On January 17, 1369, Peter I, King of Cyprus was stabbed to death as he slept in his palace in Nicosia, supposedly by three of his own knights. He was succeeded by his son, Peter II. Queen Eleanor – now the Queen Mother – became convinced that her husband had been killed on the orders of Peter’s brother Prince John. Despite rumours of her infidelity in the king’s absence she vowed to avenge his murder. John had taken up residence in St Hilarion Castle, which he held with a force of Bulgarian mercenaries, while Peter’s other brother James held Kyrenia. A Genoese invasion, possibly at Eleanor’s instigation, led, in 1374, to the surrender of Kyrenia, and James ended up as a prisoner in Genoa. Eleanor now turned her attention to John. Having persuaded him that all was forgiven, she warned the prince that his Bulgarian forces were planning to overthrow him. John responded by throwing several of them to their deaths from Prince John’s Tower. Eleanor’s accusations were almost certainly untrue – a Machiavellian plan aiming to both bring him closer and weaken him. The drama concluded when Eleanor invited John to dine with her and the young king in Nicosia. They ate in the very room where Peter I was murdered and, when the final dish arrived, she dramatically flung back the cloth to reveal her dead husband’s blood-stained shirt. This was the signal for retainers to appear and stab Prince John to death in his turn.

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