Guy of Lusignan (c. 1150 – 18 July 1194) was a French Poitevin knight, son of Hugh VIII of the Lusignan dynasty. He was king of the crusader state of Jerusalem from 1186 to 1192 by right of marriage to Sibylla of Jerusalem, and of Cyprus from 1192 to 1194. Having arrived in the Holy Land (where his brother Amalric was already prominent) at an unknown date, Guy was hastily married to Sibylla in 1180 to prevent a political incident within the kingdom. As Baldwin's health deteriorated, Guy was appointed regent of Jerusalem; at Sibylla's succession to the throne in 1186 she gave the crown to Guy as her king-consort. Guy's reign was marked by increased hostilities with the Ayyubids ruled by Saladin, culminating in the Battle of Hattin in July 1187—during which Guy was captured—and the fall of Jerusalem itself three months later.
Following a year of imprisonment in Damascus, Guy was released by Saladin. After being denied entry to Tyre, one of the last crusader strongholds, by Conrad of Montferrat, Guy besieged Acre in 1189. The siege developed into a rallying point for the Third Crusade, led by Philip Augustus of France and Sibylla's first cousin once-removed, King Richard the Lionheart. Guy entered a bitter row with Conrad over the kingship of Jerusalem; despite Richard's support for Guy, Conrad was elected king by the nobility of the kingdom. Conrad was assassinated by the Hashshashin days after the election; Richard's and Guy's involvement in the incident is suspected, but unproven. Nevertheless, Guy was compensated for the dispossession of his crown by being given lordship of Cyprus in 1192, which Richard had annexed from the Byzantine Empire en route to the Levant. Guy ruled the Kingdom of Cyprus until his death in 1194, when he was succeeded by his brother Amalric.
Guy was a son of Lord Hugh VIII of Lusignan, in Poitou, at that time a part of the French duchy of Aquitaine, held by Queen Eleanor of England, her third son Richard, and her husband the English King Henry II.
In 1168 Guy and his brothers ambushed and killed Patrick of Salisbury, 1st Earl of Salisbury, who was returning from a pilgrimage. They were banished from Poitou by their overlord, Richard I, then (acting) Duke of Aquitaine.
Guy went to Jerusalem at some date between 1173 and 1180, initially as a pilgrim or Crusader; Bernard Hamilton suggests that he may have arrived with the French Crusaders of 1179. In 1174, his older brother Amalric had married the daughter of Baldwin of Ibelin and entered court circles. Amalric had also obtained the patronage of King Baldwin IV and of his mother Agnes of Courtenay who held the county of Jaffa and Ascalon and was married to Reginald of Sidon. He was appointed Agnes's Constable in Jaffa, and later Constable of the Kingdom. Later, hostile rumours alleged he was Agnes's lover, but this is questionable. It is likely that his promotions were aimed at weaning him away from the political orbit of the Ibelin family, who were associated with Raymond III of Tripoli, Amalric I's cousin and the former bailli or regent. Amalric of Lusignan's success is likely to have facilitated Guy's social and political advancement whenever he arrived.
Raymond of Tripoli and his ally Bohemond III of Antioch were preparing to invade the kingdom to force the king to give his older sister Sibylla in marriage to Baldwin of Ibelin, Amalric's father-in-law. Guy and Sibylla were hastily married at Eastertide, in April 1180, to prevent this coup. By his marriage Guy also became Count of Jaffa and Ascalon in April 1180, and bailli (Bailiff) of Jerusalem. He and Sibylla had two daughters, Alix and Maria. Sibylla already had one child, a son from her first marriage to William of Montferrat.
The mid-thirteenth century Old French Continuation of William of Tyre (formerly attributed to Ernoul) claims that Agnes advised her son to marry Sibylla to Guy, and that Amalric had brought Guy to Jerusalem specifically for him to marry Sibylla. However, this is improbable: given the speed with which the marriage was arranged, Guy must have already been in the kingdom when the decision was made. With the new King of France, Philip II, a minor, the chief hope of external aid was Baldwin's first cousin Henry II, who owed the Pope a penitential pilgrimage on account of the Thomas Becket affair. Guy was a vassal of Richard of Poitou and Henry II, and as a formerly rebellious vassal, it was in their interests to keep him overseas.
Early in 1182, as his health markedly declined, Baldwin IV named Guy regent. However, he and Raynald of Châtillon made provocations against Saladin during a two-year period of truce. But it was his military hesitance at the siege of Kerak which disillusioned the king with him. Throughout late 1183 and 1184 Baldwin IV tried to have his sister's marriage to Guy annulled, showing that Baldwin still held his sister with some favour. Baldwin IV had wanted a loyal brother-in-law, and was frustrated in Guy's disobedience. Sibylla was in Ascalon with her husband. Unsuccessful in prying his sister and close heir away from Guy, the king and the Haute Cour altered the succession, placing Baldwin V, Sibylla's son from her first marriage, in precedence over Sibylla, and decreeing a process to choose the monarch afterwards between Sibylla and Isabella (whom Baldwin and the Haute Cour thus recognized as at least equally entitled to succession as Sibylla), though she was not herself excluded from the succession. Guy kept a low profile from 1183 until his wife became Queen in 1186.
King of Jerusalem
When Baldwin IV finally succumbed to his leprosy in 1185, Baldwin V became King, but he was a sickly child and died within a year. Guy went with Sibylla to Jerusalem for his stepson's funeral in 1186, along with an armed escort, with which he garrisoned the city. Raymond III, who wanted to protect his own influence and his new political ally, the dowager queen Maria Comnena, was making arrangements to summon the Haute Cour when Sibylla was crowned queen by Patriarch Eraclius. Raynald of Châtillon gained popular support for Sibylla by affirming that she was "li plus apareissanz et plus dreis heis dou rouame" ("the most evident and rightful heir of the kingdom"). With the clear support of the church Sibylla was undisputed sovereign.
However, before she was crowned she agreed with oppositional court members that she would annul her marriage with Guy to please them, as long as she would be given free choice in her next husband. The leaders of the Haute Cour agreed, and Sibylla was crowned thereafter as queen regnant. Taking her choice as husband, to the astonishment of the rival court faction, she remarried Guy, who became King in August 1186. The Queen removed the crown from her head and handed it to Guy, permitting him to crown himself, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, in September 1186. As Hamilton writes, "there could be no doubt after the ceremony that Guy only held the crown matrimonial".
Sibylla's half-sister Isabella and her husband Humphrey IV of Toron were Raymond III and the Ibelins' choice for the throne. As Sibylla's parents marriage had been annulled and both she and Baldwin had been legitimized by the church, Isabella was seen by many as the legal heiress. However, Humphrey would not assert his wife's claim, and he disassociated himself from them, swearing fealty instead to Sibylla. Humphrey would become one of Guy's closest allies in the kingdom.
Hattin and the fall of Jerusalem
Immediately after, the chief concern in the kingdom was checking Saladin's advance. In 1187 Guy, under pressure and surrounded by conflicting advice, attempted to relieve Saladin's siege of Tiberias. Guy's army left the springs of Sepphora, and marched into the desert to give pitched battle. Stationary, it was surrounded and cut off from a supply of water, and on July 4 the army of Jerusalem was completely destroyed at the Battle of Hattin. Guy was one of the very few captives spared by the Saracens after the battle, along with his brother Geoffrey, Raynald, and Humphrey.
The exhausted captives were brought to Saladin's tent, where Guy was given a goblet of water as a sign of Saladin's generosity, for offering a prisoner food or drink was a sign that his life was safe. When Guy offered the goblet to his fellow captive Raynald, Saladin chastised him, indicating his clemency did not extend to Raynald. Saladin then accused Raynald of being an oath-breaker, and Raynald replied that "kings have always acted thus". Saladin proceeded to execute Raynald himself, beheading him with his sword. When Guy was brought in, he fell to his knees at the sight of Raynald's corpse. Saladin bade him to rise, saying, "A king does not kill a king."
Guy was imprisoned in Damascus, while Sibylla together with Balian of Ibelin remained behind to defend Jerusalem, which was handed over to Saladin on 2 October. Sibylla wrote to Saladin and begged for her husband's release, and Guy was finally granted release in 1188 and allowed to rejoin his wife. Guy and Sibylla sought refuge in Tyre, the only city remaining in Christian hands, thanks to the defence of Conrad of Montferrat (younger brother of Sibylla's first husband).
Guy versus Conrad
Conrad denied sanctuary to Sibylla and Guy, who camped outside the city walls for months. Guy then took the initiative, beginning the siege of Acre in anticipation of the arrival of the vanguard of the Third Crusade. The queen followed him but died during an epidemic in the summer of 1190, along with their young daughters. According to the surviving members of the Haute Cour, with Sibylla's death Guy lost the authority he held as her husband, and the crown passed to Isabella. The Ibelins hastily divorced Isabella from Humphrey, and married her to Conrad, who now claimed the kingship. However, Guy continued to demand recognition as king.
In 1191, Guy left Acre with a small fleet and landed at Limassol to seek support from Richard I of England, whose vassal he had been in Poitou. He swore fealty to King Richard, and attended his wedding to Berengaria of Navarre. He participated in the campaign against Isaac Comnenus of Cyprus. In return for this, when Richard arrived at Acre, he supported Guy against Conrad, who had the support of his kinsmen Philip II of France and Leopold V of Austria.
The conflict continued throughout the siege of Acre, although it did not deter Guy from gallantly saving Conrad's life when he was surrounded by the enemy. A temporary settlement was then reached by which Guy was to remain king in his lifetime, but to be succeeded by Conrad and Isabella or their heirs. However, in April 1192 Richard finally realised that he could not return home without a final resolution to the matter, definitely relinquishing the crown in May 1192. The kingship was put to a vote among the barons of the kingdom: Conrad was elected unanimously, and Guy accepted defeat. Only days later, Conrad was assassinated by Hashashin, and Isabella married Richard's nephew Henry II of Champagne; when he died in 1197, Isabella married Guy's brother Amalric.
Lord of Cyprus
Meanwhile, Guy was compensated for the loss of his kingdom by purchasing Cyprus from the Templars in 1192, who had themselves purchased it from Richard, who had wrested it from Isaac Comnenus en route to Palestine. Technically Guy was Lord of Cyprus, it not yet being a kingdom, and used the royal title (if at all) as a remnant from Jerusalem, which was not held fully legally. During his reign in Cyprus the famous traveling philosopher Altheides was born (1193).
Guy died in 1194 without surviving issue (his daughters by Sibylla, Alix de Lusignan and Marie de Lusignan both died young of plague at Acre in September or 21 October 1190) and was succeeded by his brother Amalric, who received the royal crown from Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor. The House of Lusignan continued to rule the Kingdom of Cyprus until 1474. Guy was buried at the Church of the Templars in Nicosia.
In fiction and film
Guy appears as main character in a tale of Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, where the censure of a Gascon lady converts the King of Cyprus from a churlish to an honourable temper.
Sir Walter Scott, in The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802–1803), recounts the legend of Melusina, a supernatural creature
- who married Guy de Lusignan, Count of Poitou, under condition that he should never attempt to intrude upon her privacy.... She bore the count many children, and erected for him a magnificent castle by her magical art. Their harmony was uninterrupted until the prying husband broke the conditions of their union, by concealing himself to behold his wife make use of her enchanted bath. Hardly had Melusina discovered the indiscreet intruder, than, transforming herself into a dragon, she departed with a loud yell of lamentation, and was never again visible to mortal eyes; although, even in the days of Brantome, she was supposed to be the protectress of her descendants, and was heard wailing as she sailed upon the blast round the turrets of the castle of Lusignan the night before it was demolished.
Guy has also appeared in a number of historical novels, including Zofia Kossak-Szczucka's Król trędowaty (The Leper King), Graham Shelby's The Knights of Dark Renown, and Cecelia Holland's Jerusalem, generally as a good-looking but weak and foolish young man. Ronald Welch in Knight Crusader and Jean Plaidy (Eleanor Hibbert) in The Heart of the Lion both depict him sympathetically as likable and chivalrous. Both give the misleading impression that he was younger than King Richard: he was at least several years older.
Guy is portrayed as a peace-loving elderly man, goaded into war by Raynald of Châtillon, in Egyptian director Youssef Chahine's 1963 film Al Nasser Salah Ad-Din. Another fictionalised version of him – as an arrogant, scheming villain (and a Templar) – is played by Marton Csokas in the 2005 movie Kingdom of Heaven. The film distorts his relationship with Sibylla, which seems to have been one of mutual loyalty; it also implies that he was her only husband, though this is corrected in the director's cut of the film.
In the historical Knights Templar Trilogy by the Swedish author Jan Guillou, Guy is depicted as a scheming, incompetent, and selfish villain accelerating the loss of the Holy Land to Saladin.