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Biography of Geoffrey Chaucer

Portrait of Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer was a fourteenth century writer best known for his “Canterbury Tales”.

When and Where was Geoffrey Chaucer Born?

1342/3. London, England.

Family Background:

Geoffrey Chaucer was the son of John Chaucer a prosperous wine merchant who was probably deputy to the King’s Butler.

Education:

St. Paul’s Cathedral School.

Timeliney of Geoffrey Chaucer:

1346: The English defeat the French at the Battle of Crecy.

1348-50: Main period of the Black Death (Bubonic plaque which had an appalling effect on the population numbers of Europe.)

1356: English victory at Poitiers.

1357: Geoffrey Chaucer becomes a Page in the house of Prince Lionel, later to become the Duke of Clarence.

1359-60: Chaucer serves in the army of King Edward the Third in France where he is captured but released after the payment of a ransom. These monies (totaling £16) were offered through the King by various wealthy persons such as Sir William de Graunson, Knight of Burgundy; John de York, King’s Carter and his seven fellows; Geoffrey Hacking and Thomas de Staines, Valettus of the Queen; between December 1359 and July 1360.

1360: The Treaty of Bretigny gives a temporary cessation in the Hundred Years War with France.

1361: There is a severe outbreak of the plague once again.

1366: Chaucer travels to Spain.

1366: Death of his father. He marries Philippa, daughter of Sir Payne Roet. She was probably the sister of John of Gaunt’s third wife and a lady in waiting to King Edward the Third.

1367: Birth of his son Thomas. He serves as a Valettus and later Squire in the Court of King Edward the Third.

1368: He travels to France on duties for the King.

1369-70: He serves with John of Gaunt’s army in France.

1370-78: He is frequently sent on diplomatic missions to the continent, visiting Italy (Genoa and Florence) in 1372 and again in 1378 (Milan).

1374 to 1386: Chaucer is appointed Controller of Customs and Subsidy of Wools, Skins and Tanned Hides in the Port of London.

1374: He is granted a gallon pitcher of wine per day for the rest of his life.

1377: Death of King Edward the Third and the accession of King Richard the Second.

1380: Birth of his second son Lewis.

1381: Wat Tyler and others start the Peasant’s Revolt. Death of his mother Agnes.

1382: Chaucer becomes Comptroller of the Petty Customs.

1385: He serves as a Justice of the Peace for Kent and is allowed to nominate a permanent Deputy.

1386: He leaves his house in Aldgate, London and becomes a Member of Parliament for Kent.

1387: He begins writing his most famous work, “The Canterbury Tales”.

1389 to 1391: He becomes Clerk of the King’s Works at Westminster, the Tower of London and other royal estates.

1390: Chaucer is robbed of his horse and goods totalling £20.

1394: He is granted an annuity of £20 per year by King Richard the Second.

1398: He is granted a tun of wine per year. (Normally 252 Imperial Gallons).

1399: King Richard the Second is deposed and Henry the Fourth becomes King. Chaucer leases a tenement in the garden of the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey (for 53 years).

When and Where did he Die?

25th October 1400. London, England of unknown causes. The only evidence for this date comes from his tomb engravings which were erected more than 100 years after his death.

Age at Death:

58.

Written Works:

1368: “Romaunt of the Rose”.
1369: “The Book of the Duchess”.
1373: “The Life of Saint Cecilia”.
1374-85: “The House of Fame”.
1382-94: “The Legend of Good Women”.
1383: “The Parlement of Fowles”.
1385: “Troilus and Criseyde” “Boece”. “Palamoun and Arcite”.
1386: “The Legend of Good Women”.
1387-1400: “The Canterbury Tales”.
1391: “Treatise of the Astrolabe”.
1396: “The Envoy to Bukton”.
1400: “Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse”.
(1526): New Edition of Chaucer printed by Pynson includes, “The Book of Fame”, “The Canterbury Tales”, “Troilus and Crisyede”.
(1532): “Complete Works”, Edited by Thynne includes many spurious attributions.
(1561): “The Works with Diverse Additions, with the “Siege of Thebes”, compiled by J. Lydgate.

Marriage:

To Philippa, daughter of Sir Payne Roet in 1366. She was probably the sister of John of Gaunt’s third wife and a lady in waiting to King Edward the Third.

Site of Grave:

Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey, London, England.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, London
(copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:

LONDON:

Westminster Abbey.
Pilgrims Way began at Charing Cross.

KENT:

Canterbury Cathedral.
“Canterbury Tales Experience”, Canterbury.

SOMERSET:

Maunsel House, North Newton, near Bridgewater. (Wrote part of the “Canterbury Tales” whilst staying there).

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