The Lusignan family was noted for its many Crusaders. Amalric and Guy were sons of Hugh VIII of Lusignan, who had himself campaigned in the Holy Land in the 1160s. After being expelled from Poitou by their overlord, Richard the Lion-hearted, for the murder of Patrick of Salisbury, 1st Earl of Salisbury, Amalric arrived in Palestine c. 1174, Guy possibly later. Amalric married Eschiva, daughter of Baldwin of Ibelin. He then took service with Agnes of Courtenay, wife of Reginald of Sidon and mother of Baldwin IV of Jerusalem. The pro-Ibelin Chronicle of Ernoul later claimed that he was her lover, but it is likely that she and Baldwin IV were attempting to separate him from the political influence of his wife's family. He was appointed Constable of Jerusalem soon after April 22, 1179. Guy married the king's widowed older sister, Sibylla of Jerusalem in 1180, and so gained a claim to the kingdom of Jerusalem.
Amalric was among those captured with his brother after the disastrous Battle of Hattin in 1187. In 1194, on the death of Guy, he became King of Cyprus as Amalric I. By his first wife, Eschiva of Ibelin, he was the father of Hugh I of Cyprus and was crowned in Nicosia on September 22, 1197. After Eschiva's death in October, 1197 he married Isabella, the daughter of Amalric I of Jerusalem by his second marriage, and became King of Jerusalem in right of his wife and crowned at Acre in January, 1198.
In 1198 he was able to procure a five years' truce with the Muslims, owing to the struggle between Saladin's brothers and his sons for the inheritance of his territories. The truce was disturbed by raids on both sides, but in 1204 it was renewed for six years.
Amalric died of dysentery (allegedly brought on by "a surfeit of white mullet") or even poisoned at Saint Jean d' Acre in 1205, just after his son Amalric and just before his wife, and was buried at Saint Sophia, Nicosia. The kingdom of Cyprus passed to Hugh, his son by Eschiva, while the kingdom of Jerusalem passed to Maria, the daughter of Isabella by her previous marriage with Conrad of Montferrat.