History tends to be his-story; but every once in a while, in the annals of history you come upon her-story. One such maker of her-story history was Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem.
Melisende was born to Baldwin II and Morphia from Edessa. She was the oldest of four daughters (no sons) and as such was appointed as the heir presumptive when her father was still in his prime. Alas, Baldwin II was not confident that a queen would be accepted on her own merit by the populace or the clergy. Also she would not be able to continue the familial chain of heirs. Baldwin II needed to look for a husband for Melisende. He turned to his ally Louis VI. Turns out, Louis was looking to unload an upstart count and send him far from Paris. This was the flamboyant Fulk de Anjou.
Fulk, however, did not have the progressive ideals of Baldwin II. Already in the negotiation before the wedding, he tried to install his son from a prior marriage as the heir apparent, wresting power from Baldwin’s family. Fulk finally backed down on this issue and agreed to marry Melisende anyway.
After their coronation as King and Queen of Jerusalem, Fulk continued to look for a way to lessen the influence which Melisende had on the kingdom. He accused Melisende of having an affair with Hugh, Count of Jaffa who was intensely loyal to Baldwin’s family. The church and the knights supported Melisende and her son, the future Baldwin III, against her husband. In 1143, twelve years into their joint rule, Fulk found his end in a hunting accident.
Melisende still doesn’t have peace. She assumes power and becomes ruler of Jerusalem but only until her son, Baldwin III comes of age. It’s sometimes hard for a mother to let her son go out into the world, especially when his ascension comes at the price of her power.
When she stays too long at the helm, Baldwin III comes after her, amassing his own army. He even attacks her forces which are protecting her stronghold, the Tower of David. Eventually, mother and son will come to a truce and she will give him his independence to rule as King of Jerusalem.
But, kids are fickle and shortly after he takes the title from his mother, he goes out on campaign. To whom will he leave the day-to-day running of the country? You guessed it – his mother Melisende. There ain’t no one who is as loyal or supportive as your mom, even when you’re a Crusader king.
- Tower of David
- Church of the Holy Sepulcher