The last Queen of Cyprus and Christian Sultana (Caterina and Mara)

One night in early 1431 in Smederevo Castle near Belgarde.
“Mara, I know that this might be a lot that I ask you to do! I also know that I would not ask you to sacrifice your future if I had some other choice! After so many sleepless nights and internal fight of my soul and heart, I concluded that this would be the only available move for the good of Serbia and our family. I am asking you, my child, to marry Sultan Murat II and be one of his wives. I am begging you, dearest, for the highest sacrifice of a living person! To give life and continue living! I deep inside of me know, my loving daughter, that you have strength, that you are armed with deep instincts, patientce, and knowledge, which will be of extreme help to our family and our state! God bless you dearest! May HE THE CREATOR be with you at all times! ” Djuradj Brankovic the Despot of Serbia said to his daughter the night he decided to offer her hand to Sultan Murat II.
Mara, who was raised with total, undisputed, unconditional love for her family and Serbia, accepted her father’s request!

One day in early 1468 in Venice.
“Caterina, you know how our family operates, you know that our interests are deep and wide on the island of Cyprus! You also understand that the Kingdom of Cyprus ruler owns us a lot of money! We do not care for that money, so much, as long as there is more to further expand our fortunes. Maybe the time has come for Cornaro Family to step out of the Corner and get the place to govern. To extend our interest to other parts of the known world as doors will be opening faster and with better interest in us and what our family has to offer! Dear child, your tastes are high and will be secured by marriage to the King of Cyprus! Your way of living will be guaranteed, and your income increased. Your duty for our family and Venice, in some instances, will be highly rewarded! Your happiness might not be immediate, but it will be compensated with all the glamour possible. Happiness will gradually enter your life, be sure about it, dear loving daughter!” Marco Cornaro, Cavaliere del Sacro Romano Impero, Patrizio Veneto, the father of Caterina, conveyed to his daughter when she was 14 years of age. Caterina could not say no. But she was dreaming of her future husband and happiness to be found on the road of her life!

This is the story of two ladies who were born at different places with 38 years difference but who were very active participants in the history of the mid 15th and beginning of the 16th Century. Caterina |Cornaro of Venice crowned as Queen of Cyprus, “delivering” Cyprus to Venice and Mara Brankovic of Serbia, becoming Sultana Maria and influencing her stepson Sultan Mehmed The Conqueror who called her “Mother.”

The youngest, Caterina, was the great-great-granddaughter of Doge of Venice Marco Cornaro (1365-1368), bearing the same name as his second wife. Her grandfather Giorgio Cornaro was the first member of the family to get involved in the economic life of Cyprus. After his death in 1439, his sons Andrea and Marco Antonio (the father of Caterina), continued venture in Cyprus and managed to enlarge the business, incorporating Cyprus into a family enterprise.
Caterina’s mother Fiorenza Crispo was the daughter of Nicholas Crispo, Lord of Syros.
Father of Caterina, Marco Antonio, the great-grandson of Marco Cornaro, Doge of Venice, was one of the King of Cyprus Jean II creditors. He even received several villages around Trodos mountain as a guarantee for the sovereign debt. That was confiscated in 1460 by the Louis of Savoy and his wife Charlotte and returned after four years due to deep connections Marcos brother Andrea had with royals. All of the above and many other events to follow later, presented here were just a preparation from Corner(Cornaru) family for taking over Cyprus, culminating with engagement, and then marriage to King James III, which took place in November 1472 at Famagusta. There is a Cypriot proverb that says: “With eating there comes the appetite” definitely well known to Corner family!
The new life of Caterina began!

The older, Mara, from her mother’s side, had as uncle King John II of Trebizond.
From her stepmother’s side, Mara had a connection with Paleologos and Katakouzenos families.
And finally, from father’s side, Despot of Kingdom Rascia and the Lord of Albania Djuradj Brankovic, her roots go to Nemanjic Dynasty Car Stephan Dushan and King Lazar Hrebeljanovic, who died at the Battle of Kosovo 1389.
As her father’s first and oldest daughter Mara was somehow the instrument, like Caterina, of his diplomacy. Especially as he got married again with Irene Kantakouzene with whom Mara did not have a good relation. Irene was not at all popular with the people as they gave her the nickname of “Jerina the cursed” or Damned Jerina.” However, Despot Djuradj loved his daughter and asked her if she would get married to Sultan Murad II for the good of Serbia. She accepted the what at the time looked as sacrifice! Engagement with Sultan Murad II took place in 1431. Their betrothal was an attempt to prevent an Ottoman invasion of Serbia. Their marriage took place on September 4th, 1435, in Edirne(Adrianople).
New life for Mara started!…..

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