In the Nooks of History – Levon VI Lusignan

In the Nooks of History - Levon VI Lusignan

On April 16, 1375, Mamelukes and Karamans captured the city of Sis, the capital of Armenian Cilicia. Among the prisoners were also King Levon VI Lusignan, members of his family, Catholicos Poghos, and numerous princes. Thus, 1375 is considered the year of the fall of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia.

After the fall of Sis, one of the more prominent Armenian princes Constantine was proclaimed the Armenian King. Constantine would rule Cilicia for about 50 years and fight hard for the liberation of the seized Armenian lands. In 1424, the Egyptian Sultan would manage to defeat Constantine and take control over all of Cilicia.

Thanks to the efforts of his confessor Hovhannes (Jean) Dardela and the mediation of King John of Castile and Peter IV of Aragon, Levon VI Lusignan was freed from Egyptian captivity. In 1383, Levon became the lord of Spain.

The king of Castile granted him the cities of Madrid, Villareal, and Andújar without the right of inheritance and the annual gift of 150 thousand Spanish maravedí. This is stated in the documents of the Madrid City Office.

It is known that on October 2, 1389, the vassals of Levon demanded that their former rights and privileges be restored. On October 19 of the same year, Levon satisfied their demands by giving them a deed of gift, which began with the words “Don Leon, Portara de Madrid, Madrid de Villareal, and Andujar” and signed Rey León (King Levon).

The Armenian king, deprived of his throne, ruled Madrid for 8 years. The last years of his life Levon spent in Paris where King Charles VI gave him a reception not seen before by any monarch and granted him the palace of St. Ouen along with a monthly pension of 500 francs.

Levon VI died in Paris on November 29, 1393, and was buried in the Celestine monastery, the second most important burial place for royals after Saint-Denis.

French historian Jean Froissart (1337 – 1405) wrote about Levon de Lusignan:

 “Deprived of the throne, he retained the royal virtues and added still new ones to them – generosity and patience. He treated his virtue Charles VI as a friend but never forgot his own royal dignity. And Levon’s death was worthy of his life.”

The tombstone of King Levon was made of white marble by an unknown author. Realistic and high-quality, it was probably made during the life of the monarch. Levon VI is depicted holding a scepter (now broken) and gloves, which was a symbol of great princes. The tombstone has the following inscription:

“Here rests the noble and excellent Prince Levon de Lusignan the Fifth (as he sometimes was referred to), the Latin king of the Kingdom of Armenia, who died in Paris on the 29th day of November in the blessed year of 1393. Pray for him.”

A number of historians have been numbering the rulers of Cilicia since 1198 when a Cilician monarch was crowned according to Western European traditions for the first time. Therefore, Levon VI is sometimes called Levon V.

After the French Revolution, the tombstone of Levon VI was moved to Saint-Denis. But his grave was left empty as the French revolutionaries had defiled his remains along with the remains of the French kings and had thrown them away.

After the fall of Sis, the rulers of Cyprus, as relatives of the Lusignan dynasty, for a century added the title of the King of Armenia to their titles and even cast coins under it.

The title of the King of Armenia was worn by James of Cyprus, Janus, John II, Charlotte Lusignan, James II, and Catherine.

After the death of James II, his 1-year-old son James III of Cyprus, who was listed as King of Cyprus, Jerusalem, and Cilician Armenia, died in mysterious circumstances. After his death, the title passed to his mother Catherine. In 1485, the rights to the kingdom were transferred to Duke of Savoy Charles I, a relative to the Cypriot dynasty.

Starting with Charles I of Savoy, the title would be retained in the Savoy dynasty until at least the 20th century.

From the 17th century, the title “King of Armenia” passed to the Republic of Venice. This title was also taken by the kings of Piedmont since one of the princes of Savoy married a princess from the Lusignan dynasty. Until 1946, the heirs of the Savoy dynasty ruling in Italy bore the title of the King of Armenia.

Arshaluis Zurabyan

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