Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

Dr. Helena P. Schrader is the winner of more than 20 literary accolades including:
BEST BIOGRAPHY 2017: "Envoy of Jerusalem"
BEST CHRISTIAN HISTORICAL FICTION 2017: "Envoy of Jerusalem"
BEST SPIRITUAL/RELIGIOUS FICTION 2017: "Envoy of Jerusalem"
Find out more about her published and future novels, and share insights from her research here.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The House of Ibelin: Eschiva the Invisible


Although Eschiva d'Ibelin was the founder of a dynasty that ruled Cyprus for over three hundred years, we know very little about her -- only enough to sense a possibly vital role at a critical juncture in history. 


What we do know is that she was the daughter of Baldwin d'Ibelin, the Lord of Ramla and Mirabel, and his wife Richildis. She was married at a very early age to Aimery de Lusignan -- before his brother came to Jerusalem and seduced his way into a crown. We also know that she had at least six children by Aimery, three of whom lived to adulthood.

One of the most bizarre and curious recorded facts about her life was that she was "captured by pirates" and held for ransom in or about 1196.  She was rescued by the King of Armenia, who had "high regard" for members of her family (i.e. the Ibelins, not the Lusignans.) She was released to her husband and sailed back to safety on Cyprus. 

Once there Eschiva lived long enough to know the Holy Roman Emperor had recognized her husband as King of Cyprus but died shortly before his formal coronation in the fall of 1197.  We do not know how old she was when she died or the cause of death. Within a few months, however, her husband had remarried, this time to Queen Isabella of Jerusalem, the daughter of her Aunt Maria Comnena.

In between these naked facts is a huge amount of possible drama. Eschiva was married to a landless adventurer as a child and ended up married to a king without changing husbands. Her father married her to one Lusignan but hated his brother so much that he preferred to renounce his land and titles and leave the kingdom rather than swear homage to him. Where did that leave Eschiva?  Physically she stayed with her husband, but was her heart with her father? Maybe. Then again maybe not; after all her father had divorced her blameless mother to marry someone more influential -- who would give him sons. 


Eschiva lived in the very vortex of Jerusalem politics in the last two decades of the 12th century. She was an Ibelin by birth and a Lusignan by marriage, and she founded a dynasty that would rule Cyprus for more than 300 years. But was she politically active? Did she have a say in affairs of state? Did she whisper advice to her husband? Or did she console and support her sister-in-law Sibylla? Was she there telling Sibylla not to renounce Guy, no matter what the pressure was from the High Court? Or did she see what her father and uncle saw? That Guy would be a disastrous king, and try to talk Sibylla into doing the reverse? Unless new sources come to light, we will never know.

A Medieval Illustration depicting Nature creating a child.

Yet it does not take too much imagination to see Eschiva as the bridge that enabled the Ibelins to later become the most powerful supporters of the Lusignan dynasty on Cyprus. Historians puzzle over the fact that the Ibelins, who were inveterate opponents of Guy de Lusignan, could so quickly become entrenched in his brother's kingdom of Cyprus. I see Eschiva as the key -- but we will probably never know. 

The story of the Ibelins continues next week.
Members of the House of Ibelin are the subject of four published novels and three yet to come.
For readers tired of clich├ęs and cartoons, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader offers nuanced insight to historical events and figures based on sound research and an understanding of human nature. Her complex and engaging characters bring history back to life as a means to better understand ourselves.




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2 comments:

  1. ". . . the Ibelins to later become the most powerful supporters of the Lusignan dynasty on Cyprus."

    To me, that says a great deal about the differences between the two brothers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very interesting piece, Helena. Thank you so much for your work.

    ReplyDelete