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"God defend me from my friends;
from my enemies I can defend myself."

Isabella of Jerusalem (1172 – 1205) was Queen of Jerusalem 1190/1192–1205. She was the daughter of Amalric I of Jerusalem and his second wife Maria Comnena, a grandniece of Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus, who had received the town and territory of Nablus as a dower from her husband the king.

Isabella spent her early years in the court of her mother and stepfather Balian of Ibelin, mostly in Nablus. She was described by the poet Ambrose as "exceedingly fair and lovely"; according to the Muslim chronicler Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani, she had black hair and a pale complexion.

Isabella's father's previous marriage to Agnes of Courtenay had been annulled, but he had succeeded in having his children from that marriage legitimised). Her half-brother Baldwin IV was recognised unanimously as king, as he was the only male available, but he suffered from leprosy (then incurable). The succession would therefore fall to either his full sister Sibylla, or, if her legitimisation were challenged, to his half-sister Isabella. Isabella's mother and the Ibelins had strong ambitions for her to succeed, although Baldwin IV's diplomacy regarding overseas marriages clearly indicates that he regarded Sibylla as his immediate heir.

In 1180, when Isabella was 8 (according to William of Tyre), she was betrothed to Humphrey IV of Toron, on the orders of her half-brother Baldwin IV, in payment of a debt of honour to Humphrey's grandfather Humphrey II who had been mortally wounded saving the king at Banias, and to remove her from the Ibelins' political orbit. They were married in 1183, when Humphrey was about 16 or 17 and Isabella 11. Reflecting the political aims of the marriage, it seems that Humphrey's mother, Stephanie of Milly, and his stepfather, Reynald of Chatillon, restricted Isabella's contact with her mother and stepfather thereafter.

On their wedding night the castle of Kerak was attacked by the forces of Saladin. According to the Old French Contination of William of Tyre (also known as the Chronicle of Ernoul), Humphrey's mother Stephanie sent a message to Saladin telling him of the recent wedding and reminding him of their shared history:

[Stephanie] sent to Saladin bread and wine, sheep and cattle in celebration of her son's wedding, reminding him that he used to carry her in his arms when she was a child and he was a slave in the castle. And when Saladin received these gifts he was exceedingly delighted and gave thanks to those who brought them to him, asking where the bride and bridegroom were staying: their tower was pointed out to him. Thereupon Saladin gave out orders throughout his army that no attack should be directed at this tower.

However, this may be rather fanciful: there is no record in Arabic sources of Saladin having spent any time as an enslaved prisoner at Kerak.


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