Zabel I of Rubenids – Queen of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia

Zabel I of Rubenids – Queen of the ArmenianIsabella I, also known as Isabel I or Zabel I (27 January 1216/25 January 1217 – 23 January 1252), was a Queen of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia from the Rubenid dynasty. She has been the second Queen of Cilicia and the only daughter of King Leo I (also Leo II).

In May 1219, King Leo I passed away. On his deathbed, he pronounced the name of his heir, his daughter Zabel. Initially, the regent of the future Queen was Adam of Baghras. After his murder several months after Leo had named his successor, Constantine of Baberon became the regent of Zabel.

However, the great-nephew of Leo Raymond-Roupen had his claims to the royal throne. So did John of Brienne, the husband of Stefanie, the daughter of Leo from his first marriage. Devoted to the late King, Cilician princes supported the lawful heir to the throne and imprisoned Raymond-Roupen. As for John of Brienne, he ceased to contest the throne after his wife and son died on their way to Cilicia.

In order to reinforce Cilicia, it was decided to marry Zabel off to Philip of Antioch. The main condition of the marriage was proposed by Constantine of Baberon: Philip was to convert to the Armenian faith and follow the Armenian traditions. Philip agreed to those requirements, and the wedding of Zabel and Philip of Antioch took place in the city of Sis, the capital of Cilicia, in 1222. Philip thus became the prince consort. However, he didn’t keep his word.

Philip of Antioch neglected the national feelings of the Armenians, as well as their traditions. Besides, Philip was openly favoring Latin barons and spending most of his time in Antioch. Nobles and the people of Cilicia were strongly dissatisfied with the actions of the prince consort. For his mistakes, Philip would be eventually imprisoned for life.

In 1226, regent Constantine of Baberon, in spite of the resistance from Zabel, married her off to Hethum, one of his younger sons, with the blessing of the Catholicos of all Armenians Constantine I Bardzrberdtsi. Thus, Cilicia received its new King Hethum I, who would become the founder of the Hethumid dynasty, the second royal dynasty of Cilicia. Zabel gave birth to eight children: Euphemia, Maria, Sibilla, Leo (who would become the King of Cilicia Leo III), Toros, Rita, Isabella, and Vasak.

Zabel I passed away in January 1252 and was buried in the monastery of Drazark, the family tomb of the Rubenid dynasty.

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