Hook: She lost her home to Saladin at the age of eight. Her first husband was exiled for an attempted assassination by her brother-in-law. Her second husband died fighting beside her brother in rebellion against the Holy Roman Emperor. She was the only child of Maria Comnena to ever visit Constantinople, and the only child of Balian d’Ibelin to live long enough to reclaim control of Ibelin: Margaret d’Ibelin.
Margaret, Balian and Maria’s second daughter, was the only one of their children to ever seen Constantinople ― and the only one to live long enough to see the return of Ibelin from Saracen control. Like most women of the age, however, we know of her only indirectly and we can only speculate about her feelings and personality.
Margaret was the third child of Balian and Maria, born at the earliest in 1180, and possibly later. Like Philip, she would have been very young when her birthplace and inheritance of Ibelin was lost to the Saracens and would have understood little of what was happening when her father came to Jerusalem or when she was escorted out by Mamlukes. The next years of comparative poverty and uncertainty may have left more lasting memories, but she would have been little more than 12 when the Treaty of Ramla stabilized the situation and reduced the immediate threat.
Sometime in her late teens, Meg married Hugh of Tiberias. Hugh was the son and heir of the Prince of Galilee, and a stepson of Raymond de Tripoli. Indeed, Hugh had fought beside Tripoli at Hattin and escaped the field at the same time. Hugh must, therefore, have been at least ten years older than Meg and probably 12 to 15 years older. Since Galilee had been lost in the aftermath of Hattin, Hugh was effectively landless, and it is unclear what his source of income was at the time of his marriage, but as a staunch supporter of Henri de Champagne we can assume that he enjoyed royal patronage and drew income from either royal offices or a money fief in one of the coastal cities granted by the king.
When Henri de Champagne died in the fall of 1198, Hugh proposed his younger brother Ralph as a suitable consort for the widowed Queen Isabella of Jerusalem. The High Court turned down the proposal, however, on the grounds that Ralph brought no new resources ― either financial or human ― to the kingdom. Instead, the High Court chose Aimery de Lusignan, King of Cyprus, as Isabella’s fourth husband.
In 1198, Aimery de Lusignan barely escaped an assassination attempt. His suspicions fell on the Tiberias brothers because he suspected them of still coveting his throne. He seized their properties and ordered them out of the kingdom. Significantly, the barons of Jerusalem, including Hugh’s brother-in-law and the Queen’s half-brother, John of Beirut rallied to the support of the Tiberias brothers. Beirut, although he’d been appointed Constable of Jerusalem by Aimery, argued that the king did not have the right to pass judgement on a vassal without the judgement of the High Court. Meg would surely have been gratified by her brother’s strong stand with her husband, but no matter how right his logic was, the Tiberias brothers did not feel safe in Lusignan’s kingdom. They chose exile, whether voluntarily or not.
Meg and Hugh went first to Tripoli, where they stayed two or three years. In 1204, however, Constantinople fell to a mercenary army of Latin Christians, and they decided to try their luck there. It is easy to imagine that Meg, as the daughter of a Byzantine Princess, was the driving force behind this move. She would have grown up hearing her mother’s tales of the “Queen of Cities.” Indeed, her mother was at this time still alive, yet widowed. She might well have visited or even joined Meg in Constantinople for a time. However, Hugh’s arrival in the city is the last recorded event of his life. He evidently died in Constantinople sometime between 1204 and 1210. The couple had no children.
After her husband’s death, Meg was free to return to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, something Meg evidently did, probably to live with her brother John in Beirut. Sometime before 1210 she remarried, this time Walter of Caesarea. Walter was the heir to the Lordship of Caesarea, but he did not at this time control it. His mother had remarried a certain Aymar of Laron, and they jointly controlled Caesarea ― very much to Walter’s disadvantage, since Aymar loaded the lordship with debt.
Frustrated in his access to his inheritance, Walter sought his fortune elsewhere, namely on Cyprus. Some sources say he was appointed Constable there as early as 1206, but this would have meant an appointment by Walter of Montbéliard, which for various reasons seems unlikely. The other date offered for his appointment is 1210, the year in which King Hugh came of age and married Alice de Champagne, which seems far more plausible.
Alice de Champagne was Meg’s niece, the daughter of her half-sister Isabella of Jerusalem by Henri de Champagne. We know that Meg’s brothers, John and Philip, escorted Alice to Cyprus to her wedding. She would certainly have needed women attendants. What would have been more natural than for Meg to be the chief among these? Through her connections to the new queen, it would have been easiest for Walter to obtain a royal appointment.
However and whenever it came about Walter performed his duties as Constable with credit. He led a contingent of 100 Cypriot knights to Egypt for the siege of Damietta in 1218. He was still in Egypt when Saracen forces broke through to Caesarea and laid it to waste, effectively ending his interest in regaining control. He was present at the coronation of Yolanda (Isabella II) of Jerusalem at Tyre in 1225, and a witness to the banquet in Nicosia where Emperor Frederick II made allegations against the Ibelins and seized hostages, setting off what was to be a long civil war. As long as he lived, Walter was a steadfast supporter of the Ibelin cause in their struggle against the Holy Roman Emperor. Indeed, Walter was killed fighting with the Ibelins at the Battle of Nicosia on July 14, 1229.
Meg was left a widow with one son and four daughters, all of whom must have been less than 20 years of age. She did not remarry and probably remained on Cyprus where she had spent most of her married life and undoubtedly had properties.
She was roughly 60 years old when in 1241 her birthplace of Ibelin was recovered from the Saracen’s by treaty. Notably, according to the law of Jerusalem, the lordship fell to her rather than to her nephew, the eldest son of the eldest son, because she was the “nearer” relative of the last lord of Ibelin, namely her father Balian. It must have been deeply satisfying to her to regain Ibelin after more than half a century. One can only hope that she had died before it was lost again in 1253.
The story of the Ibelins continues next week. Meanwhile, Meg is a minor character in
The Last Crusader Kingdom and Rebels against Tyranny.
For readers tired of clichés and cartoons, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader offers nuanced insight into 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.