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Irene of Trebizond

Irene of Trebizond

Irene of Trebizond (Greek: Ειρήνη η μεγάλη Κομνηνή, Eirēnē ē megalē Komnēnē), (?-post 1382) was the bigamous wife of Basil of Trebizond, by whom he had two sons, Alexios and John, later Alexios III of Trebizond and possibly two daughters, Maria and Theodora.

Not much is known of Irene's early life before she attained the peak of power and became the second, not altogether legal wife of Basil. Her marriage engendered much protest from the Patriach of Constantinople, John IV Calecas, but it must be admitted that Basil certainly seems to have had a long fling with her and it was only after she had born him two sons and heirs that he married her. Her marriage to him only lasted about nine months before he is supposed to have been murdered by his legitimate wife, Irene Palaiologina, and what followed was a palace coup. Palaiologina and her supporters seized power and sent her off with her two young sons, Alexios and John, off to Constantinople where they could be guarded by Palaiologina's father, Andronikos III Palaiologos.

Their time in exile seems to have been spent as witnesses of the palace revolutions taking place both in Trebizond and in the Byzantine Empire. The regency government of John V Palaiologos supported Irene's husband's uncle Michael of Trebizond and also Basil's cousin John III of Trebizond in their power bids for power in Trebizond, but when John VI Kantakuzenos won the Byzantine civil war, he lent his support to a power bid on the behalf of Irene's son John, renamed Alexios, led by Nicetas Scholaris, the leader of the powerful Scholaris clan who Michael had alienated. The bid was successful and overturned the weak and violent government of Michael and put Irene's son on the throne.

The restoration of the illegitimate branch of the Komnenos family marked the beginning also of Irene's own power in the government of Trebizond on behalf of her son. She seems to have struggled for power with the nobles and especially the Doranites family who unsuccessfully revolted in the capital, while her son Alexios retired to the castle fortress of Tripolis for security. In 1351 she went with an expedition to Limnia with Michael Panaretos and seized the city from the lordly pretensions of Constantine Doranites.

After the civil war ended, Irene seems to have played still some part in the government of Trebizond and in 1367 accompanied her son Alexios when her grandaugter Anna was married to the king of Georgia. She also was present at the baptism of her great-grandson Basil, renamed later Alexios IV of Trebizond. This incident in 1382 is the last time she appears and what happened to her after that is unknown.

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