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It is generally believed that Dick was born Richard Whittington, son of a country squire Sir William Whittington in the county of Gloucestershire round about the 1350s.
Neither poor nor an orphan then but a younger son and younger sons had a need to find their fortunes as small estates were not divided but passed to the eldest son solely.
a great deal of rather risqué innuendo, some infantile slapstick and much singing and dancing always leading to a happy ever after ending ! We can trace the origins of pantomime back to the Romans’ and the plots were handed down orally from generation to generation until being set down as a literary form in the first century B. These traditional farces remained as part of rural life for many centuries , gradually developing into the Commedia dell’Arte of the 16th Century whose most renowned character, we still see popping up today .
Here we really see the background for our pantomimes, The Commedia had many components, acrobats, clowning, dance, music, slapstick, farce and of course always a love story.
He later financed the military ambitions of the most famous Lancastrian King Henry V himself and was thus instrumental in bringing about the success of the English at the battle of Agincourt (Hatfield 2015).
Richard Whittington used his wealth not only to further the ambitions of the monarchy but also to bring relief to his fellow Londoners, he was very much a Bill Gates of the medieval world. Thomas’ hospital, had a public lavatory built by the side of the Thames with no less than 64 seats for the gentlemen and 64 seats for the ladies, a sight to behold I am sure!
He really cared for the people of his city even thinking of the overworked little apprentice boys by passing a law prohibiting the washing of animal skins in the Thames; because many young boys had died of hypothermia or drowned in the strong river currents.For a devotee of myths and legends this one is fascinating because the process of transformation from reality into mythic tale is actually visible in the historical records, a very rare eventuality.The pantomime story goes something like this :- Dick Whittington, a poor orphan from the country comes to London, where he believes the streets are paved with gold, to seek his fortune.Dick became a very wealthy man and gradually included money lending amongst his activities, he had many distinguished clients including, John of Gaunt and his brother the Duke of Gloucester as well as King Richard II.The historical records indicate that Richard Whittington, as a master mercer, sourced the exquisite materials required for the weddings of Henry IV’s daughters Blanche and Philippa.
However, Richard was a very good apprentice and became a very successful trader in valuable textiles such as silk and velvet , impressing his future father in law and winning the hand of the lovely Alice.