Although the exact date of his birth remains undetermined, Geoffrey Chaucer was born into the family of John Chaucer and Agnes Copton in London with the exact year likely to be in the early 1340s. His family derived the name “Chaucer” from the French word “Chausseur” which means “shoemaker.”
As a pupil in St. Paul’s Cathedral School, he stumbled upon the writing of Ovid and Virgil, an encounter that later proved to be a powerful influence on his own writing years. Notwithstanding the unrecorded beginning of Geoffrey, his life as a public servant was well documented, and these records back up the achievements of the man.
The name Geoffrey Chaucer is perhaps the first thing you would hear when you inquire about literature in the middle ages. While students of literature should be interested in Geoffrey Chaucer, every other person that is a fan of English literature books should also know one or two things about him.
We have compiled some interesting facts about Geoffrey Chaucer, the literary genius that dominated the middle ages of English literature.
Geoffrey Chaucer Facts
1. He had connections with the royal family early on in his life
While growing up, Geoffrey Chaucer had early contact with the English royal house due to his father’s connections, an interesting fact about Geoffrey Chaucer. Consider what significant influence that would be on young Geoffrey. His first contact is recorded to be in 1357 when he was made a Page in the house of Elizabeth de Burgh, the Countess of Ulster.
His apprenticeship in the noblewoman’s house would help him develop into a fine young man fit for royal appointments and knighthood. When the countess married the Duke of Clarence, Lionel, young Geoffrey became closer to the court and eventually ran errands for the King between the years of 1389 to 1391. Working in the royal court gave Geoffrey Chaucer the exposure and education he needed to start his career as a civil servant.
2. He became a prisoner after the English war against France
In 1359, King Edward III raised an army and invaded France. Geoffrey Chaucer, being an attendant in the royal court, followed his master, Prince Lionel, as part of the English army against the French soldiers. On March 1, 1360, the campaign of King Edward III against France hit the rocks during the siege of Rheims. Geoffrey Chaucer was captured and became a prisoner in France. The King later paid a ransom of 16 pounds for his release.
3. He disappeared from the public eye for 6 years
After his release from France, Geoffrey Chaucer was last seen was again in France where he was on a mission for Prince Lionel. An interesting fact about Geoffrey Chaucer is that after this, nothing was heard of him for about six years. Many reports follow the idea that he had gone to study at the inner temple as a law apprentice. This is so because it is an English tradition that those who would serve the royal house should go through that kind of education.
Other reports say that he may have traveled to Spain, France, Flanders, and even Santiago de Compostela as a messenger or on a pilgrimage. Whatever he did between those years was uncertain.
4. He was a member of the royal court of King Edward III
Thus, we may conclude that the tradition that he went to study at the Inner Temple was true. On June 20, 1367, he became a member of King Edward’s royal court as a yeoman, esquire or valet de chamber. This would make him one of the trusted counsels of the King. This position came with various tasks, one of which involved serving as a diplomat for the King.
5. Geoffrey was influenced by medieval Italian poetry
While serving as a vale for the King, he had to travel to many places. During one of his travels, it was recorded that he attended a marriage ceremony in Milan. It was at this wedding that he met Jean Froissart and Petrarch, who later became Italian literary stars. His frequent visit to the Italian soil gave him an avenue to learn the nature and forms of medieval Italian poetry. This knowledge later helped in developing his writings.
6. English literature was not popular during his time
Geoffrey Chaucer is considered the man who developed English literature at the time when the common literary languages were French and Latin, a fun Geoffrey Chaucer fact. He initiated the use of Middle English Vernacular in his writings and was crucial in legitimizing the new literary language. He is best known for the work, The Canterbury Tales among other great literary works.
7. King Edward III promised him a gallon of wine every day for the rest of his life
When Geoffrey Chaucer was serving as the King’s squire, the latter arranged to give him a pitcher of wine every day for the rest of his life. This could be an indication that the King celebrated Geoffrey’s literary skills. However, the task which the grant followed was unspecified. Records show that the grant was issued on April 23, 1374, a day traditionally set aside to celebrate and reward artistic works.
8. Geoffrey Chaucer served as a member of the “Wonderful Parliament” of Kent
The King appointed him as the controller of customs of wools, skins, and hides in the port of London. During his service, he moved to Kent after being appointed as the Commissioner of Peace for Kent. In 1386, he became a member of the Kent parliament. His stay in the house was short, but Geoffrey Chaucer’s parliament is popularly known as the “Wonderful Parliament” and it sought to correct the lavish spending of King Richard II.
Geoffrey Chaucer rose against all the odds to develop what we know today as English literature. Hence, he is regarded as the father of medieval literary works. This great achievement is the literary trend that many English writers have adopted.
Because of his extraordinary influence in literature, Geoffrey Chaucer was the first of many writers to be buried in Poet’s Corner, a section in Westminster Abbey.
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