Catherine Cornaro

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Catherine Cornaro, also known in Italian as Caterina (1454 - 1510), was Queen of Cyprus from 1474 to 1489. She was born in Venice in 1454 and was the daughter of a well-known and powerful family of the Republic of Venice. The Cornaro family had produced four Doges. Her family had long associations with Cyprus, especially with regards to trade and commerce. In the Episkopi area, in the District of Limassol, the Cornaro family administered various sugar-mills and exported Cypriot products to Venice.

In 1468, James II of Cyprus, otherwise known as James the Bastard, became King. In 1473 he chose Caterina for a wife and queen of the Kingdom of Cyprus. The King's choice was extremely pleasing to the Republic of Venice as it could henceforth secure the commercial rights and other privileges of Venice in Cyprus.

James died soon after the wedding due to a sudden illness, and according to his will, Caterina, who at the time was pregnant, acted as regent. She became Queen when their infant son James died in 1474 before his first birthday, under suspicious circumstances.

The kingdom had long since declined, and had been a tributary state of the Mameluks since 1426. Under Caterina, who ruled the island from 1474 to 1489, the island was controlled by Venetian merchants, and in 1489 she was forced to abdicate and to cede the administration of the country to the Republic of Venice. According to George Boustronios, "On the 14th of February, the Queen dressed in black and accompanied by the Barons and their ladies, set off on horseback. Six knights held her horse's reins. From the moment she left Nicosia, her eyes kept streaming with tears. Upon her departure, the whole population was bewailing." Finally she was obliged to leave the island on the 14th of May, 1489. The last Crusader state became a colony of Venice, and as compensation, she was allowed to retain the title of Queen and was made the sovereign of Asolo, a county in Italy, where she died in 1510.

Preceded by:
James III
Queen of Cyprus
Succeeded by:

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