Melisende

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Melisende, queen of Jerusalem between 1131 and 1153, was the daughter of Baldwin II and Morphia of Melitene. She was named for her paternal grandmother, the wife of High, Count of Rethel. Of her three younger sisters, Alice became princess of Antioch by marriage to Bohemund II; Hodierna became countess of Tripoli, by marriage to Raymond II; and Ioveta, who took to the Church and eventually became abbess of St.Lazarus in Bethany (founded by Melidende).

Melisende was born around 1105CE. Baldwin had had no sons; during his lifetime Melisende took precedence over all other nobles of the Kingdom. He had her raised as his successor, although he also accepted that she would need to make a suitable marriage (though he meant the man to be a consort not a reigning king). In the event his candiate, Fulk of Anjou, insisted on co-rulership, and in the light of his wealth, his military experience, and the troops he could bring, Baldwin acquiesced.

Fulk married Melisende in 1129 and in 1130 the two had a son, who was to succeed his mother, as Baldwin III. In the following year Baldwin II died, and Melisende and Fulk succeeded, as co-rulers (although Melisende was guardian for her son, from which role Fulk was excluded). However, backed by his soldiers, Fulk sought to exclude the queen from all authority, something which caused unease among others in the nobility.

In 1134 Fulk accused Hugh, count of Jaffa, of having had an affair with the queen. This direct attack on a powerful baron, who had shown exemplary loyalty to both Baldwin and Melisende, and the fact that Hugh was able to hold off an initial attack (mounted mostly by Frankish crusaders from Fulk's own Anjou) led to terms of a settlement whereby Hugh agreed to three years' exile. When, thereafter, an attempt was made to murder the count, and Fulk was blamed, Melisende was able to launch a palace coup, removing or cowing most of his supporters, and from 1135 onwards the kingdom was in the queen's hands, although the spouses were reconciled and a second son, Amalric, was born.

In 1143 Fulk died in an accident and Melisende ruled alone, bringing her son up as heir to the kingdom. They were crowned as co-rulers; two years later, he reached his majority, but it was not until 1152 that he showed any desire to take power for himself. There was some dispute over what should be done, and for a time the kingdom was divided between them, before Baldwin seized the city of Jerusalem and the throne, but then found that sympthy remained with his mother. They reconciled shortly afterwards, and Melisende continued to live under her son as king, as one of his councillors, until her death in 1161. After her death she was recognised as a wise and experienced stateswoman, and an equal to any of her predecessors.