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Richard Whittington

Richard Whittington, medieval merchant and politician, was the real-life inspiration for the pantomime character, Dick Whittington.

Born in Gloucester in about 1358, he was actually from quite a well-off family, and was sent to London to learn the trade of mercer. By 1393, he had become an alderman, as well as a member of the Mercers' Company, and in 1397 he was elected Lord Mayor of London. He was mayor again in 1398, 1406, and 1419, becoming a living legend in the process. In 1416, he became a Member of Parliament, and was influential with both King Henry IV of England and his son, Henry V. He donated much of his profit to the city, he helped pay for the rebuilding of the Guildhall, set up a ward for non-married mothers at St Thomas' Hospital, founded several libraries and a college. He died in 1423.