Sibylla (1160–1190)

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Sibylla (1160–1190)

Queen of Jerusalem. Name variations: Sibyl, Sybil, or Sybilla. Born in 1160 in Jerusalem; died in 1190 in Jerusalem; daughter of Almaric I, king of Jerusalem (r. 1162–1174), and Agnes of Courtenay (1136–1186); sister of Baldwin IV, king of Jerusalem (r. 1174–1183); married William of Montferrat, count of Jaffa and regent of Jerusalem, in 1176 (died 1180); married Guy of Lusignan, later king of Jerusalem (r. 1186–1192), in 1180; children: (first marriage) Baldwin V (b. 1179), king of Jerusalem (r. 1185–1186); (second marriage) two daughters, names unknown, who both died in 1190.

A princess of the Latin Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem, Sibylla was born in 1160, the daughter of King Almaric I and Agnes of Courtenay . Sibylla married a Frankish noble, William of Montferrat, count of Jaffa, in 1176; their only child Baldwin (V) was born in 1179, two months after Count William died of malaria. She then married her lover, Guy of Lusignan, in 1180, despite her brother King Baldwin IV's disapproval of their adulterous relationship and of Guy himself. The couple had two daughters, names unknown.

Dying of leprosy, Baldwin IV reluctantly appointed Guy regent of Jerusalem, but Guy's ineptitude led Baldwin IV to banish him from the kingdom and name Sibylla's infant son Baldwin as his heir. King Baldwin IV died in 1185; his young grandson, Baldwin V, survived him less than a year. The two claimants for the crown were then Sibylla, as Almaric's only surviving child from his first marriage, and her half-sister Isabella I of Jerusalem , daughter of his second marriage to Maria Comnena . Sibylla was crowned queen by popular acclaim in 1186, but her new subjects refused to accept the corrupt and imprudent Guy as their king. Sibylla had him crowned anyway.

In 1187, Jerusalem was attacked by Saladin, the Muslim sultan of Egypt and Syria, who hoped to reconquer the holy city and drive out the Christian rulers. In the course of the war, the Christian army was defeated by Saladin's superior forces and Guy of Lusignan was taken prisoner. Sibylla surrendered Jerusalem after a siege in October 1187, effectively ending the Crusader kingdom which had lasted almost a century. Her pleas to Saladin to release her husband succeeded in 1188; Guy continued making war against Saladin with the army of the Third Crusade under the English king Richard I. The former queen remained politically active and hoped the Crusade would reestablish her hereditary right to rule Jerusalem, but in 1190 she died unexpectedly in an epidemic, as did her two daughters.

Sibylla's death left the Christian claim to the throne of Jerusalem empty; Guy of Lusignan tried unsuccessfully to claim it. Eventually King Richard I sold Guy control of Cyprus, where he died in 1194.


Jackson-Laufer, Guida. Women Who Ruled. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1990.

Runciman, Steven. A History of the Crusades, vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California