The history of the eastern Mediterranean during the middle ages resound with truly “Byzantine” private and political rivalries replete with annulments, abductions, abandonments and repudiations, adulteries, assaults, betrayals, murders, poisonings, and sundry mayhem—a perfect setting for my fictional characters.
The Serpent’s Crown therefore takes Juliana de Charnais and Guérin de Lasalle on a perilous journey from France to Cyprus and the Holy Land in the years between 1204 to 1210. This time at stake is not only their marriage, but the fate of the newly-minted Lusignan crown of Cyprus.
Except for a brief flash of fame as the result of its conquest by Richard the Lionheart in 1191, medieval Cyprus has not been a popular setting for historical novels. Neither are the Lords of Lusignan ‘marquee names’ among the ranks of royalty usually roosting on the shelves of historical fiction, although that family ruled Cyprus for almost 300 years.
Yet the history of Richard, the Plantagenets, and the Lusignans are closely bound in France as well as Cyprus and the Holy Land during the years of the Crusades. That period and part of outre-mer has recently reclaimed the attention of the ‘Latins,’ although due to the remoteness of time and the vicissitudes of Fortune, research finds information about places, names, and historical characters that is sketchy and contradictory, with dates, chronology, and causation conjectural.
Nevertheless, a trove of academic monographs and articles are devoted to the study of those places and times. Here’s a brief list:
Peter W. Edbury, The Kingdom of Cyprus and the Crusades, 1191-1374 (Cambridge U. Press, 1991), as well as Professor Edbury’s numerous articles; Joshua Prawer, The Crusaders’ Kingdom, European Colonialism in the Middle Ages (Praeger Publishers, 1972); and Angel Nicolaou-Konnari and Chris Schabel, eds., Cyprus, Society and Culture, 1191-1374 (Brill, 2005).
Other general works, to be read in view of more recent research and interpretations, are George Hill, A History of Cyprus, the Frankish Period, vol. II, 1192-1432 (Cambridge U. Press, 1943); Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. III, the Kingdom of Acres and the Later Crusades (Cambridge U. Press, 1954); and Zoé Oldenbourg, The Crusades (Random House, 1966).
More recent general treatments are Norman Housley, Fighting for the Cross (Yale U. Press, 2008); Malcolm Barber, The Crusader States (Yale U. Press, 2012); and Christopher Tyerman, God’s War, a New History of the Crusades (Harvard U. Press, 2008).
In France, the vagaries of time have also obliterated much, but the pays de Mélusine, Lusignan, Parthenay, and Fontevraud still managed to ensconce my factual and fictional characters in their proper place, and more so in my imagination, where Juliana and Lasalle continue their journey.
All acts of omission and commission are my own.