[Marriage of Amalric I and Maria Komnene, 13th century, source: Wikimedia Commons]
Maria was the daughter of John Doukas Komnenos and Maria Tronitissa. Through her father she was grand-niece and cousin to the Byzantine emperors while through her mother she was descended from Armenian royalty. She grew up in Constantinople, where she received a broad education befitting a Byzantine princess.
In 1167, when she was about 13, Maria was crowned Queen of Jerusalem and married its king, Amalric as his second wife.* The couple had only one surviving child in their seven years of marriage: a daughter, Isabella. Amalric died in 1174, leaving Baldwin IV as king and Sybilla as his heir, the children of his first wife. Maria, now the dowager queen, retired with her daughter to Nablus, left to her by her husband for her lifetime.
For several years Maria mostly stayed out of politics. She was against the betrothal of her daughter Isabella to Humphrey of Toron, but was unable to stop it. She eventually married Balian of Ibelin** and had at least four children with him. Once Baldwin IV died, Maria and her husband reentered politics, opposing Sybilla’s husband Guy of Lusignan. It was Maria who eventually persuaded Isabella to agree to a divorce from Humphrey so she could marry Conrad of Montferrat instead.
When Saladin besieged Jerusalem, Maria was among those trapped in the city. Balian arrived to secure safe passage for her and her children, and Saladin granted it on the condition that Balian not take up arms. Balian went back on his word. Saladin, however, still provided safe passage, probably in large part because he didn’t want to anger the Byzantine Emperor by injuring part of his family.
Maria continued to play a role in selecting her daughter’s husbands as each died. She also had a hand in negotiating the marriage of her granddaughter Alice of Champagne’s marriage in 1208. She disappears from the historical record after this, leaving her ultimate fate unkown.
*He’d been required to divorce Agnes of Courtenay, his first wife before becoming king. Maria’s coronation actually happened before her marriage, though she only became queen because of said marriage.
**As far as we can tell it was for no reason other than that she wanted to.
William of Tyre, History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea - Internet History Sourcebooks Project
Claster, Jill N. Sacred Violence: the European Crusades to the Middle East, 1095-1396. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.
Maria Comnena, Byzantine Princess and Dowager Queen of Jerusalem - Defender of Jerusalem
Maria Comnena, Lady of Ibelin and Founder of Two Dynasties - Defender of Jerusalem