Today In History: The Queen of Cyprus Sells Her Kingdom to Venice (1489)

Caterina Cornaro, La Deposizione. Francesco Hayez, 1841. Spadaesilenzio.org

On this day in 1489, Queen Catherine Cornaro did the unthinkable. After she was forced to renounce her throne, she put her entire kingdom up for sale, and it was purchased by the Republic of Venice. The situation was the result of an arduous battle which seemed to come with the monarchy she betrothed herself to after her marriage to James II of Cyprus, also known as, James the Bastard. James became King of Cyprus in 1468.

Not long after their wedding, Catherine announced she was pregnant. It was a joyous occasion, but the celebration, however, did last long. King James suddenly fell ill and died. Some months later, Catherine gave birth to a son, who she named James. Sadly, he baby died before his first birthday. Baby James may have been the victim of an assassination carried out by those wielding power within the Republic of Venice, or perhaps on behalf of Charlotte, Queen of Cyprus.

Queen Catherine Cornaro. Pinterest

Charlotte was the half sister of James; she was elevated to the status of Queen of Cyprus after the death of their father, John II of Cyprus. James the Bastard was never recognized as a legitimate family member and had eked his way onto the throne by tossing his sister from it. The duplicitous deed was carried out after enlisting Egypt for support; they aided James in forcing Charlotte to flee Cyprus. She tried without success to regain the throne, but ultimately had no option other than living out her life in exile.

Queen Catherine must have been devastated by the tsunami of bad luck overshadowing the Cyprus crown; there was little to nothing she could do to improve the fledgling and fragmenting kingdom. With its depleting resources, she gave in to pressure to abdicate, sell her kingdom and leave Cyprus. 

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