This week’s new release in the A Legend to Love series is based on a legend that’s a bit different: Dick Whittington and his cat.
Most have heard the story of the poor boy who went to London to make his fortune, believing the roads were paved with gold. He found work with a merchant, but the housekeeper was mean to him and he was miserable. Dick found solace in his cat (who was also handy at keeping away rats). One day, the merchant announced he was going to take a trip abroad, and servants were welcome to give him something of value to trade.
Dick gave up his cat – his dearest possession. Again, he was treated poorly – and was about to leave London for good – when he heard the church bells that appeared to be calling him to return, and that he would be Lord Mayor of London three times.
He returned and discovered the merchant also returned with Dick’s fortune. One night, when the merchant was dining with an Eastern king, the dining hall was overrun with rats. The merchant told the king he had a cat who would deal with the rats. The cat did and the king was so delighted that he paid a fortune in gold for the cat.
But there is a twist in the tale – Dick Whittington was an actual historical figure. Richard (Dick) Whittington was actually Lord Mayor of London in the 14th century.
Unlike the legend that grew up from the late 17th century, Whittington was a younger son of a aristocratic family and a successful merchant. He was known for his probity, honesty and charity. He was also a shrewd political operator too. As Lord Mayor of London, he was in charge of great wealth and kept on the good side of both Richard II and Henry IV. He commissioned a great number of public works including sanitation and was also major benefactor of St Thomas’ Hospital, endowing a wing to look after unwed mothers and their babies. No one knows where the cat entered the picture, and there is no evidence that he ever had one but it is now so entwined with the legend that it is impossible to tell the story without it.
Young Richard Whiting comes from a poor family but he’s given a golden opportunity – to move to London to further his education. On the way there, he is befriended by Lord Ambrose and his young daughter, Catherine ‘Cat’ Swanston, and Richard and Catherine become sweethearts.
In order to make his fortune, Richard is pulled into a different life but the young couple vow beneath the tolllng bells of the churches of London to always be there for one another.
Years later, now an up and coming barrister, Richard learns that Catherine needs help. Her father is missing, and His Lordship’s business partner refuses to provide any information. It will take Catherine’s bravery and Richard’s legal cunning for there to be a happily ever after…
The Promise of the Bells is a sweet romance. Richard and Catherine are such a lovely couple – and you get to meet Mog, Richard’s Calico cat!
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