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Sibylla was born the eldest daughter of King Amalric I of Jerusalem to Agnes of Courtenay, his first wife. After the divorce of her mother, Sibylla was raised in the convent of St Lazarus by her great-aunt, the abbess Ioveta of Bethany, sister of the former Queen Melisende of Jerusalem. Ioveta was a formidable figure, and instated into Sibylla the scripture and traditions of the church. From the beginning of her life, Sibylla was a valuable asset to her family; with her brother, Baldwin IV, Amalric’s only son, suffering from illness, her marriage became a paramount concern to the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

At the age of sixteen she was betrothed to William of Montferrat, eldest son of the Marquess William V of Montferrat, and a cousin of Louis VII of France and of Frederick Barbarossa. The same year she was created Countess of Jaffa and Ascalon, the title increasingly associated with the heir to the throne. In autumn Sibylla and William married. However, William was dead by June the next year, leaving Sibylla pregnant with her first child. The widowed princess remained a prize for ambitious nobles and adventurers seeking to advance themselves and take control of Jerusalem.

Sibylla did not remarry until 1180. At Easter, Raymond of Tripoli entered the kingdom in force, with the intent of imposing a husband of his own choice, Baldwin of Ibelin, on Sibylla. It was her mother, Agnes of Courtenay, who advised King Baldwin to have his sister married to Guy de Lusignan, a younger man than Baldwin of Ibelin. King Baldwin was more than happy with this match, since Guy had important links with the European royalty, bringing the possibility of military aid. Baldwin of Ibelin was present at Sibylla's marriage to Guy de Lusignan. Now, three years later, situations have escalated in Jerusalem, and in this dangerous land, Sibylla is the ailing Leper King Baldwin's Heir Presumptive.

Sibylla is descended from a direct line of the Kings of the Latins of Jerusalem, or Rex Latinitas Ierosolimitanus. Her ancestor, Baldwin II of Jerusalem, was cousin of the hero of the First Crusade, Godfrey de Bouillon. Her father, Amalric I, had two children from his first wife, Agnes de Courtenay: Sibylla, and the future Baldwin IV.

Of his second wife, Maria Comnena, Amalric had only one daughter, Isabella, who is now a pawn of the rival Ibelin faction. Sibylla, at one time, was to be married to Baldwin of Ibelin, the elder of the surviving Ibelin brothers, whose daughter, Eschiva, is her own age. Agnes de Courtenay's daughter by Hugh of Ibelin, Heloise, was raised by the Ibelins, who refused to give her, and the title she would have inherited, to her mother at her father's death in 1169.

Raymond, Count of Tripoli, attempted to marry Sibylla to Baldwin of Ibelin, in a disagreement with King Baldwin, who married her to Guy de Lusignan to prevent this. Raymond is Sibylla's father's first cousin, and has a legitimate claim to the throne. His wife, Eschiva de Bures, is a confidante of Sibylla and tries to sway her husband's decisions in the Princess' favour. Agnes de Saint-Gilles, Count Raymond's heir presumptive, like Sibylla, was educated at the Convent of St. Lazarus, even though the two women are nothing alike.

The Lord and Lady of Kerak are loyal to the Lusignan faction. Reynald de Chatillon came from the continent in time for the Second Crusade, and his career has been varied and generally bloody. His wife, Stephanie of Milly, was the heiress to the lordship of Oultrejordain, and brought to the marriage the castles of Kerak and Montreal. Both the Lord and Lady of Kerak match each other in their ruthlessness and ambition.

Amalric of Lusignan came to the Holy Land from Poitou in the early 1170s, and his brother, Guy, came soon after. It was a pilgrimage of penitence, for them; the brothers had ambushed and murdered Patrick of Salisbury, and had been banished by their overlord, King Richard, who had then been the acting Duke of Aquitaine. Amalric had been appointed Agnes of Courtenay's constable in Jaffa, and then the Constable of Jerusalem. By the time Guy arrived in the Holy Land, he found that his brother had already made a good name for the Lusignans at court. When the King married him to his sister hastily, to prevent a coup by Raymond of Tripoli and Baldwin of Ibelin, it seemed almost certain that Guy of Lusignan would be the next King of Jerusalem.

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