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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Swansong of the House of Ibelin

 By the mid-thirteenth century, the House of Ibelin, had many branches and through marriage was interrelated with nearly all the prominent families of Outremer. Although from 1259 to the end of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, no Ibelin held the position of baillie or regent, the family was neither obliterated nor powerless.  Yet it was undoubtedly in decline.

Balian of Arsur (son of John of Arsur) was constable of the kingdom from 1268 to 1277, and Baldwin d’Ibelin was constable of Jerusalem in 1286. Although Balian of Beirut’s heir, John of Beirut, never played an important role in the kingdom, Jaffa’s younger son, Balian of Jaffa, was a chamberlain of the kingdom 1283-1285. This, however, was the last known Ibelin to hold an office in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

In Cyprus, the family remained powerful for considerably longer, while three sons of Jaffa and two of his daughters settled in Armenia. In Cyprus, Ibelins held the post of constable from 1247-1256 (Guy d’Ibelin, son of John of Beirut), 1286 (Baldwin d’Ibelin, father unknown) and 1302 (Philip d’Ibelin, and brother of the ruling queen). Jaffa’s eldest son James established himself as a legal expert in Cyprus and was extremely successful in pleading cases in the courts, although the legal treatise he wrote is not regarded as highly as his father’s work. Philip d’Ibelin, a son of Guy d’Ibelin, held the powerful position of seneschal for Henry II and remained loyal to him during the revolt of 1306. Other Ibelins found themselves on the other side, and the family weathered the dynastic crisis of 1306-1310 well.

Meanwhile, the daughters of the house were marrying into the royal family on a nearly regular basis. Isabella d’Ibelin, the daughter of Guy d’Ibelin (the youngest son of John of Beirut), married Hugh III. Eschiva, a granddaughter of Balian of Beirut, married Guy de Lusignan and was the mother of Hugh IV, who himself married first a Marie d’Ibelin, and later, an Alice d’Ibelin.

The Ibelins remained powerful noblemen in Cyprus until the war with the Genoese, 1373-1374. The Genoese beheaded the last titular lord of Arsur, a direct descendant of the first Ibelin lord of Arsur, son of John of Beirut. Another Ibelin, Nicholas, probably still a child, was sent as a hostage to Genoa and never heard from again. Although descendants of the House of Ibelin may have survived in Armenia or through the female line (and wherever the name Balian surfaces, an Ibelin connection can be suspected), the last male known to bear the name of Ibelin disappeared from the historical record in 1374.

Like the crusader states themselves, the House of Ibelin faded from prominence and memory to be remembered only occasionally by historians, novelists and filmmakers.


Dr. Helena P. Schrader is also the author of six books set in the Holy Land in the Era of the Crusades. Helvis and Meg are characters in The Last Crusader Kingdom.


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For more about the Ibelins and the world they lived in read:


1 comment:

  1. Alas, with the Muslims on one side and the Hapsburgs and Hanovers on the other, the House of Ibelin was caught between a rock and a hard place. Sad.


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