The Real Richard Whittington

Richard (Dick) Whittington (1358 – 1423)

Richard Whittington was born the third son of William and Joan Whittington, Lord and Lady of Pauntly, around 1358 in Gloucester. When he was 13 he was sent to London to be apprenticed to John Fitzaren. Later he was to become the greatest merchant in medieval England. He supplied silks from Peking for the wedding dresses of the daughters of King Henry 4th and also lent money to the King.

He became Mayor of London 4 times in 1397, 1398,1407 and 1420 and just like the rhyme says married Alice, the bosses daughter.

Dick Whittington the Pantomime Character

The story of a boy from Gloucestershire whose parents died when he was young. He wanders the countryside, meets a Wagoner on his way to London and hearing that the streets are paved with gold, journeys with the Wagoner to London. There he finds the streets are mud and not gold, he is very lonely and has no work. On asking for work he receives a blow to the head. A Merchants daughter, Alice, takes pity on him and he sleeps in the attic which is overrun by mice and rats.

He receives one penny for cleaning the shoes of a visitor and with this purchases a cat who kills the rats and mice.

The merchant sends a ship abroad to trade.The custom which it supposedly brings good luck to the Merchant is for his servants to send some item. Dick only has his cat which he is very upset to part with. The cat goes on the ship the “Unicorn”.

Dick is beaten more regularly by the cook and decides he has had enough. He leaves early on the morning of Halloween and gets as far as Cheapside where he stops for a rest. Bow Bells (6 of them) ring out and seem to tell him he will be thrice Lord Mayor of London so he returns to the Merchants House Before anybody has woken up.

The “Unicorn” reaches the Barbary Coast which is inhabited by Moors. The Captain sends gifts to the King and is invited to the Palace. The feast that is prepared, however, is overrun by mice and rats. The Captain tells the King of the cat which is then brought and proceeds to kill many mice and rats. The Queen is spellbound by the cat and Whittington is sent ten times the value of all the rest of the cargo put together for his cat.

The Captain brings the fortune back to the Merchant who gives it all to Dick. Dick distributes gifts to the Captain and Agent of the Boat and to his associates in the house including the cook. He becomes a Merchant himself, marries Alice and does indeed become Lord Mayor of London on three occasions.

Dick meets and entertains King Henry V and his wife, and receives a Knighthood.

Dick gifts monies to Charities (using Trusts), builds Churches, Hospitals and allocates yearly Scholarships.

Dick and his wife lived to old age and had a number of children.