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John of Brienne

The coronation of John of Brienne as King of Jerusalem, with Maria of Montferrat, from a late 13th century MS of the Histoire d'Outremer, painted in Acre. (Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana, Florence).

John of Brienne (c. 1170[1] – 27 March 1237) was a French nobleman who became King of Jerusalem by marriage, and ruled the Latin Empire of Constantinople as regent.


  • Life 1
  • Marriages and issue 2
  • Ancestry 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


John of Brienne was the second son of Erard II, count of Brienne, in Champagne, and of Agnes de Montfaucon. Destined originally for a clerical career, he had preferred to become a knight, and in forty years of tournaments and fights he had won himself a considerable reputation, when in 1208 envoys came from the Holy Land to ask Philip Augustus, king of France, to select one of his barons as husband to the heiress and ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Philip selected John of Brienne, and promised to support him in his new dignity. In 1210, John married the heiress (Mary) Maria (daughter of Isabella and Conrad of Montferrat), assuming the title of king in right of his wife. In 1211, after some desultory operations, he concluded a five years' truce with Malik-el-Adil; in 1212 he lost his wife, who left him a daughter, Yolande (also known as Isabella); soon afterwards he married the princess Stephanie, daughter of Leo I, King of Armenia.

Coat of arms of the Latin Empire of Constantinople.

During the Fifth Crusade (1218–1221) he was a prominent figure. The legate Pelagius of Albano, however, claimed the command; and insisting on the advance from Damietta, in spite of John's warnings, he refused to accept the favourable terms of the sultan, as the king advised, until it was too late. After the failure of the crusade, King John came to the West to obtain help for his kingdom. In 1223 he met Pope Honorius III and the emperor Frederick II at Ferentino, where, in order that he might be connected more closely with the Holy Land, Frederick was betrothed to John's daughter Isabella, now heiress of the kingdom. After the meeting at Ferentino, John went to France and England, finding little consolation; and thence he travelled to Santiago de Compostela, where King Alfonso IX of Leon offered him the hand of one of his daughters and the promise of his kingdom. John passed over Alfonso's eldest daughter and heiress in favor of a younger daughter, Berenguela of Leon. After a visit to Germany he returned to Rome (1225). Here he received a demand from Frederick II (who had now married Isabella) that he should abandon his title and dignity of king, which, so Frederick claimed, had passed to himself along with the heiress of the kingdom. John avenged himself on Frederick, by commanding the papal troops which attacked southern Italy during the emperor's absence on the Sixth Crusade (1228–1229).

In 1229, John was invited by the barons of the Latin Empire of Constantinople to become emperor-regent, on condition that Baldwin of Courtenay should marry his second daughter and succeed him. He then ruled in Constantinople, and in 1235, with a few troops, he repelled a siege of the city by John III Doukas Vatatzes, emperor of Nicaea, and Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria, leading a successful cavalry charge which killed some 10,000 enemy soldiers.[2]

After this last feat of arms, which has perhaps been exaggerated by the Latin chroniclers, who compare him to Hector, Roland and the Maccabees, John died in the habit of a Franciscan friar. An aged paladin, he was somewhat uxorious and always penniless, and a typical knight errant whose wanderings led him all over Europe, and planted him successively on the thrones of Jerusalem and Constantinople.

Marriages and issue

John of Brienne married three times. By his first wife, Maria of Montferrat, he had one child, Yolande, later Queen of Jerusalem. He had also one child by his second wife, Stephanie of Armenia, a son named as successor in Armenia, but died in childhood. By his third wife, Berenguela of Leon, he had four children:



  1. ^ The persuasive arguments for putting John's year of birth between 1169 and 1175 are set forth in James Michael Buckley, "The Problematical Octogenarianism of John of Brienne", Speculum, 32 (1957), pp. 315-322
  2. ^


  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain

External links

  • John of Brienne on Find-A-Grave
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Jerusalem
With: Maria
Succeeded by
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