Name: Richard ?Dick? Whittington
Birth: ABT 1357
Death: MAR 1423
Burial: St Michael Paternoster Royal, London
Occupation: Mayor of London
Change Date: 18 MAR 2009
Richard Whittington is the most famous member of the Mercers? Company, immortalised as Dick Whittington the pantomime figure. Everybody knows the story of Whittington from childhood, a highly romanticised ?rags to riches? tale of a boy and his cat going to London to seek his fortune.
The real Whittington was born in the 1350s in Pauntley, Gloucestershire, the youngest son of Sir William Whittington, a local land-owner. He was apprenticed to the Mercers? Company, and became a successful Mercer, dealing in valuable imports such as silks and velvets. The major market for such wares was the Royal Court, and in 1389, for the first time, Whittington sold two cloths of gold to King Richard II for £11. This was followed by great quantities of luxury fabrics for the Royal Wardrobe. Richard II owed Whittington £1,000 when he was deposed in 1399. Whittington also supplied similar luxuries for the new king Henry IV.
Whittington played a prominent role in the Mercers? Company, and was three times Master of the Company in 1395-6, 1401-2 and 1408-9. He regularly lent sums of money to the Crown, and invested heavily in the lucrative wool export trade. He became a City Alderman in 1393, and was four times Mayor of London (?Lord Mayor? was not a title used in Whittington?s lifetime), in 1397, 1397-8, 1406-7 and 1419-20.
Whittington died in March 1423. He was buried at his local parish church St Michael Paternoster Royal, and left assets estimated at £5,000 (around £5 million in modern terms.) His wife, Alice, daughter of Sir Ivo Fitzwaryn of Dorset, had died before him and they had no children. The executors of Richard?s will devoted his great wealth to the establishment of an almshouse (Whittington College, founded 1424), a college of priests (dissolved at the Reformation) and a number of other public works in the City of London, including the building of the first library for the Guildhall, building works for St Bartholomew?s Hospital, the rebuilding of St Michael Paternoster Church, and the rebuilding of Newgate Gaol.
Dick Whittington, local boy made good, (at least) thrice Lord Mayor of London, was born at Pauntley about 1357, the third son of William Whittington, Lord of Pauntley. In 1352 William had married Joan, the daughter of William Mansell, Sheriff of Gloucestershire, and widow of Sir Thomas (de) Berkeley, of Coberley, but and whilst Richard was still a child, his father was outlawed for marrying without licence. It would have required a crippling fine to redeem his outlawry, and at the time selling of rich widows was a lucrative branch of commerce. He died, still an outlaw in 1362, and when his widow died, the estate which she'd inherited went to the second son.
In spite of being born the son of a Lord, Dick was, therefore the poor boy of legend, and literally the "local boy makes good". In London, he'd enrolled as an apprentice in the Mercer's Company, and married the daughter of his master, Alice Fitzwarren.
Father: William de Whittington
Mother: Joan Mansell
Alice Warren or FitzWarin