Irene Lascaris (fl. 1222–1235)

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Irene Lascaris (fl. 1222–1235)

Nicaean empress. Name variations: Irene Laskaris. Flourished around 1222–1235; daughter of Anna Angelina (d. 1210?) and Theodore I Lascaris, emperor of Nicaea (r. 1204–1222); married John III Ducas Vatatzes, Nicaean (Byzantine) emperor (r. 1222–1254); children: one son, Theodore II Lascaris, Nicaean emperor (r. 1254–1258).

Irene Lascaris, daughter of Anna Angelina and Theodore I Lascaris, was a young widow when she married John III Vatatzes and shared with him the Byzantine throne, then a government in exile. The marriage was a contented one, despite the fact that Irene was injured in a horseback-riding incident soon after the birth of her only child, Theodore II. She remained an invalid for the rest of her days; her husband was an epileptic.

Anna Angelina (d. 1210?)

Nicaean empress. Died around 1210; daughter of Alexius III Angelus, emperor of Byzantium (r. 1195–1203) and Euphrosyne (d. 1203); married Theodore I Lascaris, emperor of Nicaea (r. 1204–1222); children: Irene Lascaris (who married John III Ducas, Byzantine emperor); Maria Lascaris (who married Bela IV, king of Hungary).

Irene and John III were exemplary rulers. Because of Irene, the Byzantine court became a center of learning and culture, while John, the greatest of the Nicaean rulers, was a diplomat, warrior, and humanitarian, concerned with establishing schools, hospitals, and libraries. Some years after Irene's death, John married the 12-year-old daughter of Frederick II, Constance-Anna of Hohenstaufen .