Citizen of London: Richard Whittington w/ Michael McCarthy

30 Sep 2023 – 14:00 BST
Chelsea History Festival
National Army Museum (Foyle 2)
Royal Hospital Road
United Kingdom

Michael McCarthy explores the life of Richard ‘Dick’ Whittington, the famed medieval entrepreneur, social reformer and ‘influencer’ at court.

When a young Richard Whittington arrived in medieval London, he never imagined the impact he would have on the city. He consistently weathered the storm of plagues, wars, and political and social unrest, and found a way to rise and thrive in a chaotic world.

Whittington was a leading figure in London’s development. He was instrumental in rooting out corruption, pushing forward social and civic reforms. He was four times Lord Mayor of London, a member of parliament and a Sheriff of London.

Michael McCarthy examines the extraordinary life of Dick Whittington and charts his rise from humble beginnings to a now legendary historical figure and star of pantomimes across the world.

About the book

The extraordinary story of Richard Whittington, from his arrival in London as a young boy to his death in 1423, against a backdrop of plague, politics and war; turbulence between Crown, City and Commons; and the unrelenting financial demands of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V, to whom Whittington was mercer, lender and fixer.

A man determined to follow his own path, Whittington was a significant figure in London’s ceaseless development. As a banker, Collector of the Wool Custom, King’s Council member and four-time mayor, Whittington featured prominently in the rise of the capital’s merchant class and powerful livery companies. Civic reformer, enemy of corruption and author of an extraordinary social legacy, he contributed to Henry V’s victory at Agincourt and oversaw building works at Westminster Abbey. In London, Whittington found his ‘second’ family: a mentor, Sir Ivo Fitzwarin, and an inspirational wife in Fitzwarin’s daughter Alice.

Today’s Dick Whittington pantomimes, enjoyed by millions, have a grain of truth in them, but the real story is far more compelling—minus that sadly mythical cat.

About the speaker

Michael McCarthy PhD lectured in Politics before a career in development, consultancy and in rural and heritage regeneration. His books include Campaigning for the Poor; The New Politics of Welfare; and A History of Their Making.

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