Facts about Cyprus

Area: 9,251 sq km
Capital: Nicosia
Language: Greek, Turkish
Currency: Euro
  Turkish Lira
Population: 784,301
Coastline: 648 sq km

Home > General Info > History > French Rule

Three Hundred Years of French Rule

The Reigns of Hugh IV and Peter

In 1327 Henry II died and was succeeded by his nephew Hugh IV who became one of the great Kings of Cyprus. Despite being tyrannical and intolerant he was an inspired promoter of the arts and loved beautiful things. He was directly responsible for the building of the Abbey at Bellapais.

He was succeeded in 1359 by his son Peter I, and so began a short, but glorious reign. He had two intellectuals to guide him during the early years of his rule. His chancellors, Philip of Mezieres, who was a truly loyal servant, and also the papal legate, Peter Thomas.

Peter I inherited his father’s violent temper and a strong streak of immorality. However his excesses were kept well under control by his trusted advisers and they encouraged him to try to regain the kingdom of Jerusalem. He made the rounds of the courts of Europe raising money for his cause. He set off on his crusade in 1364 and captured Alexandria. Unfortunately his troops were interested only in the plunder they had captured and hastened to carry off the spoils; the commanding officers had no recourse but to withdraw leaving Peter I feeling bitter and angry.

He asked the courts to punish those who had retreated but the Barons of the High Court refused his plea.

In 1366 his most trusted councilor Peter Thomas died; his Queen Eleanor was constantly unfaithful; the barons had all turned against him and Peter I gave himself up to his passions and excesses.

An end to this period of ignominious rule, which clouded an otherwise perfect reign was brought about when Peter I was assassinated by a baronial conspiracy in 1369.


There followed a period by regency more troubled then any other because the late king’s only son was weak, sickly and not of age.

The regency fell to the evil, scheming Queen Eleanor, the boy king’s mother and his two uncles, John, Prince of Antioch, and James the Constable.

The royal factions set up deep divisions within the council and these rifts widened with old, ongoing feuds between the Genoese and Venetians who had long been granted privileges at the royal court.

The task of holding the country together proved fruitless against people determined on waging a profitable war. During the festivities following the coronation of Peter II a brawl had broken out between the nobles of Genoa and Venice, which developed into a full scale battle. The Genoese landed in forced in 1373 and put the island to the sack. The major town and cities; the abbeys and churches were all plundered and the treasury robbed of its wealth. They maintained a hold on the city of Famagusta but otherwise, having taken all they wanted and capturing James the Constable, they departed. The luckless young king continued to be ruled by his mother whose hatred for her brother-in-law grew unchecked. She succeeded in having Prince John assassinated but could not get at James who was languishing in a jail in Genoa.

In 1382 the hapless Peter II died leaving no children from his marriage to Venetiana Visconti daughter of the Duke of Milan.

Queen Eleanor had at last been sent into exile so could no longer interfere with the running of the country. The heir to the throne was James the Constable who was still in jail. He managed to raise the ransom demanded and returned to Cyprus to reorganize his kingdom.

This he did with a modicum of success and died in 1398. His son Janus followed him and married Charlotte of Bourbon.

The country had started to become prosperous once more when, in 1426, the Egyptians invaded, probably incited by the Genoese. They almost annihilated Janus’s army and took him prisoner. Cyprus then came under the vassalage of Egypt.

The End of the French Kings

Janus died in 1432 to be succeeded by his totally weak and incompetent son who became John II. He was in turn dominated by his mistress, his wives and son James. His inglorious reign came to an end in 1458 and he was succeeded by his only legitimate child, Charlotte. She in turn was deposed by her brother in alliance with the Sultan of Egypt.

The splendors of French rule were drawing rapidly to a close but James did make a last ditch attempt to preserve some of the glories of the past. He reorganized the kingdom he had usurped and drove the Geneose out of Famagusta. For money and allies he turned to Venice and married Catherine Cornaro.

James II died in what today would be described as suspicious circumstances and for which no adequate explanation was ever given. His posthumous son James III died at a year old and Catherine ruled as queen. For thirteen years she desperately held out against the might of Venice, eventually giving in to a power too strong to oppose. She abdicated in 1489 leaving Cyprus to become a Venetian stronghold.

The people of Cyprus did not wish to see an end to the dynasty that had ruled for the last three centuries. They had become used to the prosperity around them and did not relish the thought of rule from Venice. However, any ideas of rebellion were swiftly crushed with harsh punishment.

Early settlers

Expansion and trade

The Iron Age

Persian Rule

Hellenistic Period

Roman period

Byzantine rule

Three Hundred years of French Rule

Venetian Rule

Ottoman Rule

British Control

Union with Greece

The country remains divided

Home | About Us | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Disclaimer |