I wasn't wrong... at least I don't think so.
Dick Whittington is a folk legend grown up around the four time Mayor of London, Richard Whittington (1357-1423). From the history books, it appears he was a pretty good chap - benefactor of libraries, hospitals and churches. The Legend - Dick Whittington (Storynory has a good version) began to appear in early 17th Century plays, poems and prose. The main crux of which revolves around a poor boy making his fortune, through a lucky sale of a cat. When the chips are down, he is about to give up and flee London but sits by the Bow Bells which "call" to him to turn back - telling him he will be three time Mayor of London.
It is a simple rags to riches story.
Puss in Boots is a fairy tale. A folk tale that began to appear in written form in the late 16th Century and early 17th Century. The story (you can read Charles Perrault's 'original' version here) is a magical tale of a cat helping their owner to gain fortune.
Another simple rags to riches tale... with a cat at its heart.
When we consider the dates, plus the tendency for writers to use parts of folk tales - or existing stories - to make their own tales (Shakespeare did it all the time), can we make a link between the fairy tale Puss in Boots and the real life Richard Whittington? I would say yes: Richard Whittington was a figure of history by the time the story was written. A popular and successful mayor - the epitome of a success story in London. Puss in Boots was a popular fairy story at the time - the idea that an animal could help a human wasn't new (it appears in ancient Hindu texts) but it was fresh and popular. If the idea was to sell your story, why not merge the two? I know I would!
But what's really interesting is that there is no mention of a cat in any history that can be found. Yet in London there is a an inscribed Whittington Stone at Highgate Hill (the place he supposedly heard the bells) with a cat sitting on top. And when a bomb struck St Michael's Church in 1944 a mummified cat was found inside!
Is this an example of Story affecting life?
What I wonder is if the real Richard Whittington even liked cats?
The storyteller in me would tell the whole thing as one big cosmic joke - Richard Whittington - a man who hated cats doomed forever to be linked in the minds of all to the fiendish fur balls.
But that's just the story I would tell... and who knows how it would change perceptions!
One thing is for sure, when Story become Legend it can really take on a life of its own and the effects seep into the 'real' world.