The English poet Geoffrey Chaucer was born in ca. 1342 AD (give or take a few years).
London is generally believed to have been his birth-place. Historians are uncertain about
the exact date of his birth. Geoffrey had well-to-do parents. They were John Chaucer and
Agnes Copton; they owned several buildings in the vintage quarter in London.
Little is known about Geoffrey's school career. He seems to have learnt some Latin
and Greek. His knowledge and accomplishments went far beyond the common standard of his
Out of school he was a page in the household of the Countess of Ulster. In the
course of time Chaucer became a knight of the shire for Kent and soon received
courtly favour that were independent of his genius.
After Chaucer became a member of the king's household, he was sent on diplomatic
errands throughout Europe. In this service he gradually learnt what made it possible to
write The Canterbury Tales.
Chaucer died in 1400 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, in the Poet's Corner
|1357||The earliest known document
in which Geoffrey Chaucer is named is a household account book kept for the Countess of
Ulster (June 1356 - April 1359). The account book mentions purchases for Geoffrey Chaucer
in April 1357: a short jacket, a pair of red and black hose (stockings) and a pair of
|1359||In September 1359 King Edward and his sons were
invading France with a large expeditionary force. Prince Lionel went into the king's army
and Chaucer served in the retinue of Lionel in the war in France.|
|1360||Chaucer is captured by the French at the siege of
Reims. In March 1360, he is ransomed for 16 pounds. In October 1360 peace negotiations
were arranged at Calais. Prince Lionel paid Chaucer for carrying letters from Calais to
England. These diplomatic errands and messenger services were the first of many
|1365-1366||Chaucer marries Philippa Roet ofthe Queen's
|1366||Chaucer travels to Spain.|
|1367||Chaucer serves as an esquire in the household of
Edward III. Chaucer is first recorded as a member of the royal household on 20 June 1367
when he is granted a royal annuity for life of 20 pounds. Chaucer's son, Thomas, is
|c. 1367-1370||Chaucer does translation work, and writes
poems in French and English. Many of them are lost. He also writes about the death of
Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster.|
|1369||Chaucer travels to Northern France and serves in the
army of John of Gaunt.|
|1370||Chaucer travels to the Continent (France, probably) on
the King's service, and he once again serves with the army in France.|
|c. 1372-1377||Chaucer writes the poems later adapted as the
Second Nun's Tale and the Monk's Tale in The Canterbury Tales. |
|1372||Chaucer travels to Italy on a diplomatic mission. He
goes to Genoa to establish an English port for Genoese trade and to Florence to negotiate
a loan for the King, and returns to England before
the end of November 1373.|
|1374||Chaucer is appointed Controller of the Customs for
hides, skins and wool in the port of London; he is granted a lease on a dwelling above
Aldgate. The King also grants "our beloved squire" a pitcher of wine daily.
|1375||Both Chaucer and the French knight and poet Otho de
Graunson receive grants from John of Gaunt.|
|1376-1377||Several journeys to France and Flanders to
negotiate for peace and the marriage of Richard with a French princess.|
|1378||Chaucer travels to Italy Milan on a diplomatic
mission. Richard II confirms Edwars III's annuity of 20 pounds and establishes a second
annuity of 20 pounds.|
|c. 1378-1381||Chaucer writes Saint Cecelia, The House of
Fame, Anelida and Arcite and Palamon and Arcite, later adapted as the Knight's Tale.
Returning from Lombardy early in 1379, Chaucer seems to have been again sent abroad.
|1380||Accused, and acquited of the 'raptus' of Cecily
Champain. Cecily Champain (Chaumpaigne) signs a document releasing Chaucer from all
actions in the case of her rape or abduction ("de raptu meo"). |
|1380||Chaucer's second son, Lewis, is born. Chaucer writes
The Parliament of Fowls.|
|1385||Chaucer is granted a permanent deputy in the
|1385-1389||Chaucer serves as Justice of the Peace for
|1386||Chaucer becomes a Member of Parliament for
Kent. He retains his pensions.|
|1386||Chaucer writes The Legend of Good Women. Some parts
have been written earlier and the prologue is revised later.|
|1387||His wife dies. |
|1387-1392||Chaucer begins The Canterbury Tales.|
|1389||Chaucer is appointed clerk of the
Works at Westminster, Tower of London, and other royal estates. In this position he
supervises many craftsmen and much property.|
|1390||Chaucer is robbed of horse, goods, 20 pounds, 6
shillings, 8 pence at Hatcham (Surrey). The robbers are caught, tried and
|1391||Chaucer is robbed twice. Robbers take away 10 pounds
at Westminster and 9 pounds and 43 pence at Hatcham. [The number of robberies - one or
three - is uncertain, though.]|
|1391||Chaucer retires from Clerkship of the King's works. In
June 1391 he is appointed Deputy Forester of the Royal Forest of North Petherton, Somerset
- a responsible position, demanding skill in handling money and men. |
|1392-1395||He writes most of The Canterbury Tales,
probably including "The Marriage Group"|
|1395||Chaucer's son Thomas marries the heiress Maud
Burghersh. By this marriage Thomas gets great estates in Oxfordshire
and elsewhere; and he figures prominently in the second rank of courtiers for
|1396-1400||Chaucer writes the latest of The Canterbury
Tales, probably including The Nun's Priest's Tale, The Canon's Yeoman's tale (though parts
probably earlier), and The Parson's Tale and several short poems, including Scogan, and
|1398||Fortune began again to smile: Chaucer is granted a tun
(252 gallons) of wine a year
by the king, and next year grants follow.|
|1400||Chaucer writes The Complaint of Chaucer to His Purse
and dies on 25 October. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.|
|ca. 1550||Nicholas Brigham of Oxford erected
Chaucer's tomb. Inscription from it: "Geoffrey
Chaucer, bard, and famous mother of poetry, is buried in this sacred ground."
Chaucer was familiar with the Italian language.
When disengaged from public affairs, his time was entirely spent in study and reading.
His reading was deep and extensive.
He was a candid critic, a steadfast friend, and pious.
What Did Chaucer Look Like?
He was "of a middle stature,"
The latter part of his life inclinable to be fat and corpulent
His face was fleshy, his features just and regular
His forehead broad and smooth; his eyes inclining usually to the ground,
His whole face full of liveliness and easy sweetness.
He had a mixture of the gay, the modest, and the grave, it is said.