Did you know that there is no evidence that Richard Whittington a former Lord Mayor of London (in 1397, 1406 and 1419) ever actually owned a cat?
The myth -popularised in old English folklore tale “Dick Whittington” – is one is of a young man – who was desperately poor and a brutally treated servant – selling his cat (his most valued possession as it kept his room rat free) to a merchant. By good fortune the cat was sold to a King – who was grateful for the moggy’s exceptional rat catching abilities and paid a fortune for the animal. The story says that this created Whittington’s fortune just as he was about to admit defeat in his attempt to create a life in London and return home to Gloucester changing his mind upon hearing church bells which seemed to say ‘Turn again, Whittington, three times Lord Mayor of London’.
In real life, Richard Whittington was certainly not poor being the son of a Lord. As the youngest son he had to find a job (not being entitled to inheritance) and came to London becoming a “mercer” – dealer in cloths such as silk and velvet.
He established great wealth and upon his death, as he did not have children, left his fortune to establish an alms-house (housing for the poor) a college for priests, a library, improvements to the water supply and building a public convenience which became known as “Whittington’s Longhouse”.
Here are some more less commonly known facts about the Lord Mayor of the City of London and The Lord Mayor’s Show:-
The Guardians Of The City at the former home of Middlesex County Council – The 14 foot wicker figures carried in the procession called Gog and Magog are known as the guardians of the City of London and the longest standing participants in the Lord Mayor’s Show. Carvings of Gog and Magog (created by sculptor D Evans in 1953) are kept in The Guildhall – former home of the Middlesex County Council. Earlier carvings were destroyed during The Blitz.
One Of The World’s Most Beautiful Stage Coaches The Lord Mayor travels in a stage coach that was built in 1757 at a cost of £1,065.0s.3d and is the oldest working ceremonial vehicle in the world. If you want a closer look at the coach, you can view it in it’s usual home at the Museum of London. The Museum has counted over 100 layers of paint on the coach ceiling and it still requires regular maintenance and re-guilding but has not seen a major service since it was stripped down and rebuilt in 1952.
At Sixes And Sevens The saying “at sixes and sevens” originates from the rivalry between livery companies (London’s ancient/modern trade associations and guilds represented by the different floats at the Lord Mayor’s Show Parade). There are currently 110 livery companies and the 12 highest ranked are known as the Great Twelve Livery Companies. There has been a long running dispute over precedence between Merchant Taylors and Skinners who swap sixth and seventh places each year – hence the term at sixes and sevens!
Election And The Silent Ceremony The Lord Mayor is elected at Common Hall which meets on Michaelmas Day 29 September. Common Hall comprised of liverymen all belonging to the City’s livery companies. He takes office during The Silent Ceremony on the Friday before the second Sunday in November. The ceremony is known as “Silent Ceremony” because apart from the vow of the incoming Lord Mayor it is held in total silence.
The First Outside Live TV Broadcast
In the 20th century, the Lord Mayor’s Show was the first outside event ever to be broadcast live and still attracts a TV audience of millions.
Find out more about the return of the City’s Guardians Gog and Magog to The Guildhall by watching this short clip.
Visit The Lord Mayor’s Show website to get full details of the 2017 event.