Three Charlottes, a grandmother and two granddaughters, give a glimpse into the Middle Ages and the politics of the Crusades.
Charlotte de Bourbon le Marche (long before bourbon was invented in Kentucky)
Queen of Cyprus, Titular Queen consort of Armenia and Jerusalem
Charlotte de Bourbon (1388 – 1422) was the Queen consort of Cyprus and titular Queen consort of Armenia and Jerusalem through her marriage to King Janus of Cyprus. She was his second wife and the mother of his six legitimate children, which included King John II and Anne de Lusignan. It was Charlotte’s influence which was instrumental in the revival of French culture at the royal court in Nicosia.
Charlotte was born in France in 1388, one of the seven children of John I, Count of La Marche and Catherine de Vendôme. On 25 August 1411, at Saint Sophia’s Cathedral in Nicosia, Cyprus, Charlotte married as his second wife, King Janus of Cyprus and Armenia and titular King of Jerusalem. He was the son of King James I of Cyprus and Helvis of Brunswick-Grubenhagen. Charlotte’s lavish retinue which accompanied her to Cyprus included many musicians.
The marriage of Janus and Charlotte was described as a “cornerstone in the revitalisation of French culture in the Lusignan court that characterised Janus’s rule”. Following her marriage, she immediately established a socièté courtoise at the royal court at Nicosia, where French literature and music flourished.
Charlotte died on 15 January 1422 of the plague. She was buried in the Royal Monastery of Saint Dominic’s in Nicosia. Her many descendants included Queen Charlotte of Cyprus, Queen Jeanne III of Navarre; French Kings Charles VIII, Francis I, Henry II, Francis II, Charles IX, Henry III, Henry IV and the subsequent Bourbon kings; Anne of France, and Mary, Queen of Scots. She is also an ancestress of the current British Royal Family.
Charlotte of Savoy, Queen consort of France (1441 – 1483)
Charlotte of Savoy was the second wife and only Queen consort of Louis XI of France. She had three surviving children, one of whom succeeded Louis as King Charles VIII of France, with her eldest daughter, Anne of France, acting as his regent.
She was a daughter of Louis, Duke of Savoy, and Anne of Cyprus. Her maternal grandparents were Janus of Cyprus and Charlotte de Bourbon-La Marche, for whom she was probably named. She was one of 19 children, 14 of whom survived infancy.
On 11 March 1443, when Charlotte was just over a year old, she was betrothed to Frederick of Saxony (28 August 1439- 23 December 1451), eldest son of Frederick II, Elector of Saxony. For reasons unknown, the betrothal was annulled. Less than eight years later on 14 February 1451, Charlotte married Louis, Dauphin of France (future Louis XI), eldest son of Charles VII of France and Marie of Anjou. The bride was only nine years old and the groom twenty-seven. The marriage, which had taken place without the consent of the French king, was Louis’ second; his first wife, Margaret of Scotland, had died childless in 1445. Upon her marriage, Charlotte became Dauphine of France.
In spite of her virtues, Louis neglected her. For example, upon his succession to the throne of France, he immediately abandoned her in Burgundy – where the two had been in exile – to secure his inheritance, leaving the young Queen dependent upon the aid of Isabella of Bourbon, wife of Charles, Heir of Burgundy. A contemporary of Charlotte’s noted that “while she was an excellent Princess in other respects, she was not a person in whom a man could take any great delight” (possibly because her husband was NOT a pedophile?). She was, however, praised for the taste and excellence of her personal library. On 22 July 1461, Charlotte became Queen consort of France at the age of 18. She held that position until her husband’s death on 30 August 1483.
Charlotte gave her husband eight children; however, only three survived infancy; these were the future King Charles VIII, and princesses Anne of France (better known as Anne de Beaujeu), who would act as regent of the kingdom, and Jeanne of France, who later became the consort of Louis XII of France. After a solitary life, Charlotte died on 1 December 1483 in Amboise, just a few months after her husband’s death. She is buried with him in the Notre-Dame de Cléry Basilica in Cléry-Saint-André (Loiret) in the arrondissement of Orléans.
Charlotte, Queen of Cyprus
Charlotte (1444 – 1487), was Queen of Cyprus and Princess of Antioch, as well as titular Queen of Jerusalem and Armenia.
She was the eldest and only surviving daughter of King John II of Cyprus and Helena Palaiologina.
She had an illegitimate half-brother, James, born to her father’s beautiful Greek mistress Marietta de Patras. Charlotte’s mother, Queen Helena was extremely jealous of Marietta, who was already her husband’s mistress at the time of their marriage. Shortly after the wedding, Helena ordered her rival’s nose to be cut off. It is good to be the queen.
Her paternal grandparents were King Janus of Cyprus and Charlotte de Bourbon-La Marche. Her mother was a daughter of Theodore II Palaiologos, Lord of Morea and his wife Cleofa Malatesta. Theodore was in turn a son of Eastern Roman Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos and Helena Dragaš.
She was raised in the Byzantine tradition and spoke fluent Greek, which she learned from her mother. She could write French, Italian, and possibly Latin, but throughout her life spoke mainly Greek. Due to her outspoken manner, Pope Pius II called her the “Greek torrent.”
At the age of 14, she succeeded to the Cypriot throne upon the death of her father in 1458. Her illegitimate half-brother, James challenged her right to the crown. With the support of the Egyptians, he forced her to flee the island in 1463, and he was later crowned king. She made a military attempt to regain her throne, but was unsuccessful, and died childless in Rome.
I have so much enjoyed learning about the life and times of princesses and queens who share my name. Next week, authors and artists.