A Condottiere - Painting by Lord Frederic Leighton approx. 1870s
The Condottiere were leaders of military companies ( made up by and large of foreign soldiers ) in the
Middle Ages. These companies played an important part in Italian history during
the 14th and 15th centuries as they were hired out
to carry on the conflicts which constantly arose between the Republican
Governments and the powerful lordships which existed, it being deemed much
safer for a tyrant who usurped the functions of government to engage a
mercenary army to protect and support him, rather than arm his own subjects.
A severe discipline was introduced into the company itself, while in its relations to the people the most barbaric license was allowed. Its members were clad in armour from head to foot; and one of the most famous of the condottiere was Englishman Sir John Hawkwood.
Sir John Hawkwood (c. 1323–1394) - the second son of Gilbert Hawkwood - a gentleman and landowner of "considerable wealth" - was an English soldier who served as a mercenary leader or condottiere in Italy.