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Medieval life and Times

Short Biography about the life of Geoffrey Chaucer
The following biography, short history and interesting facts provide helpful information for history courses and history coursework about the life and history of Chaucer a famous Medieval character of the Middle Ages who wrote the Canterbury Tales:

  • Country of Origin / Nationality: English

  • Also Known by the Nickname: Father of English Literature
  • Lifetime: 1343-1400
  • Born: He was born in London in 1343 ( his exact date of birth is unknown)
  • Family connections : He was the son of a vintner
  • Married: Chaucer married Philippa de Roet at St Mary de Castro in Leicester. She was a lady-in-waiting to Edward III's queen, Philippa of Hainault
    • The sister of Geoffrey's wife was Katherine de Roet who became Katherine Swynford
    • Katherine Swynford was the mistress of John of Gaunt the powerful brother of King Edward III
    • John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford eventually married and were the descendents of the Tudor dynasty
  • Education: Chaucer was well educated and studied law at the Inner Temple in London
  • Occupation and Career: Chaucer was an author, poet, philosopher, courtier, and diplomat.
  • Died: Chaucer died in 1400 ( believed to have died on October 25)
  • Character of Chaucer: Intelligent, loyal, genial and hard working
  • Description: Geoffrey Chaucer was inclined to corpulence, "no poppet to embrace," of fair complexion with "a beard the colour of ripe wheat," an "elvish" expression, and an eye downcast and meditative.
  • Accomplishments and Achievements or why Chaucer was famous: as the author of the Canterbury Tales. Chaucer also wrote 'The Book of the Duchess' which was an elegy for Blanche of Lancaster who was the first beautiful wife of John of Gaunt.

Geoffrey Chaucer Biography - Early Years
Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London, the son of John Chaucer, a vintner of Thames Street, who had also a small estate at Ipswich, and was occasionally employed on service for the King (Edward III.), which doubtless was the means of his son's introduction to the Court. Geoffrey Chaucer received an ample education and studied law at the Inner Temple in London. In 1357 Chaucer appears as a page to the Lady Elizabeth, wife of Lionel Duke of Clarence, and in 1359 he first saw military service in France, when he was made a prisoner. He was, however, ransomed in 1360.

Geoffrey Chaucer Biography - Love and Marriage
In 1366 he was married to Philippa de Roet the eldest daughter of Sir Payne Roet who was one of the ladies of the Duchess of Lancaster. Katharine Swynford was her sister who became the widow of Sir Hugh Swynford and became the mistress and eventually the third wife of John of Gaunt. Previous to his marriage he had apparently been deeply in love with another lady, whose rank probably placed her beyond his reach. There is speculation that this could have been Blanche of Lancaster. His disappointment in love found expression in his Compleynt to Pite.

Geoffrey Chaucer Biography - The Poet, Diplomat and Soldier
In 1367 he was one of the valets of the King's Chamber, a post always held by gentlemen, and received a pension of 20 marks, and he was soon afterwards one of the King's esquires. In 1369 Blanche, the wife of John of Gaunt, died, which gave occasion for a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer in honour of her memory entitled "The Dethe of Blaunche the Duchesse". In the same year he again bore arms in France, and during the next ten years he was frequently employed on diplomatic missions.

Geoffrey Chaucer Biography - Life Abroad and at Home
In 1370 he was sent to Genoa to arrange a commercial treaty, on which occasion he may have met Petrarch, and was rewarded by a grant in 1374 of a pitcher of wine daily. In the same year he got from the corporation of London a lease for life of a house at Aldgate, on condition of keeping it in repair; and soon after he was appointed Comptroller of the Customs and Subsidy of Wool, Skins, and Leather in the port of London; he also received from the Duke of Lancaster a pension of 10. In 1375 he obtained the guardianship of a rich ward, which he held for three years, and the next year he was employed on a secret service. In 1377 he was sent on a mission to Flanders to treat of peace with the French King. After the accession of Richard II. in that year, he was sent to France to treat for the marriage of the King with the French Princess Mary, and then to Lombardy.

Geoffrey Chaucer Biography - The Canterbury Tales Begin
In 1382 he became Comptroller of the Petty Customs of the port of London, and in 1385 was allowed to appoint a deputy, which, enabled him to devote more time to writing. He had in 1373 begun his Canterbury Tales, on which he was occupied at intervals for the rest of his life.

Geoffrey Chaucer Biography - The Fall and Rise
In 1386 Geoffrey Chaucer was elected Knight of the Shire for Kent, a county with which he appears to have had some connection, and where he may have had property. His fortunes now suffered some eclipse. His patron, John of Gaunt, was abroad, and the government was presided over by his brother Gloucester, who was at feud with him. Owing probably to this cause Geoffrey Chaucer was in December, 1386, dismissed from his employments, leaving him with no income beyond his pensions, on which he was obliged to raise money. His wife also died at the same time.

Geoffrey Chaucer Biography - The Pensioner
In 1389 Richard II took the government into his own hands, and prosperity returned to Geoffrey Chaucer whose friends were now in power, and he was appointed Clerk of the King's works. This office, however, he held for two years only, and again fell into poverty, from which he was rescued in 1394 by a pension from the King of 20.

Geoffrey Chaucer Biography - His Death
On the accession of Henry IV in 1399 an additional pension of 40 marks was given him. In the same year he took a lease of a house at Westminster, where he probably died on October 25, 1400. He is buried in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey. According to some historians he left two sons, Thomas, who became a man of wealth and importance, and Lewis, who died young, the little ten-year-old boy to whom he addressed the treatise on the Astrolabe.

The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer
The works of Geoffrey Chaucer include:

  • The Romaunt of the Rose
  • Chaucer's Dream
  • The Flower and the Leaf
  • Troilus and Criseyde
  • The Parlement of Foules
  • The House of Fame
  • The Legende of Goode Women
  • The Canterbury Tales

The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer - The Canterbury Tales
 The Canterbury Tales was the most famous work by Geoffrey Chaucer which places him in the front rank of the narrative poets of the world. The Canterbury Tales contains about 18,000 lines of verse, besides some passages in prose, and was left incomplete but began modern English literature.

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