When Sybil of Jerusalem was born in 1160, the crusader state of Jerusalem was not a safe or stable place. Although the land was conquered during the First Crusade and ruled by her family, the Ayyubid Sultanate also looked to the Holy Land. Sybil’s father was Amalrich I, Count of Jaffa and Ascalon, and brother of King Baldwin III of Jerusalem, but her mother, Agnes of Edessa, saw her family’s lands taken over by the Saracens. When Baldwin III died without heirs, the Jerusalem court ruled that Amalrich was the rightful heir to the throne and that he would be king – on one condition: to annul his marriage to Agnes.
The official reasons given by the court for this decision are that Amalrich and Agnes are relatives – a fact discovered after 6 years of marriage – but probably the reasons are far more politically motivated. A woman without land but from a powerful family would be a dangerous queen, and the court probably fears that her clan will use her position to gain power in Jerusalem. There are also allegations that she was married to another man before her husband. Whatever the reasons, Amalrich agrees to annul the marriage in order to claim the throne and rule the kingdom. At just 3 years old, Sybil watches her mother be banished with a single word.
Agnes will not play an important role in her daughter’s life – she is landless and a political pawn. From her earliest years, Sybil enters a world in which a woman’s voice, her opinions, her hopes and desires have no meaning.
Sybil has also been removed. While her younger brother, Baldwin, stayed with their father to learn the art of being king, she was sent to a convent in Bethany, just outside the Holy City. There she was raised by the abbess princess Iveta, her father’s aunt. She rarely sees her father or brother. In the monastery, all her teachings focused on the scriptures and church traditions; she learns a little about how to govern – after all, she’s a girl, and so the whole focus is on her brother. She grew up between those sacred walls, and although we can’t be sure what she looks like, she probably inherits the traits of her family: blond hair, tall and eagle nose. Sybil becomes a beautiful princess and probably this beauty is teased to her many times.
In another world, Sybil would lead a quiet and peaceful life, but by 1170 it became clear that her brother Baldwin – the only male heir to the family – suffered from a disease we know today as leprosy. Therefore, Jerusalem must find a strong, suitable man for the girl to rule with. Any mistake here would destroy the ground beneath their feet. And her father died soon after.
In October 1176, Wilhelm of Monferrato, tall and handsome, married 16-year-old Sybil, who soon became pregnant. Eight months later, however, Wilhelm died. He was stricken with a fast-acting disease and at the age of 17 the princess was not only a mother but also a widow.
Already 20 years old and rejected by several nobles as a potential wife, on Easter in 1180, Sybil did something that shocked everyone. She remarries. Not for a European nobleman or a descendant of a king, but for a landless man and a virtually unknown fourth son – Guy de Lusignan (pictured). The reasons behind this union have confused historians for generations.
Of all the speculations, one seems the most probable, although quite incomprehensible to the people at the time – Sybil just loves him…
He was appointed regent of Baldwin, but the two men did not see each other face to face. Baldwin did not think that a protracted war with the Ayyubids would be a good solution, and accordingly sought peace with Saladin. However, Gi is not in the opinion of the young king, for which he was dismissed from his position in 1183. Baldwin is in fact so skeptical of Guy’s ability to rule that he crowns Sybil’s son as co-king – this act removes her and Guy’s association with hereditary line. However, this was all Baldwin could do to defend his kingdom before he finally succumbed to his disease in 1185. His death caused a division in the nation between the faithful of Sybil and those who swore allegiance to her son. However, this conflict did not last long, as at the end of 1186 Sybil’s son, Baldwin V, a sick child, died. So there is only one option – Sybil must be queen.
However, distrust of her husband is widespread in the royal court and even her fans put her in front of an ultimatum – she will be queen only if she annuls her marriage to Guy. Sybil accepts, on the other hand, one condition – she is free to choose her next husband when she becomes queen. Desperate to get rid of the man, the royal court agrees.
When Sybil is crowned, the patriarch tells her, “Ma’am, you are a woman; it is proper to have a man by your side to help you rule your kingdom. Do you see this crown? Take it and give it to a man who can rule. ”Sybil takes the crown, then cries out to her chosen one,“ Sir, go out and get this crown, because I don’t know who better I can give it to. ”And when he kneeling before her, she puts the crown on his head. The shock in the hall should be overwhelming, since the man Sybil is calling is none other than Guy.
Her immediate concern, however, is not the opinion of the nobles, but Saladin’s troops coming to the city. They were brought together by the kingdom’s fighting force, but as its critics fear, it was not born to rule nations or armies. In the battle of Hatin, thousands of crusaders were killed and Guy was taken prisoner. Meanwhile, Sybil prepares to defend the city, but the lack of defenders due to the losses at Hatin means that the way out is inevitable – and Jerusalem falls.
Saladin, unlike Guy, is a very capable and cunning ruler. He realized that by holding him captive, he was actually helping the cause of the Crusaders, and so in 1188 he released him. They reunited with Sybil, and together they went to Tire, the only city in their kingdom that had not yet fallen. However, they were refused entry because Conrad of Monferrato, who led the city’s defense, did not recognize his right to rule, citing Baldwin IV’s will. Thus, Guy and Sybil are left truly alone, without land to rule, and without friends.