I was reminded of Dick Whittington because London has just elected a new mayor.
Well, actually they've just re-elected an old one, but Boris Johnson, though I'm sure he would perform magnificently in a pantomime (if that's not what he's been doing anyway for the last four years) differs from Dick Whittington in that Boris is Mayor of London and Dick was Lord Mayor of London.
Oh yes. Completely different things. The Lord Mayor is in charge of the City - all those nice bankers - whereas the Mayor is in charge of transport and useful things like that.
Anyway. Dick Whittington. He was born in 1354 and died in 1423. He married someone called Alice Fitzwarren, and left a lot of money to set up hospitals and prisons and stuff.
Here he is:
Yes, and there's the cat. It was actually a skull in the original picture, which is by Renold Elstrache, but the print-seller Peter Stent replaced it with a cat in the hope of shifting a few more copies.
And I thought that photoshop was a new wheeze...
The thing is, you see, Dick Whittingdon and his cat became the heroes of a stage play in 1604, and from then on people couldn't get enough of them. Well, I suppose it made for a bit of light relief after seeing that other great London hit of 1604, Othello.
There's no record that Dick really left London for some faraway place where his cat made his fortune - or, indeed, that he ever even had a cat - but it would be lovely if it were true.
There's no proof, either, that when Dick was leaving London in despair he was drawn back to the city by the sound of Bow Bells calling:
Turn again Whittington,
Lord Mayor of London.
But that song is still sung by bells in England to this day.
All we can safely say is, that if it isn't true, it jolly well should be.
Word To Use Today: mayor. This word is from the Old French maire, from the Latin maior, which means greater.