Alice, Princess of Antioch, 1126-1136

Alice began her married life conventionally enough by bearing a daughter in the first two years. But her course of life was derailed when Bohemund II died in battle with the Danishmends (the same tribe that had taken his father prisoner in a yurt). They had only been married about four years, and they had only this one child, Constance.

The men around Alice wanted to appoint a male regent for the child Princess until she was old enough to be married to a man who could help reign. But Alice, having grown up watching Melisende being treated like a son, did not see any reason why she could not be a reigning Princess on her own.

Her father, King Baldwin II, saw two very good reasons why not: first, this was a very dangerous neighborhood. He had already chosen to import a seasoned warrior to rule with Melisende, even if his daughters considered Fulk an obnoxious, unnecessary addition. Second, he had an opportunity to exert influence over Antioch, making his kingship more real. He had known Bohemund in the old days; suddenly, Bohemund’s legacy came down to this baby girl, and only Constance’s grandfather could step in and protect her with a regent (right?). He must have known Alice well enough to feel sure that having her ruling would not mean extending his own influence in the least!

Alice attempted three coups, starting right away. She sent a secret message to the Turkish ruler of Aleppo, asking him to ally with her. Her toddler’s hand in marriage was held out as a reward. But Alice’s father had troops in the area; they caught the messenger and actually tortured him. Alice ordered the gates barred against King Baldwin’s entry, but the nobles of Antioch saw no good in defying the King of Jerusalem. They opened the gates, and Alice ran into the Citadel, the one that had originally held out against the Crusaders. King Baldwin sent Alice to live in her two dowry cities; almost certainly, baby Constance stayed in Antioch with her nurse and nanny staff. He appointed Sir Joscelin, now Count of Edessa, to rule Antioch as regent, but the arrangement didn’t last long.

King Baldwin II died in 1131. As Melisende became Queen on her own, Sir Joscelin also died. Alice saw her chance; she came back from her city of Latakia, and seized Antioch again. Joscelin II of Edessa and Pons of Tripoli were willing to ally with her against the new Queen and King in Jerusalem. When King Fulk, Melisende’s husband, tried to go to Antioch to take control, he had to sail from Jaffa since Tripoli would not let him pass by land. Only one minor battle was fought, and the rebel Counts submitted to the new King. Alice was again out of luck, sent back to Latakia.

Alice tried one more time when Constance was about 7. She started negotiating to have the Byzantine Emperor marry the little girl! Remember that first Bohemund had positioned Antioch as Constantinople’s determined rival and adversary. The nobles of Antioch, panicked, told Alice that they were getting a prince from Europe, Raymond of Poitiers, to come marry her—the widow, Alice. The Patriarch played along until Raymond arrived. Then the child was brought into the church and married off. Raymond, a son of the Duke of Aquitaine, was about 21, so it was assumed that he had time to wait for Constance to grow up. In the meanwhile, his legal marriage effectively blocked the very disappointed Alice.

Where was Alice’s maternal feeling all this time? She seems to have had little of it; perhaps her sisters would have said “oh that’s just Alice, you know how she is.” Perhaps it was a trauma response to her husband’s sudden death; perhaps it was a projection of hidden dislike for her husband. In any case, Constance was important as a descendant of Bohemund in a way that Alice, the mother, was not. Once Constance had her own household staff and Alice was sent away, they apparently had limited contact.



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