1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hawkwood, Sir John
HAWKWOOD, SIR JOHN (d. 1394), an English adventurer who attained great wealth and renown as a condottiere in the Italian wars of the 14th century. His name is variously spelt as Haccoude, Aucud, Aguto, &c, by contemporaries. It is said that he was the son of a tanner of Hedingham Sibil in Essex, and was apprenticed in London, whence he went, in the English army, to France under Edward III. and the Black Prince. It is said also that he obtained the favour of the Black Prince, and received knighthood from King Edward III., but though it is certain that he was of knightly rank, there is no evidence as to the time or place at which he won it. On the peace of Bretigny in 1360, he collected a band of men-at-arms, and moved southward to Italy, where we find the White Company, as his men were called, assisting the marquis of Monferrato against Milan in 1362–63, and the Pisans against Florence in 1364. After several campaigns in various parts of central Italy, Hawkwood in 1368 entered the service of Bernabò Visconti. In 1369 he fought for Perugia against the pope, and in 1370 for the Visconti against Pisa, Florence and other enemies. In 1372 he defeated the marquis of Monferrato, but soon afterwards, resenting the interference of a council of war with his plans, Hawkwood resigned his command, and the White Company passed into the papal service, in which he fought against the Visconti in 1373–1375. In 1375 the Florentines entered into an agreement with him, by which they were to pay him and his companion 130,000 gold florins in three months on condition that he undertook no engagement against them, and in the same year the priors of the arts and the gonfalonier decided to give him a pension of 1200 florins per annum for as long as he should remain in Italy. In 1377, under the orders of the cardinal Robert of Geneva, legate of Bologna, he massacred the inhabitants of Cesena, but in May of the same year, disliking the executioner's work put upon him by the legate, he joined the anti-papal league, and married, at Milan, Donnina, an illegitimate daughter of Bernabò Visconti. In 1378 and 1379 Hawkwood was constantly in the field; he quarrelled with Bernabò in 1378, and entered the service of Florence, receiving, as in 1375, 130,000 gold florins. He rendered good service to the republic up to 1382, when for a time he was one of the English ambassadors at the papal court. He engaged in a brief campaign in Naples in 1383, fought for the marquis of Padua against Verona in 1386, and in 1388 made an unsuccessful effort against Gian Galeazao Visconti, who had murdered Bernabò. In 1390 the Florentines took up the war against Gian Galeazzo in earnest, and appointed Hawkwood commander-in-chief. His campaign against the Milanese army in the Veronese and the Bergamask was reckoned a triumph of generalship, and in 1392 Florence exacted a satisfactory peace from Gian Galeazzo. His latter years were spent in a villa in the neighbourhood of Florence. On his death in 1394 the republic gave him a public funeral of great magnificence, and decreed the erection of a marble monument in the cathedral. This, however, was never executed, but Paolo Uccelli painted his portrait in terre-verte on the inner façade of the building, where it still remains, though damaged by removal from the plaster to canvas. Richard II. of England, probably at the instigation of Hawkwood's sons, who returned to their native country, requested the Florentines to let him remove the good knight's bones, and the Florentine government signified its consent.
Of his children by Donnina Visconti, who appears to have been his second wife, the eldest daughter married Count Brezaglia of Porciglia, podestá of Ferrara, who succeeded him as Florentine commander-in-chief, and another a German condottiere named Conrad Prospergh. His son, John, returned to England and settled at Hedingham Sibil, where, it is supposed, Sir John Hawkwood was buried. The children of the first marriage were two sons and three daughters, and of the latter the youngest married John Shelley, an ancestor of the poet
Authorities—Muratori, Rerum Italicarum scriptores, and supplement by Tartinius and Manni; Archivio storico italiano, Temple-Leader and Marcotti, Giovanni Acuto (Florence, 1889, Eng. trans., Leader Scott, London, 1889); Nichol, Bibliotheca topographica Britannica, vol. vi.; J. G. Alger in Register and Magazine of Biography, v. I.; and article in Dict. Nat. Biog.