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BLOG: Queen Charlotta of Cyprus: A Forgotten Heroine

If I've learned anything from the short four years I've spent in the book industry, I've learned one thing: good authors help other authors. And then those authors pay it forward, too.


Such is the case with my author support group, known best on Twitter as The Coffeepot Book Club. The men and women in this group watch each other's backs, give support when it's needed, and read each other's books.


And once in a while, there's a stand-out novel that I simply have to crow about. I've read four of Amy Maroney's books and they're all good. However, The Queens Scribe is a sample of intense research and thrilling story-line that I simply must share. There is not a dull moment in this book, and now that it's available, I highly urge you to give it a try. It is part of the series: The Sea and Stone Chronicles, so you might want to begin with Island of Gold--the first book. If you love good, clean fun and a story steeped in romance and adventure, then YOU'RE WELCOME!


And to sing Amy's praises a bit more, she has recently read my manuscript for my next book as a beta reader. I value her opinion and she has been so helpful to me as I prepare my next novel. So, READ ON, everybody!



Queen Charlotta of Cyprus: A Forgotten Heroine

By Amy Maroney

There are novels that we plan carefully far in advance, and then there are the rogues—book ideas that rear up and grab us by the throat while we’re researching something else entirely.


This was the case when I stumbled across Queen Charlotta of Cyprus while doing research for the Sea and Stone Chronicles, a collection of novels about ordinary people living under the rule of the Knights Hospitaller in medieval Rhodes.


I never meant to write about Cyprus, but I kept coming across references to the Lusignan kings who ruled that island for hundreds of years during the medieval era. This French dynasty was allied with the Knights Hospitaller, so I couldn’t help but bump into references to Cyprus as I dug into the knights’ history.


The murderous power plays and corruption of the glittering Lusignan court caught my eye again and again. Had George R.R. Martin read the same books I was reading when he mapped out the Game of Thrones series? My interest deepened. The point of no return came when I discovered that a teenaged, widowed queen had ruled Cyprus for a moment in time during the exact era of my research.


I was gobsmacked by my findings. In 1458, fifteen-year-old Queen Charlotta took the throne alone, held off her power-hungry half-brother’s massive siege and—when her second husband Louis of Savoy proved a weak leader—sailed around the Mediterranean entreating allies to help save her crown.


This courageous queen’s story just had to be told. So I resolved to bring her to life with a novel, The Queen’s Scribe.


Queen Eleni and her daughters--one of whom was Charlotta.


Though her father, King Jean, was a Frenchman born into the Lusignan dynasty, Charlotta’s mother, Eleni Palaiologina, was a proud Greek woman with a forceful personality. Charlotta grew up for all intents and purposes a Greek girl in her mother’s apartments. Under her mother’s influence, the Cypriot court grew steadily Greek, causing resentment among the ‘Latin’ (Western European Catholic) members of the royal retinue.


When Charlotta was married to Prince João of Portugal at fourteen, she was suddenly required to communicate in French (their common language). Yet, by all accounts, her French was terrible. Her need for trusted interpreters only grew stronger as time went on and she was forced to seek assistance from Western allies such as the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, the Pope, and the king of France. This is how I developed the concept of a fictional heroine serving the queen as a skilled interpreter and scribe.


Bellepais Abbey on the beautiful island of Cyprus.


After the 1457 murder of her husband, Prince João, Charlotta faced a new betrothal. This time, her fiancé was her first cousin, Louis of Savoy. In the Greek Orthodox tradition, the marriage of first cousins doomed the bride and groom to hell. Charlotta’s mother, a proud Greek, naturally opposed the union with every fiber of her being. But as soon as she died, the marriage was on.


Fortune’s wheel turned again when King Jean died just a few months after his wife (the number of mysterious deaths and outright murders in the Lusignan Court was astounding). At fifteen, the widowed, grieving Charlotta ascended the throne. Her half-brother, Jacco, vowed he would seize it from her. His plan: gain the favor of the Sultan of Egypt, raise an army, and attack his sister’s kingdom. Charlotta would spend the rest of her life fighting to preserve her throne.


I chose to tell Queen Charlotta’s tale through the eyes of fictional Estelle de Montavon, daughter of a French falconer. I first wrote a story starring her in an anthology a few years ago, and she plays a minor role in my novel Island of Gold.


In The Queen’s Scribe, Estelle, a talented scribe and linguist, offers unique value to the Lusignan court of Cyprus, which steadily lost touch with its French roots all through the late medieval era.


Kyrenia Fortress: Site of Jacco's siege of his half-sister, Queen Charlotta.

Estelle’s language skills become as valuable as gold when the royal court retreats to Kyrenia Fortress and civil war looms between the queen and Jacco. As Queen Charlotta voyages across the Mediterranean Sea beseeching allies for help, Estelle is at her side, witnessing every triumph and disaster along the way.


This extraordinary queen’s ambition and courage burned bright for a few short years, but her story has been lost in the mists of history. I hope The Queen’s Scribe plays a role in bringing Charlotta of Lusignan’s extraordinary story back to life.



All About Amy


Amy Maroney studied English Literature at Boston University and worked for many years as a writer and editor of nonfiction. She lives in Oregon, U.S.A. with her family. When she’s not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, dancing, traveling, and reading. Amy is the author of The Miramonde Series, an award-winning historical fiction trilogy about a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern-day scholar on her trail. Her new historical suspense series, Sea and Stone Chronicles, is set in medieval Rhodes and Cyprus.


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Guest
Apr 27, 2023

Thanks so much for hosting me today, Brook! 😍

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