The sword of Levon VI (sometimes Leo V or VI) Lusignan, the last king of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, is now kept in the Mekhitarist Museum on the island of St. Lazzaro in Venice.
Levon VI (1342 – November 29, 1393) was King of Cilician Armenia from the Armenian branch of the French noble family de Lusignan. He reigned from 1374 to 1375. Levon was the son of John de Lusignan (constable and regent of Armenia) and his wife Soldane of Georgia, daughter of the Georgian king George V the Brilliant.
In 1360, Levon was made a Knight of the Chivalric Order of the Sword. On October 17, 1372, he became the Seneschal of Jerusalem.
Levon de Lusignan was destined to become the last King of Cilician Armenia and reign for seven months. In 1374, the future monarch arrived in the capital of Cilicia Sis, where on September 14, on the Day of the Holy Cross, he and his wife Marguerite de Soissons were anointed rulers in the capital’s Cathedral of St. Sophia.
In 1375, knowing that Pope Gregory XI would once again break the promise of aiding Cilicia and would not send an army, the Mameluks crossed the Cilician border. Levon could not prevent the onslaught of the troops and fortified himself in the Sis citadel located on a difficult-to-access cliff.
The troops storming the fortress failed and failed, but the Mameluk archers managed to wound Levon VI. Cypriot mercenaries decided to save themselves by surrendering the king. Having infiltrated the tower where the wounded king was residing, they tried to kidnap him, but a detachment of his bodyguards repulsed the attack of the traitors.
The forces of the defenders of the capital were running out and the starving population was already inclined to the idea of surrender when Levon VI was given a security certificate from the Aleppo Amir, which guaranteed him and his family life if Sis surrendered. Realizing the futility of resistance, Levon surrendered to the victor’s mercy and was taken to Cairo along with his family, Catholicos Poghos I, and Armenian princes.
A year later, Armenians managed to buy the freedom of Catholicos Poghos I and the queen, whose both daughters had died in captivity. Having received freedom, the inconsolable queen moved to Jerusalem where she settled in the Armenian monastery of Surb Hakob and lived there until the end of her days.
Pilgrim Jean Dardel, who Levon had met in August 1377, managed to persuade Juan I of Castile to buy the freedom of the captive monarch. Thus, Levon was freed as well.
In the hope of restoring the Cilician kingdom, Levon left for Western Europe to request the Pope and Christian monarchs for support. His Holiness, however, with cold courtesy awarded Levon the Order of the Golden Rose and directed him to Britain.
In Britain, Levon placed the state treasury of Cilicia in custody, entrusting it to English King Edward III Plantagenet. They signed an agreement, according to which the treasury would be kept in England until the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia was liberated and restored.
From London, Levon left to Spain, where Castilian King Juan I gifted him the three cities that formed the heart of Castile – Madrid, Andújar, and Villarreal (now Ciudad Real) – and an annual gift of 150,000 Spanish maravedis, which is testified by the documents of the Madrid City Office. It was agreed that Levon would own the cities until the end of his life, after which they were to be returned to the Castilian crown.
The nobles of Castile, who thus became vassals of the alien knight, met the act of their king, whom they had already disliked, with undisguised hostility.
After the mysterious death of Juan I, the regents of his minor son Enrique III revoked the privileges given to Levon VI. The clergy and nobility of the country began to pressurize Levon VI, demanding the approval of their rights and privileges. On October 19, 1389, Levon surrendered all his privileges and left for France.
King Charles VI, accompanied by the court and the townspeople, met Levon on the outskirts of the country’s great capital. Levon settled in Paris, still hoping to liberate Cilicia.
He attempted to establish relations between France and England, who were at that time engaged in the Hundred Years’ War, hoping to get help for the liberation of his country during the new Crusade, but to no avail. The history page of the Cilician kingdom had already been turned.
Levon VI died in Paris on November 29, 1393, and was buried in the Celeste Monastery, the second most important burial place for royals after Saint-Denis. His tombstone was made by an anonymous author realistic and high-quality, probably during the life of the monarch.
On the tombstone, Levon VI is depicted holding a scepter (now broken) and gloves, the symbol of great princes. After the French Revolution, the white marble tomb of Levon VI was transferred to the monastery of Saint-Denis, but the tomb itself had long been empty – the remains of the King of Armenia, along with the ashes of the French Monarchs, had been thrown out by French revolutionaries.