Who was the Real Dick Whittington? w/ Michael McCarthy

13 Sep 2023 – 13:00 - 14:00 BST
Gloucester History Festival
Blackfriars Priory
Ladybellegate Street

Join historian and Citizen of London author Michael McCarthy at this year’s Gloucester History Festival as he follows the clues to discover the real Dick Whittington.

About the book:

‘McCarthy is mesmerising in conjuring [the] transformative journey of [Richard Whittington]. … Here really is a fable of London’s early capitalism, which at times seems startlingly modern.’ — The Spectator

‘[An] engaging book.’ — Financial Times

‘A masterly London biography, surely the last word on a man, a myth—and a cat.’ — Simon Jenkins, Guardian columnist, and author of A Short History of England

Citizen of London tells 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 author

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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