Success on All Sides: The Mercers in Fifteenth-Century London
If the Mercers of London had a golden age, it was the fifteenth century: they had a continuous run of prosperity, more aldermen and mayors than ever before – during what has been called the golden age of the mayoralty, and of the companies1 – and a higher proportion of well-off men. It was a prosperity that all ranks could grasp, although the company continued to foster discriminatory policies. The economic recession of the first half of the fifteenth century may have lain behind some of these policies, but in fact mercers were doing ever better, and as yet these discriminations did not have the damaging effect on recruitment and the buoyancy of the company which they would begin to have after 1500. This chapter seeks to describe this fifteenth-century prosperity and the culture it supported. At the most obvious level the company enjoyed, and had to live up to, the fame of the wealth and charity of Richard Whittington.