In Florence cathedral hangs a remarkable portrait by Uccello of Sir John Hawkwood, the English soldier of fortune who commanded the Florentine army at the age of 70 and earned a formidable reputation as one of the foremost mercenaries of the late middle ages. His life is an amazing story. He rose from modest beginnings in an Essex village, fought through the French campaigns of Edward III, went to Italy when he was 40 and played a leading role in ceaseless strife of the city-states that dominated that country. His success over so many years in such a brutal and uncertain age was founded on his exceptional skill as a soldier and commander, and it is this side of his career that Stephen Cooper explores in this perceptive and highly readable study.
Stephen Cooper is an Oxford graduate, lawyer and civil servant who has previously written on life in eighteenth-century England and on English crime and criminals in the nineteenth century. But his main interest has always been in medieval history, and he has made a close study of the Hundred Years War and of mercenary warfare in medieval Italy. His most recent book is Sir John Hawkwood: Chivalry and the Art of War. He currently lives in Yorkshire.