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Sir John Hawkwood

Argent, on a chevron sable three escallops argent.


Paolo Uccello's equestrian portrait of Sir John Hawkwood.  Painted in 1436 as a fresco on an interior wall of the cathedral of Florence.  (Image scanned from Italian Painting: 1200-1600)


Sir John Hawkwood was said to have been the son of a tanner in Essex, England.  He served in the English army under Edward III and the Black Prince during the Hundred Year War with the free companies in France.  Although there is no evidence as to when and where, Hawkwood somehow was knighted by the Black Prince.  Around 1360, Sir John founded the White Company; a band of men-at-arms in Italy.  Hawkwood and his Company of mercenaries assisted many in the Italian wars of the 14th century.  Including helping the Marquis of Monferrato against Milan in 1362; the Pisans against Florence in 1364; Perugia against the Pope in1369; Bernab Visconti against Pisa, Florence and others in 1370.  In 1372 he helped Visconti against the Marquis of Monferrato, then resigned his command which let the White Company pass into the papal service (which they had previously fought against.) In1375 the city-state of Florence paid Hawkwood to not engage the city in battle for three months.  He stayed in the service of Florence for over 20 years.  Hawkwood married Donnina Visconti (illegitimate daughter of Bernab) in Milan in 1377.  It appears that they had one son and two daughters. (Some accounts say that this was Hawkwood's second marriage and that he had two sons and three daughters from it.)  During the 1390's, in the Florentine war against Gian Galeazzo Visconti (who had murdered Bernab), Hawkwood was appointed condottiere, mercenary general of the army.  Upon the death of Sir John Hawkwood in 1394, Florence gave him a great public funeral, and decreed that a marble monument was to be erected in the cathedral.  For one reason or another, it never happened.  Then in 1436, Paolo Uccello was commissioned to paint Hawkwood's portrait within the cathedral, where it still remains.  At the behest of Hawkwood's son(s) to King Richard II of England and to Florence, Sir John Hawkwood was returned to England and supposedly buried at Hedingham Sibil, where he was born.


DeWald, Ernest T.  Italian Painting: 1200-1600.  1961 Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 61-8585.


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