him than the annual pension, opulent lodgings and warm affection bestowed upon him. It was because of this confidence in his guest that Charles accepted a serious proposal submitted by him. In Leon's opinion, an Anglo-French accord was indispensable for the political rebirth of Armenia. But he observed with deep anxiety that the existing truce between these two powers was soon to come to its specified end. He hoped that he might utilize the respect felt for him by the French court to bring about an extended peace, and then appeal for their cooperation.

p273 Having been given free access to the floor of the French Parliament, he attended the meeting in which the resumption of hostilities was discussed. The majority favored war. Those who were for peace requested the King of Armenia to become their advocate. Although "a prince of ardent spirit and great perspicacity," he had maintained silence until then, because his knowledge of theº Latin language was defective and he spoke French with difficulty. However, he now took the floor and spoke as follows;—

"Honorable Dukes, I must admit that the desire of revenge for injuries inflicted on one's homeland is a noble sentiment. And yet, with the permission of the King, I must say also that it would be advisable, even to forgo this legitimate revenge, to comply with established rules, and to avoid anger, which always leads to tragic ends. I think, therefore, that although your enemies have often violated truce pacts, you would in the present case be wise to beware of precipitate steps, and delicately invite them to conciliation. If they obstinately remain haughty and implacable, the justice of your cause will be more manifest. Your ancestors have ever adopted this policy. For my part, I shall be ready, if it pleases you, to undertake any mission in this affair, so that the sincerity of my word may be unquestioned. No friendly connection whatsoever binds me to the English, and yet an appeal by me may, perhaps, be more fruitful than one by a delegate from your own nation, against which they cherish inexorable hatred."

These utterances of Leon carried weight. He had been unfortunate during his brief reign, but he was not a stranger to the diplomatic field. Although short of stature, "he was great in valor, ardent in spirit and exceptionally clever in practical dealings. His exquisite civility won distinction for him. His external grace and decorum were the characteristic marks of princely lineage."5

Leon in England

The dethroned King of Armenia was at last dispatched to England as an envoy of the French Government. King Richard II considered it a rare honor, enjoyed by none of his predecessors, to welcome such an eminent prince to his realm. Attracted both by the luster of Leon's fame and the repute of his bravery, the English p274monarch was moved to offer him a reverential hospitality. He sent a number of high functionaries of the palace and dignitaries of the court to meet the guest, while he himself went forth with a mounted escort to the approaches of the city, where he greeted and embraced Leon affectionately, manifesting by words and countenance his joy over the arrival of the royal delegate.

A true delineation of the efforts of Leon for peace, is beyond our power; but we possess a precious document — the text of the speech delivered by him before King Richard and the Lords in Westminster Palace at the beginning of the year 1386. It is as follows;—

"I wish to tell you, not by way of flattery, but prompted by brotherly love, that the people of the Orient have until now admired your accomplishments, and they would not forbear to praise you, had you and France consented to achieve friendliness between you. But fate compels me, helas! to make a sorrowful and bitter confession. It was only because of your discord that the unbelievers were able to oppose me victoriously with their arms. I declare to you that I, once a king and now an exile, ruled in tears and mourning. The fickleness of force cast me into an abyss. Henceforth, the Crown is to me only a mournful adornment, and the royal turban once the decoration of my brow, will be as a veil of sacrifice, destined to immolation. O mighty princes! had you been willing to dedicate the support of your arms to Christ, the Christians of the East, who were saved by the blood of Christ, would not have been condemned to languish in grief, misery and slavery. The places long identified with the Christian faith, especially the Holy Cradle of Jesus in Bethlehem, and Zion, glorified through His miracles, would not have been subjected to the intolerable yoke of the Turks, Saracens and Persians. You, however, straying from the true course, have been supplying deadly weapons against the Christian world.

"Through a stretch of full sixty years, neither side can boast of anything but invasion and destruction of cities, the plundering or burning of villages and the imprisonment of the inhabitants of the countryside. The war was marked by alternate successes, the net result being only bloodshed. Tell me, I adjure you, which side is the winner? Let men of experience and erudition answer. If you boast of your victories, you must at least confess that their cost is too high. Should you count the French fortresses subjugated by you — all but one, by the way, lost already — your opponents might retort that it is better to preserve a country than to expand its frontiers. p275Illustrious princes, if I am to speak the truth rather than utter honeyed words, I shall not hesitate to declare that the motive which has so far kept the flame of war alive, is your ambition to invade France. The kings of that country had, by long possession, assured themselves of the crown which they had so valiantly earned; and if the strength of a throne is based upon the obedience of its subjects, I must consider the throne of France unshakable. The hostility between the two nations has dragged on too long. In my opinion, both rivals should be implored to be satisfied with their vast territories, to cease the struggle between their peoples, so that they might be able to smite the enemies of Christ and to throw off the yoke of the Christians scattered through the Orient — those Christians who are day by day waiting for your help and humbly solicit it, O exalted princes!"

Here ended the exhortation of Leon. His audience was moved and felt deeply the urge of chivalrous sentiment and Christian duty. The English King, too, expressed his disposition towards new negotiations and willingness to postpone warlike preparations in accordance with the request of "our cousin, the King of Armenia," (nostre cousyn, le roy d'Armenye).

Leon returned to Paris, uplifted by ardent hopes. Once more parleys were held, but the desire objective, alas! was not realized. War was again declared and carried on with the usual fury and obstinacy.


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Seal and signature of King Leo V of Armenia

p276 Last years of Leon V

Leon's later visits to the courts of European rulers were a series of glittering pageants. He was greeted at the wedding of the King of Castile as the best man, and was honored with the title of Chief Magistrate of the cities of Madrid, Villareal and Andujar. He received magnificent gifts and pensions from the Spanish monarchs, as well as those of France and England, and was everywhere promised aid in his political ambitions. None of it ever materialized, but he never ceased hoping until his death which occurred November 29, 1393, in the royal palace of Tournelle, in the Castle of St. Ouen, where he had spent his last years. His funeral was largely attended by royalty and nobility, who witnessed with curiosity the strange Armenian burial services, and the use of white mourning garb instead of black. He was buried in the monastery of the Celestins, but during the French Revolution, his ashes, together with those of other sovereigns, were scattered to the winds. His tomb was later placed in the basilica of St Denis. The epitaph thereon reads (in translation), "Here lies the most noble and excellent prince, Leon de Lysigne Fifth, the Latin King of the Kingdom of Armenia, who rendered his soul to God on the 29th day of November, in the Year of Grace, 1393. Pray for him."

Leon left two sons, Guyot, who became a military captain, and Philippe, who was ordained an archdeacon.

After the death of Leon, Jacob I, King of Cyprus, a kinsman and heir, assumed the title of "King of Cyprus, Jerusalem and Armenia." The last of the Lusignan family, Catherine Cornaro, the Queen of Cyprus, was the daughter of the Knight Marcus, grand-daughter of the Doge of Venice. On her death in 1510, the line of the Lusignans of Cyprus was extinguished, and the title of "King of Armenia" abolished.6

p277 The other captives from Sis, Katholikos Boghos and several dignitaries, had also been released. Ex‑Queen Mariam, the Count of Gorigos, Cilicia and his princely wife Fimi, departed to Jerusalem and spent their latter years in the Armenian convent of Sourp Hagop (St. James). Mariam, also known as Maroun, had a daughter, Josephine Pinna, who passed away in Jerusalem in 1405. Their tomb is in the Armenian Convent.


The Author's Notes:

1 "A great loss to Christianity, the death of so good a prince, fearless, brave and highly enterprising."

2 A gold coin. Its value was about $2.25.

Thayer's Note: in 2004, about $4.50, if we assume equal purchasing power, which of course we shouldn't.

3 There were six Leons; the first, however, was merely a baron: the second, as King, was Leon I. Because of this, some confusion has arisen in the numbering of the Leons.

4 The Arab historian, Abul-Mehasen, writes of this event as follows;—

"This year the capital city of Sis was captured after three months of siege, by the Emir Ashiq Timour of Mardin, the Governor of Aleppo, and the Armenian State (devlet-al‑Ermen) destroyed. May God be glorified! This good (p269)news was spread, and Meliq Ashraf (the Sultan) was enormously rejoiced by this great victory."

An Armenian eye-witness says; "How can one describe the outrages endured by our crosses and the Holy Books torn to pieces; and the demolition of the sacred altars?" Another witness, Bishop Zacharias, says, "Who can narrate by pen the mournful and lamentable happenings witnessed by my own eyes; the brilliant jewels and bright suns and stars and moons fallen down?" (From Alishan's Sisouan).

5 The quotations are from "Chroniques de Religieux de St. Denys." See also Froissard and Juvenal des Ursins.

6 The duration of the ten Near Eastern States of the same era;—

Frank Principality of Edessa 46 years
Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem 88 years
Principality of Tripoli, Lebanon 180 years
Principality of Antioch 169 years
Principality of Acre 187 years
Seljuq Sultanate of Roum (Konia) 213 years
Latin Empire of Constantinople 57 years
Greek Empire of Trebizond 258 years
Kingdom of Cyprus 295 years
Kingdom of Cilicia 295 years

Thayer's Notes:

a French petty royal family: this awkward phrase navigates around two different realities; not the French royal family, but a petty royal family — recent and essentially artificial Latin kings of Jerusalem and Cyprus, princes of Antioch — of French origin.

b Jehan Dardel: for a good summary of his life see the article Jean Dardel in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

c the loss to Christianity of the Near East, for all time: much like "final resting-place", an unwarrantedly omniscient phrase. There is of course nothing impossible in the return to Christianity of its homelands.


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Page updated: 24 Apr 05