The Bride Price
|Bernabo Visconti & his wife Beatrice|
Following the money, Hawkwood now left papal employ taking up service with Florence and Milan. In an attempt to permanently attach the foremost mercenary of the times to his service Hawkwood was proffered a marriage with an illegitimate offspring of Bernabo, Count of Milan.Born in 1360, Donnina, who came with a dowry of 10,000 florins, was Bernabo’s daughter by Montanina di Lazzari, who bore one other child to the count[i]. The wedding took place on 3rd May 1377; the couple had four children, one son and three daughters.
‘Last Sunday, Sir John Hawkwood conducted a bride with all honours to the house where he was living………..and the wedding was honoured by the presence of………all the daughters of Signor Bernabo.’[ii]Within four days of the ceremony Hawkwood was off to Cremona, where Hawkwood’s men, alongside Visconti forces, were preparing a defence against the Bretons. At the same time Hawkwood was also greatly improving the defences of his properties in the Romagna. Donnina was left at Bagnacavallo, which was roughly the same size as Cotignola.
The Pope was unable to pay the Bretons and by the summer Hawkwood was ready to give battle, despite being advised against it by a Florentine ambassador. His response was
‘Go and weave your cloth, and leave me to lead soldiers.’[iii]The Bretons made their way through the Maremma, to Grosseto which they blockaded with 1,800 lances. They were followed by Hawkwood and a small force of his men. By early autumn the Bretons were quarrelling amongst themselves and drifting away, looking for more remunerative work, until only about a third were left under papal command. Now the Pope was making peace offers to the anti-papal league, headed by the Visconti
‘Seeking to make peace with Bernabo Visconti, through the offices of John Hawkwood.’[iv]When Hawkwood informed the Signoria in Venice of the offers; their response was concern about the Visconti motives. The Signoria believed that the Count of Milan wished to extend his sway throughout central Italy. They feared that a Visconti-Papal alliance would leave Florence exposed. The Pope’s position seemed to be hardening and when Siena sent ambassadors he held them prisoners for four months and demanded three million florins from Florence as a price for peace.
Working for Two MastersAlthough a pensioner of the city for many years, Florence had never welcomed Hawkwood into her gates. But now afraid of isolation and the machinations of the Visconti Hawkwood was welcomed into the city.
‘Sir John Hawkwood entered Florence with his Company at the twenty-third hour and dismounted at the palace of the Archbishop of Florence, and great honour was paid him by our Signoria and the other councils, and a great deal of wax, and sweetmeats, and draperies of silk and wool were presented to him. They made a great feast for him and his Company in the Palace of the Signoria, and he was much honoured.’[v]The city lay under interdict from the Pope. In the October of 1377 the Florentine government passed a law requiring the citizens to ignore the Papal ban on attending religious services. Gregory responded by ordering all clergy in Florence to leave immediately. The city’s trade had suffered during the interdict[vi] and the citizens were weary of the war.
On 10th December Hawkwood left Florence for a conference with Bernabo Visconti. The Florentines begged him to return to Tuscany where the majority of his men were quartered. Letters spoke of his men in disorder
‘Without you we can neither control them, nor send them to the help of allies, which may be the cause of consequences displeasing to both you and us’ and ‘It was the captain’s place to immediately repress this scandal, going at once to the place where his presence and prudence would be sufficient to re-establish order.’[vii]At the end of January 1378 Hawkwood returned to bring his men back under his iron hand. Visconti was now in favour of coming to terms with the Pope and demanded the release of Hawkwood and most of his men; a demand that deeply concerned the Florentines. In March Gregory sent one of his most influential representatives to Florence, Catherine of Siena.
The citizens of Florence were so weary of the war, which to date had cost 2,500,000 florins, their military reverses and the uncontrolled excesses of Hawkwood’s men; that the Signoria was compelled to sue for peace. The city’s representatives, at the peace conference, were about to come to terms when the news of the Pope’s death arrived. In April the new pope, Urban VI was elected[viii]. The news merely delayed the inevitable and on 18th July the Florentines were informed that a truce had been agreed. The following day the citizens erupted and chaos ensued for over a month to be put down in a brutal repression.Later in the year Donnina gave birth to her first child Janet and in 1379 Catherine was born. Hawkwood’s additional costs were more than compensated for by bribes and a reward for detailing a conspiracy in Florence, which resulted in the execution of 46 people.
The English Connection
Richard II seen kneeling in left hand portion of the Wilton Diptych
The death of Edward III and the accession of his grandson, Richard II, led to another hiatus in the Hundred Years War. And English emissaries were in Italy seeking a bride for their young king and allies in their fight against the French. In May 1378 the English emissary[ix] had started his travels bringing his king’s greetings to
‘Bernabo Visconti, Lord of Milan, and to our dear and faithful Sir John Hawkwood.’[x]By June Hawkwood was assisting Bernabo of Milan in a war against Bernabo’s wife’s family. Hawkwood met the English emissary sometime during the summer and Milanese officials travelled to England to discuss the possibility of a marriage, which failed to materialise[xi].
In additions to the large fees that he charged for the Hawkwood’s men, Hawkwood was also making money in the wool trade, as an earner on the side. English records show his involvement in the trade. On 5th May 1381 Hawkwood was appointed Richard II’s ambassador to the Papal court in Rome; he was instructed to discuss the schism with Avignon. By now, following the failure of the English marriage, Bernabo had fallen out with his son-in-law and this new position was timely.Bernabo was so infuriated that he offered thirty florins to anyone who took prisoner or killed one of Hawkwood’s men. Hawkwood’s daughter, from his first marriage, Antiocha had married a Sir William Coggeshall[xii] and Coggeshall was also fighting in Italy. Hawkwood now had Coggeshall journey to his own property at Bagnacavalo, requesting a safe conduct from the Gonzaga while travelling across Mantua lands.
The protection of his properties in the Romagna were costing Hawkwood far more than the income he received from them. The three properties were accordingly mortgaged to the d’Este family for 60,000 gold ducats. Hawkwood now attempted to get permission to reside in Florence; as he was not a citizen he had to apply for permission. The Signoria agreed to allow him to reside outside the city walls at San Donato in Polverosa.Intermezzo
Charles III of Naples
In 1382 Charles, Duke of Durrazzo, had murdered his way to the throne of Naples. Another claimant Louis, Duke of Anjou[xiii], was en route to Naples. Anjou threatened the Pope[xiv], as one of his supporters was the anti-Pope at Avignon, who had crowned Louis King of Naples. The Count of Milan and Amadeus of Savoy were his other main backers. Hawkwood’s men were called to protect the pope in a letter of 31st July asking for;
‘Our beloved son, the noble John Hawkwood, knight.’[xv]
Louis of Anjou
And six hundred lances. Anjou was attacked on the road by brigands, directed by Charles III. By the time he arrived in Naples Charles III was safely behind fortifications and Hawkwood’s men, released from the necessity of guarding Florence, arrived to support him.Eventually Louis returned to France following a guerrilla style war and the loss of large numbers of his soldiers to an epidemic, leaving Charles in possession of the throne. Urban had hoped that Charles would stand aside to allow Urban’s nephew to take the kingdom, the primary reason for throwing his backing behind Charles, who did not oblige.
Urban excommunicated him and laid Naples under an interdict. He was eventually obliged to return to Rome without any spoils, taking with him as prisoners six of his cardinals[xvi]. All but one of the cardinals was murdered.In September 1385 Urban met with Hawkwood, in his capacity as English ambassador. The English court was concerned about the fate of the last of the cardinal prisoners, an Englishman Adrian Easton[xvii].
Hawkwood had been given far-reaching powers to treat over alliances with the pope, Florence, Perugia, Bologna and Naples. With his fellow ambassadors, Nicholas Dagworth and John Bacon[xviii], Hawkwood was successful in his intercession for Easton, who was released[xix].Bibliography
Italian Dynasties – Edward Burman, Thorsons Publishing 1989Chronicles – Froissart, Penguin Classics 1968
The Fourteenth Century – May McKisack, Oxford University Press 1997A History of Venice – John Julius Norwich, Penguin Books 1982
Hawkwood – Frances Stonor Saunders, Faber & Faber Ltd 2004A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, Pan MacMillan Publishers Ltd 1989
[i] Bernabo had over 30 children, 13 of whom were illegitimate. Donnina’s brother was made Lord of Brignano.
[ii] Hawkwood – Stonor Saunders
[vi] In 1368 customs tolls were 196,395 lire and in 1377 circa half this amount – Stonor Saunders
[vii] Hawkwood – Stonor Saunders
[viii] Urban’s terrible rages meant that a number of cardinals departed from Rome and elected Robert of Geneva as an anti-Pope in Avignon in November 1378, known as the Western Schism.
[ix] Geoffrey Chaucer, the poet
[x] Hawkwood – Stonor Saunders
[xi] Richard married Anne of Bohemia in 1382 and after her death married the daughter of the King of France, Isabella in 1396
[xii] The couple had four children
[xiii] The murdered queen’s adopted heir
[xiv] Urban VI, Gregory died in 1378
[xv] Hawkwood – Stonor Saunders
[xvi] Taken prisoner as they had wanted to forcibly return Urban to Roma
[xvii] A Benedictine Abbot from Norwich, who was made a cardinal in 1379 by Urban
[xviii] Richard’s secretary
[xix] Dying in 1397 and buried in St Cecilia in Trastavere.