Caterina Cornaro: The last Queen of Cyprus

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Caterina Cornaro was born in Venice in 1454, the daughter of a well-known and powerful family of Venice. The Cornaro family had produced four Doges (dukes of Venice).

Her family had long associations with Cyprus, especially with regards to trade and commerce. In the Episkopi area, in the district of Limassol the Cornaro family administered various sugar-mills and exported Cypriot products to Venice.

In 1468, James II, otherwise known as James the Bastard, became King and chose Caterina to be his wife and Queen of the Kingdom of Cyprus. The King’s choice was extremely pleasing to the Republic of Venice as it could henceforth secure the commercial rights and other privileges of Venice in Cyprus.

In 1473, after a sudden illness, James II died and according to the wishes in his will, the Queen who at the time was pregnant, acted as Regent. A few months later, a son and heir was born. But unfortunately, James III died before he could even turn one year old.

Caterina Cornaro ruled Cyprus from 1474 to 1489 but was forced to cede the administration of the country to the Republic of Venice. On May 14, 1489, she was obliged to leave the island. Upon her return to Venice, she was led to Asolo where she lived until her death in 1510.
This marked the end of the mediaeval kingdom of Cyprus.

According to George Boustronios, “On 14 February, the Queen dressed in black and accompanied by the Barons and their ladies, set off on horseback. Six knights held her horse’s reins. From the moment she left Nicosia, her eyes kept streaming with tears. Upon her departure, the whole population was bewailing”.