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Sunday, 13 May, 2001, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
UK faces bill for lost crusade
Professor Ayvazyan with map of Cilicia
Prof Ayvazyan eyes Cilicia
Britain could face a 600-year-old bill for a crusade that never was if an Armenian history professor has his way.

Suren Ayvazyan of Yerevan University is writing to the Queen to demand the return of the treasury of the Kingdom of Cilicia, or Lesser Armenia, which was overthrown by the Muslim Mameluke rulers of Egypt in 1375.

Mount Ararat is holy to Armenians
Mount Ararat in Turkey
King Levon VI of Cilicia, a state occupying parts of what are now Turkey and Syria, managed to escape to Europe, where he sought to raise a final crusade to free the last Christian state in the Middle East.

In 1378, he signed an agreement depositing the Cilician treasury with King Richard II of England for safekeeping until his kingdom regained its independence, according to Professor Ayvazyan.

King Levon did not live to see his country free again. In fact, apart from an interlude in 1918-1921, no Armenian state existed again until the Republic of Armenia was established in the Caucasus in 1991.

The 300 years of the Cilician Kingdom is considered to be the golden age of the Armenian enlightenment, and produced a wealth of exquisite illuminated manuscripts.

It eventually fell foul of the wrath of Muslim rulers in the region for having sided with the Crusader states of Edessa and Jerusalem.

Claims of royal kinship

Professor Ayvazyan somewhat muddied the waters by suggesting that the English themselves originally came from the Angl-tun region of ancient Armenia in the second millennium BC.

"That is why Levon VI, following the tradition of Armenian rulers, handed the Armenian treasury for safekeeping to those who came originally from Angl-tun - to the English king," he told the Armenian newspaper Novoye Vremya.

Professor Ayvazyan also suggested that the House of Windsor derived its name from the Armenian word meaning "gorge of the vineyards".

"That means the ancestors of the current Queen lived in Armenia in a gorge where grapes were grown," the professor suggested.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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