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Biographical notes on War Captains and Mercenary Leaders operating in Italy between 1330 and 1550

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William Gold: From Cook to Condottiero

Italian CondottieriWilliam Gold: From Cook to Condottiero

A valiant and skilled soldier, his name is phonetically altered in Italian to Guglielmo Cogno. He is also known as Cocco, perhaps because he began his military career as a cook. After fighting in France during the Hundred Years' War under John Hawkwood, he continued to follow this condottiero to Italy. For over twenty years, he served various factions, including the Pisans, Papal States, Florentines, Visconti, and Venetians. Over the years, he amassed a significant fortune. However, he became the victim of a theft when one of his servants stole 500 ducats from him. This incident coincided with the departure of his concubine, whom he had captured in France, along with three of her servants, from the camp at Monzambano.

Indice delle Signorie dei Condottieri: ABCDEFGIJLMNOPQRSTUVZ

William Gold’s Military Adventures and Fortune

Also known by various names such as Guglielmo Cogno, Guglielmo Inglese, William Cook, Guglielmo Gott, and Cocco Inglese, William Gold hailed from Castle Hedingham in Essex.

Death: 1385 ca.

Year, monthState, Comp. venturaOpponentConductActivity AreaActions taken and other salient facts
1340EnglandFrance15 lancesFranceHe served under John Hawkwood (Giovanni Acuto) and commanded a unit of 15 lances.
1360Comp. venturaChurchFranceIn Pont-Saint-Esprit, he left the city accompanied by a concubine.
1364
MayPisaFlorenceTuscanyHe served in the White Company, commanded by Albert Sterz. Under the orders of Hanneken Von Baumgarten (Anichino di Baumgarten), he took part in the attack on the Porta di San Gallo in Florence. During this assault, he distinguished himself alongside Everard della Campana by successfully creating a breach in the walls. He also stood out in an action at Sant’ Antonio del Vescovo. That evening, he was knighted by Baumgarten. The ceremony took place within crossbow range of the city walls.
………TuscanyHe remained by John Hawkwood’s side after the defection of Albert Sterz and other English condottieri from the Pisan ranks.
1365
Jan.ChurchComp. venturaAbruzzoHe continued to be part of the White Company. He is recorded at the Castle of Pescina in the Marsica region, where he negotiated a six-month contract. The objective of this contract was to fight against the company of Hanneken Von Baumgarten in support of the Papal States and Queen Joanna I of Naples (Giovanna d’Angiò).
1371
Sept.ChurchMilanEmiliaTogether with Giovanni Breccia, Guglielmo Bosone, and Richard Ramsey, he was part of John Hawkwood’s company. They engaged in battles against the Visconti forces.
1373ChurchMilanEmiliaPope Gregory XI wrote a letter to William Gold and other captains, urging them to be patient regarding the delays in their pay.
1374
JuneComp. venturaFlorenceEmilia, TuscanyAt the conclusion of a truce between the Papal States and the Visconti, he traveled to Ferrara with John Hawkwood. A new company was formed to launch a raid into Tuscany, including other English captains like Giovanni Breccia, Giovanni Tornaberini, Richard Ramsey, and Philip Puer. The Florentines quickly agreed to a settlement. The company crossed the Idice River near Imola, traversed the Apennines, and entered the Mugello region. The soldiers marched in three columns: Hawkwood in the center, with William Gold and Tornaberini leading the flanks.
JulyComp. venturaPisaTuscanyHe halted in the Pisan territory with John Hawkwood and Giovanni Tornaberini. In Val di Calci, he was awarded 2500 florins, to be paid in installments of 500 florins over five years. Leaving Calci, he conducted raids that affected Capannoli and Forcoli. In the Valdera region, he sacked the surrounding countryside. He advanced to Ripamarance (Pomarance), near Volterra, and Laterina, extending his campaign through these areas.
Aug.Tuscany, UmbriaThe Pisans paid the final installments of the imposed ransom, totaling 35,500 florins, to the company. After receiving this payment, William Gold moved to Umbria.
Dec.ChurchPerugiaUmbriaWhen Perugia rebelled against the Papal States, William Gold withdrew to the citadel with Bernardo della Sala and Gherardo di Puy, the Abbot of Montmajeur. They were besieged by the rebels. Despite John Hawkwood’s efforts to break the siege and free the defenders, the attempts were unsuccessful. In January, an agreement was reached, allowing for the conditional surrender of the Papal forces. Gold was able to leave the citadel with all his possessions, including three silver chalices and an enameled helmet with a crest.
1375
MayEmiliaIn Bologna, which also rebelled against the Papal States in mid-month, he was sent on a reconnaissance mission with Giovanni Tornaberini and Philip Puer, commanding 100 horsemen. They were captured by the inhabitants and imprisoned along with Puer and the illegitimate sons of Tornaberini, Giovanni Breccia, and John Hawkwood. He was released months later.
1377
SpringFlorenceChurchHe followed John Hawkwood in defecting from the Papal camp to join the Florentine side.
1378
Jan.UmbriaFifty of his foragers rode to Corliano, where they devastated the homes of the local peasants and looted a significant number of livestock. This prompted the Florentine Signoria to issue a warning to him, urging that such acts of violence not be repeated in friendly territories.
JuneMilanVeronaVenetoAt the camp of Custoza with John Hawkwood, his conduct proved less than exemplary. He was distracted by his love for his concubine and carried out brutal raids in the nearby Mantuan territory. Hawkwood reprimanded him harshly, threatening him with death if he continued his malfeasance in the Mantuan lands.
JulyLombardyWilliam Gold was reported passing through Roverbella. He requested the Marquis of Mantua, Ludovico Gonzaga, to supply some carts of wheat to feed the horses of his company. At the end of the month, his beloved concubine Janet, whom he had captured years earlier in France, fled the camp at Monzambano during the night along with three of her servants and two horses. Additionally, another of his servants abandoned him, taking the road to Venice with 500 of his florins.
Aug.Veneto, LombardyWilliam Gold was located between Piadena and Villafranca di Verona. From the camp, he contacted the Marquis of Mantua (marchese di Mantova), requesting the arrest of his beloved and the servants who had fled the camp by the Mantuan customs officers. He even went so far as to promise the Marquis to join his service with 500 lances. The conclusion of this affair remains unknown.
1379
May – JuneComp. venturaSienaUmbria, TuscanyWilliam Gold joined forces with John Hawkwood (Giovanni Acuto), Lutz of Landau (Lucio Lando), and Everardo Lando, making their way to Umbria. They were reported in the area around Perugia, in the countryside of Città di Castello, and in the region of Foligno. Subsequently, they harassed the territory of Montepulciano and various localities in the Val di Chiana. One of his companies repeatedly refused to obey Hawkwood‘s orders. In response, Hawkwood captured these men and sentenced them to death. By the end of May, following an agreement between the mercenaries and the local municipalities, William Gold secured an eight-month contract with the citizens of Perugia and Lucca. By June, he was reported in Grecciano.
July – Aug.Comp. venturaFaenza, RavennaRomagnaWilliam Gold was found at Bagnacavallo and Cotignola alongside John Hawkwood (Giovanni Acuto). Together, they engaged in combat against the troops of Astorre Manfredi and the forces of the da Polenta family. He was then dispatched with 250 archers to defend Forlì, which was under threat from their adversaries.
1380
Jan.VenicePaduaVenetoWilliam Gold faced off against the Genoese, the Hungarians, and the Carraresi.
Feb.VenetoWilliam Gold participated in the Siege of Chioggia, where he commanded the English militias. At the camp in Pellestrina, a brawl erupted between English, German, and Italian mercenaries, which was only quelled by the appearance of Doge Andrea Contarini. The leaders met on the stern of the ducal galley in the port of Chioggia and declared mutual forgiveness for the damages incurred during the skirmish. William Gold conducted a review of his troops, receiving an advance of 8 ducats per lance and 2 ducats for each infantryman. He took part in the Battle of Brondolo alongside Carlo Zeno and supported the Captain General during the conspiracy of Roberto da Recanati. In recognition of his services, he was awarded a lifetime pension of 500 florins annually in July and granted citizenship in Venice. In return, he pledged to re-enter the service of the Serenissima whenever required. Later, he settled in Venice, where his son, Bertram, remained even after William Gold‘s death.
1381
Apr.Florence25 lancesWilliam Gold was recruited by the Florentines on the recommendation of John Hawkwood (Giovanni Acuto).
1382
JulyComp. venturaFermoMarcheWilliam Gold was present in the Fermano region with Giovanni degli Ubaldini and Guglielmo Ferrebach. They camped near Fermo, in the Grifone woods close to the Rocca del Girifalco. They departed from the city only after receiving a ransom payment of 2,000 florins.
1385William Gold died.

Sources

-“Inter primos eius virtutem probitatemque expertus.” ZENO

-“Valorosissimo guerriero.” CHINAZZI

-“Gold became known locally by the nickname “Cocco”, perhaps an indication that he began his military career as a cook, or “cuoco” (in Italian). He proved his skill as an indipendent captain in the employ of Venice in 1379 and was rewarded by the city with a lifetime pension and citizenship..(Con Richard Ramsey) Both likely members of the rank and file of the original company (la “Compagnia Bianca”), emerged.. as soldiers of notable skill.” CAFERRO

-“Gold went on to rise though the ranks (della compagnia di Giovanni Acuto) to become constable, marshal, then chief lieutenant. Fighting all his life alongside Hawkwood, he was to make a considerable fortune – and lose it all. He left a son in Italy, also named William, who formed a brotherhood-in-arms with John Thornbury (Giovanni Tornaberini), and served Venice to great acclaim before dying here in 1398.” STONOR SAUNDERS

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Roberto Damiani
Roberto Damiani
Roberto Damiani è l'autore del sito Condottieri di ventura.