Featured Jacques II de Lusignan and the end of Lusignan rule in Cyprus

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by seth77, Oct 17, 2017.

  1. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    As an illegitimate son of Jean II, Jacques was skipped as a potential inheritor of the Kingdom of Cyprus in 1458, in favor of Charlotte, Jean's legitimate daughter.
    Jacques, at that time Latin archbishop of Nicosia, refused to acknowledge her accession and in December of 1458 he left Cyprus to Egypt to secure an alliance with the Mamluks and gain the support of the Sultan of Egypt in his claim for the throne.

    In September 1460, a Mamluk fleet under Jacques command reached Cyprus and most of Cyprus surrendered to him by the end of 1460. But the conflict continued between Charlotte and her husband Louis de Savoia who held Kyrenia on one hand and Jacques and the Mamluk mercenaries on the other until the autumn of 1464, when Charlotte renounced her claim and left for Italy.

    During this period of de facto civil war, George Boustronios, the chronicler of Cyprus tells us that Jacques lacked funds so sorely that he had his troops scrap for copper fittings on private houses and public baths to gather scrap metal which was then used to strike his small denominations of carzia and sizain.

    The sizain, a coin made of copper, with a size of around 19mm, a weight around 1.30 to 2.30g and valued at six carzia, which is by far the most used denomination during this period, was minted in large quantities, perhaps even after 1464 when, after capturing Kyrenia and Famagusta and being crowned, he began minting silver grosi and half grosi to celebrate his victory.

    There are 3 series of sizains according to the type of the legends:

    1. The early types, which have often garbled legends or short, abbreviated legends with X's as stops and used instead of other letters, which were probably the first to be minted while or soon after Jacques started his conquest of Cyprus, perhaps even by an itinerant mint who traveled with him during his campaign:

    (CNG, Electronic Auction 338, November 2014, Lot 325)
    AE19mm, 2.19g.
    OBV: + IACOBUS • DЄI • GR[A]; rampant lion to the left.
    REV: +XXA RX II[...]RIA; Jerusalem cross.
    REF: Cf. Malloy 167.
    These were probably the earliest types, around 1460/61, and probably the ones the chronicler mentions as being struck from scrap copper.

    2. The types with long and intelligible legends, where the X's are used as stops rather than missing lettering. They are also usually more centered, struck on larger and rounder flans and their legends mention both Cyprus and Jerusalem:

    (CNG Electronic Auction 284, August 2012, Lot 495)
    AE19mm, 2.00g.
    OBV: + IACOBUS DЄI GRAIA XX R; rampant lion to the left.
    REV: + ЄX IDЄRUSALЄM CIPRI; Jerusalem cross.
    REF: Cf. Malloy 167, Metcalf 808-11, there are many different variations of these legends, mentioning Jacques as both King of Cyprus and as King of Jerusalem.
    These were probably struck after the first types, in an unknown mint, maybe at Nicosia(?)

    3. The types which name Jacques as King of Armenia:

    (CNG, Electronic Auction 334, September 2014, Lot 466)
    AE18.5mm, 1.72g.
    OBV: + IACOBVS • DEI • GRATIA • REIX; rampant lion to the left.
    REV: + IERUSALEM : CIPRI : ARMENE; Jerusalem cross.
    REF: Malloy 163.
    These were probably minted after 1464 (or after 1467, when Charlotte renounced the title) in any of the mints at Nicosia, Famagusta or Kyrenia.

    Jacques died in 1473, his posthumous son Jacques III died as an infant in 1474 and with him the Lusignan line of Kings of Cyprus ended. Caterina Corner, Jacques II's widow ruled Cyprus while the island became more and more dependent on Venetian interests. Finally in 1489, she was made to abdicate and Cyprus became officially a Venetian colony, which it stayed until its conquest by the Ottomans in 1571.

    Here is an interesting example of a sizain probably from the first or the beginning of the second series, from a Cypriot collection:

    AE19mm 1.83g
    OBV: + IACOB[V]S DEI G[RA]XX; rampant lion to the left.
    REV: + EXX IE[RV]SALEM [CIP]R; Jerusalem cross.
    REF: Malloy 167.
    This coin looks like it's billon, but that is due to the fact that it was probably in a fire. The black chars are still visible on the obverse between 11 and 1 o'clock and on the reverse between 12 and 2 o'clock.
    It might have been at the heart of the events between 1460 and 1464, when Jacques was fighting his half-sister for total dominion of the island.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Nice coins, Seth
    panzerman likes this.

    RAGNAROK Naebody chaws me wi impunity

    @DeaconRay approves this thread... :D
    panzerman and Deacon Ray like this.
  5. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

  6. TheRed

    TheRed Well-Known Member

    Great coins and write-up @seth77
    The fact that Jacques, the Latin archbishop of Nicosia, would turn to the Muslim Mamluks for mercenaries is one of those odd facts that makes history stranger than fiction. Given the long history of conflict between the two sides I would have thought some things would be beyond the pale.
    And mercenaries accepting scrap-metal coins, who would have thought?
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2017
    lordmarcovan and 7Calbrey like this.
  7. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Wonderful writeup as usual. I am very much enjoying my own journey through the world of medieval coins.
    7Calbrey and lordmarcovan like this.
  8. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Well-Known Member

    Thanks, @RAGNAROK ! Cool coins—I wasn't paying attention and almost missed them. :facepalm:
    RAGNAROK likes this.
  9. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Well-Known Member

    Thank you for posting those beautiful coins of Medieval Cyprus, @seth77 ! We don't see coins of that period often—at least I haven't. The designs are very dynamic and remind me of something I've seen before ;)
    lordmarcovan likes this.
  10. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    By 1460, the island of Cyprus was already tributary to the sultans of Egypt, so their support was important, especially for someone who did not benefit from support from the Pope (neither his appointment as archbishop had been confirmed). As an usurper and illegitimate claimant, he could not count on the usual channels and the European establishment to gain political acknowledgement. The Italians called him "il Bastardo" so that should put his stature with the Italian interests into perspective.

    As for the circulation of these coins, they were purely for domestic purpose: Jacques minted these and then used them to support his mercenaries by buying from the local economy.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2017
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  11. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    Considering that these are usually very common today, together with the chronicler's remarcs and the fact that the smallest denomination, the carzia, is rather rare, one can only imagine the inflation and economic hardships afflicting the local population during this civil war.

    People could afford losing these coppers because there were many more to be inserted into the local economy, while the king and his mercenaries consumed their produce.
    Deacon Ray and RAGNAROK like this.
  12. arnoldoe

    arnoldoe Well-Known Member

    Levon V. Billon Denier.
    14mm 0.51 g

    I have a coin of the last actual King of Cilician Armenia.. He was a member of the Lusignan dynasty too..
    After ruling for less than a year, he lost his kingdom in 1175 to the Mamluks and died 18 years later in France.

    After he died his distant cousin King James of Cyprus claimed the title King of Armenia, as would all future Lusignan rulers of Cyprus until Queen Charlotte..

    I also have a Coin of the Last Crowned king of Jerusalem.. cyprus.jpg
    CRUSADERS, Lusignan Kingdom of Cyprus. Henry II. King of Cyprus & Jerusalem, 1285-1324. BI Denier. Cross pattée with pellet in each quarter / Lion rampant left. CCS 6c.
  13. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    After the fall of Armenia in 1375, descendents of the Lusignan family used the title of "King of Armenia" for another 100 years.
    RAGNAROK likes this.
  14. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    Another Jacques II with full title, including King of Armenia:


    But this is an unusual specimen with full legends and stops, of very good style and workmanship, possibly minted after the end of the civil war and the normalization of the new reign. Perhaps minted at Nicosia in 1464?

  15. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    Nice coins seth77!

    Great history, always learning:cat:
    lordmarcovan likes this.
  16. petronius

    petronius Duke

    Great thread and great coins seth77 :)
    The title of King of Armenia, as well as of King of Cyprus and Jerusalem, reamin to Savoia family until today. The latest descendants of Kings of Italy, mantain the titles of "Re d’Italia, Re di Sardegna, Re di Armenia, Re di Cipro, Re di Gerusalemme,Duca di Savoia"...and many, many others :rolleyes:

    petronius :)
    lordmarcovan likes this.
  17. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    Yes, but in 1474 the Lusignan rule in Cyprus ended and in 1489 the actual autonomous monarchy of Cyprus ended.
  18. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & odd Moderator

    I admittedly as yet know very little about the Lusignan Kingdom of Cyprus, and as of this posting have not yet fully read the original post wirh the attention it deserves (i will), but in the meantime, here is a piece I picked up in a CNG auction this January.

    It is from a bit earlier in their history.

    I just had to have it.


    Ex- CNG, eAuction 435, Lot 447, 1/2/2019.

    CNG Auction description:

    "CRUSADERS, Lusignan Kingdom of Cyprus. Henry II. King of Cyprus & Jerusalem, 1285-1324. AR Gros petit (20mm, 2.21 g, 2h). Nicosia mint. Hugh enthroned facing, holding lis-tipped scepter and globus cruciger / Jerusalem cross. M&P pl. 11, 10; Metcalf, Crusades 688-91; CCS 51. Good VF, toned."
    Johndakerftw and Bing like this.
  19. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    That is a nice coin!
    lordmarcovan likes this.
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