Facts and Events
Yolande of Montferrat ( – 1317 in Constantinople) (also known as Violante, then Empress Irene) was the second Empress-Consort of Andronikos II Palaiologos, the ruler of Constantinople and the entire Byzantine Empire, and heiress of the Margraviate of Montferrat.
Born in Casale, she was daughter of William VII, Marquess of Montferrat and his second wife Beatrice of Castile. Her maternal grandparents were King Alfonso X of Castile and his wife Violante of Aragon. Yolande (variation of Violante) was named after her grandmother.
In 1284, Andronikos II, a widower by his first marriage with Anna of Hungary, married Yolanda (who was renamed Eirene as Empress). She and Andronikos II were fifth or fourth cousins once removed both being descendants Andronikos Doukas Angelos, the father of Emperor Isaac II Angelos, Eirene's great-great-great-great grandfather, and Emperor Alexios III Angelos, Andronikos II's great-great-great grandfather. With her, Eirene brought the Montferrat rights to the kingdom of Thessalonica, a dominion that, despite having been conquered half-a-century before Eirene's birth by the Byzantine state of Epirus, was still claimed by its short-lived (1204–1224) Montferrat royal dynasty.
It was later proven that the Italian Montferrat had no living male heirs of the Aleramici dynasty, and Eirene's sons were entitled to inherit it upon the 1305 death of Eirene's brother John I, Marquess of Montferrat.
The marriage produced the following children:
Eirene's stepson, Michael IX Palaiologos was intended to succeed her husband as emperor, but ultimately it was Michael's son Andronikos III Palaiologos who became the successor instead of Michael. This was largely due to the work Eirene did to ensure some power and property to her own offspring.
Eirene left Constantinople in 1303 and settled in Thessaloniki. She set her own court in the city and controlled her own finances and foreign policy until her death fourteen years later. Nicephorus Gregoras portrayed her as an ambitious and arrogant leader in his historical writings.