Helena was born on 3 February 1428 as the daughter of Theodore II Palaiologos (Despot in the Morea) and Cleofa Malatesta at the Castle of Mistras in Greece. She was to be their only child. She was just five years old when her mother died, but not much else is known of her youth. On her 14th birthday, she married King John II of Cyprus and Armenia, titular King of Jerusalem and Prince of Antioch at the Cathedral of Saint Sophia in Nicosia. He was 27 years old and a widower.
Her husband’s mistress was Marietta de Patras, and she had been his mistress since around 1438. Together they a single son, James, who eventually became King James II of Cyprus. Marietta de Patras was considered very beautiful, and Helena must have felt threatened by her. Shortly after her marriage to the King, she ordered that Marietta’s nose be cut off.
John and Helena had two daughters, Charlotte, who succeeded as Queen of Cyprus and Cleopha, who died young. Helen is held responsible for the poisoning of her son-in-law infante John of Portugal, who had given his support to the Catholic party. Both John and Helena died in 1458. They both died in the fortress of Nicosia where they had barricaded themselves during the insurrection of John’s illegitimate son, James. Helen died on 11 April, and John followed on 28 July. He was briefly succeeded by his legitimate daughter by Helena, Charlotte, but she was deposed by her half-brother in 1464.
Marietta would outlive them all. She was showered with gifts of cities during her son’s reign, but when he died in 1473, she was taken to Venice and then to Padua where she was held in semi-captivity. She died on 12 April 1503.