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Upon being greeted by two friars with the words, "God give you peace," Sir John is reputed to have replied, "God take away your alms. For as you live by charity, so do I by war, and to me it is as genuine a vocation as yours."
| Sir John Hawkwood was an Englishman, a soldier who made a reputation for himself in France and an even larger one (and a fortune to go along with it) in the Italies as a condotierre, a mercenary general.
He was born in Essex and was the son of a tanner, not of gentle birth at all. He earned his knighthood by soldiering, apparently while on campaign under English leadership. When one of the more peaceful portions of the Hundred Years War came along, he soldiered on among the free companies, many of whom were little more than brigands.
When the pickings dried up in France, Hawkwood and some of his fellow mercenaries traveled to the Italies where they expected more and better paid employment. It was there that Sir John rose to command of the White Company, a successful band that became known as an English group despite the presence of soldiers from the Germanies, France, and other places.
Hawkwood served for and against various city states and even fought under the papal banner, a service he left when a certain cardinal, Robert of Geneva, ordered a city sacked despite Hawkwood's earlier promise to the citizens that they would be spared.
He built a solid reputation as a reliable general, married the natural daughter of Bernabo Visconti, and retired to his Florentine holdings. When he died, his remains were returned to England.