Geoffrey Chaucer Chronology: His Life and Times
Geoffrey Chaucer lived in exciting times and he had an active, varied life. Quite a few informative chronologies of Chaucer's life and times are online but they are largely scattered all over the Web, so I have decided to consolidate them into one master chronology.
Note that I have also created a companion site to this chronology to provide more information about the people, places, and events included here. Both the chronology site and its counterpart are works-in-progress, so if you notice any inconsistencies, omissions, or errors, please contact me.
This chronology owes much to the Harvard Chaucer chronology in its basic structure (indeed, many of the links will take you to material on the Harvard website), but I have added my own supplementary material (e.g., details about Chaucer's involvement in the Scrope-Grosvenor controversy, other historical or literary events).
If you are interested in the original Latin and Anglo-Norman documents that pertain to Chaucer's life, see the voluminous Chaucer Life-Records, edited by Martin M. Crow and Clair C. Olson (Oxford University Press, 1966); this conatins virtually every known reference to Chaucer in the legal record. See the bottom of this page for more recommended readings (all in modern English).
Note: I provide a hyperlink each time a literary figure (other than Chaucer) appears. All other people are linked only once.
in Chaucer's Life
||Historical and Literary Events
Guillaume de Machaut, French poet-musician, is born (dies in 1377).
Francis Petrarch, great Italian humanist, is born.
|1312 or 1313
John Chaucer, Geoffrey Chaucer's father, is born.
Giovanni Boccaccio, Italian poet and admirer of Petrarch, is born.
Dante Alighieri, great Italian poet (born in 1265), dies.
John Gower, trilingual English poet, is born (dies in 1408).
|mid 1330's (?)
John Chaucer marries Agnes Copton.
Eustache Deschamps, French poet, is born (dies c. 1406).
1337 - 1453
The Hundred Years' War (a slight misnomer, since it was a series of conflicts extending over one hundred years) begins between England and France.
Boccaccio completes Il Filostrato (major source for Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde).
|c. 1340 - 1345
Geoffrey Chaucer is born to John and Agnes Chaucer.
The English defeat the French in the naval Battle of Sluys.
Boccaccio completes Il Teseida delle Nozze d'Emilia (a source for Chaucer's Knight's Tale).
The English are victorious over the French at the Battle of Crecy.
The Black Death wipes out a third of the population.
Boccaccio completes the Decameron.
The English are victorious in the Battle of Poitiers. King Jean (John) of France is taken prisoner.
Chaucer enters into service as a page in the household of Elizabeth, Countess of Ulster.
Chaucer serves in a military expedition under Prince Lionel (son of King Edward III of England) in France.
Chaucer is captured in France. King Edward III pays a ransom of 16 pounds for Chaucer's release.
In October, Prince Lionel pays Chaucer for running diplomatic missions between Calais and England.
The Treaty of Bretigny establishes peace between England and France (until 1369, at least).
|1361 - 1367
Jean Froissart, French chronicler/poet (born c. 1337 and died in 1404), attends the household of Queen Philippa, wife of King Edward III.
King John of France dies. Charles V ascends to the French throne.
Chaucer marries Philippa Roet, sister of Katherine Swynford.
John Chaucer (Geoffrey's father) dies. Geoffrey's mother Agnes later remarries Bartholomew Chappel.
Chaucer travels to Spain.
The King grants Chaucer's wife Philippa an annuity of 10 marks for life for her service in the Queen's household.
William Langland, English poet, begins writing his alliterative poem Piers Plowman (A-text).
Chaucer enters service as a valet and later a squire in the household of King Edward III. On June 20, the King grants Chaucer a lifetime annuity of 20 pounds.
Chaucer's son, Thomas, is also born in this year.
In January, the boy who later becomes King Richard II is born. His father is the Black Prince (the eldest son of Edward III).
The Black Prince supports Pedro of Castile in the Battle of Najera.
Chaucer writes The Book of the Duchess, a dream vision/elegy in commemoration of Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster.
c. 1368 - 1370
Chaucer travels to the Continent (France?) "on the King's service."
c. 1368 - 1372
Chaucer begins translating The Romance of the Rose and writes many lyrics, some in English and possibly some in French as well.
In September, Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster, dies. She was the first wife of John of Gaunt (the third son of Edward III.)
Thomas Hoccleve, a self-proclaimed disciple of Chaucer, is born (dies 1450).
Chaucer receives mourning clothes following the death of Queen Philippa.
Chaucer serves in John of Gaunt's army in France.
Queen Philippa, wife of King Edward III, dies.
Chaucer serves in the army (once again) in France.
John Lydgate, poet/monk and admirer of Chaucer, is born (dies 1450).
Katherine Swynford, Chaucer's sister-in-law, becomes the mistress of John of Gaunt.
John of Gaunt marries Constanza (Constance) of Castile (daughter of Pedro of Castile).
Chaucer travels to Italy (Genoa and Florence) on a diplomatic mission. In Genoa, he establishes a English port for trade. In Florence, he negotiates a loan for the King.
Chaucer's wife Philippa enters into service in the household of John of Gaunt's new wife Constance.
c. 1372 - 1377
Chaucer (possibly) writes the parts of the poems that later become known as The Monk's Tale and The Second Nun's Tale.
In August, Chaucer is sent to Dartmouth to deliver a Genoese tarit (ship) back to its master, a Genoese merchant.
Chaucer is appointed the Controller of Customs (hides, skins, and wool) for the Port of London. He is also granted a lease to a residence in Aldgate, London.
The King grants Chaucer pitcher of wine daily. John of Gaunt grants Chaucer a lifetime annuity of 10 pounds.
John of Gaunt gives grants to Chaucer and to French knight/poet Otho de Graunson.
In June, the Black Prince dies.
|1377 - 1381
Chaucer makes several trips to the Continent (France and Flanders) to negotate peace and a marriage between Richard and a French princess.
c. 1377 - 1381
Chaucer (possibly) writes The House of Fame and Anelida and Arcite.
In June, King Edward III dies. The ten-year-old Richard II ascends to the throne.
Pope Gregory XI condemns the doctrines of John Wycliffe, but the Lollard movement continues.
Chaucer leaves on a diplomatic mission to Lombardy (in Italy), where he meets with the Milan tyrant Bernabo Visconti and the English captain of mercenaries operating in Italy, Sir John Hawkwood. While he is away, Chaucer gives power of attorney to John Gower and Richard Forester.
Richard II confirms the 20 pound annuity granted to Chaucer by Edward III. Richard also establishes an additional 20 pound annuity.
Cecily Chaumpaigne releases Chaucer from all actions in the case of her raptus.
Chaucer's second son, Lewis, is born.
Chaucer writes The Parliament of Fowls.
|1378 - 1409
The Great Schism: There are two rival Popes--Pope Urban in Rome, and Pope Clement in Avignon.
c. 1378 - 1380
Langland revises Piers Plowman (B-text).
Chaucer's mother Agnes dies.
Chaucer's daughter Elizabeth becomes a nun of Barking Abbey, London.
In June, the Peasants' Revolt occurs.
Langland revises Piers Plowman again (the C-Text).
The King renews Chaucer's position as Controller of Customs and gives him permission to have a deputy.
c. 1382 - 1386
Chaucer writes Troilus and Criseyde.
Richard II marries Anne of Bohemia.
The Wycliffite Bible (first Bible in English) appears. The Church officially condemns Wycliffe's views as heretical.
The King grants Chaucer a permanent deputy in the Customs.
Chaucer receives mourning clothing upon the death of the King's mother, Joan of Kent.
1385 - 1389
Chaucer serves as Justice of the Peace for Kent.
Deschamps sends Chaucer a ballade that calls him a "grand translateur" of the Romance of the Rose.
Joan of Kent, mother of Richard II, dies.
Chaucer gives a deposition in the Court of Chivalry regarding the Scrope-Grosvenor controversy (a dispute between two gentlemen over the right to use a certain coat of arms).
Chaucer gives up his residence in Aldgate and resigns from Customs (and possibly moves to Kent).
Chaucer serves as a Member of Parliament for Kent.
Chaucer begins The Legend of Good Women, which includes some previously-written works. He revises the Prologue later.
Thomas Usk (1350-1388), English poet, writes The Testament of Love, in which he praises Chaucer as a poet of Love and Philosophy.
Gower begins Confessio Amantis, a poem that also includes praise for Chaucer.
A group of noblemen reduce the power of Richard II.
|c. 1387 - 1392
Chaucer begins The Canterbury Tales.
The Lords Appellant remove and execute some of Richard's closest supporters. Among those excuted is Usk.
On July 12, the King appoints Chaucer Clerk of the King's Works. In this position, Chaucer is in charge of large construction projects, including works at Westminster, the Tower of London, and other royal estates.
Richard II regains power.
As Clerk of the King's Works, Chaucer oversees the building of scaffolds for jousts in Smithfield.
Highwaymen rob Chaucer of his horse, assorted goods, and over 20 pounds at Hacham, Surrey. The thieves are caught, tried, and convicted.
Chaucer is (possibly) robbed again.
Chaucer retires from his position as the Clerk of the King's Works. In June, he becomes the Deputy Forester of the Royal Forest of North Petherton, Somerset.
1391 - 1392
Chaucer writes A Treatise on the Astrolabe (making additions in 1393 and later).
c. 1392 - 1395
Chaucer writes most of The Canterbury Tales, including (probably) the so-called "Marriage Group."
The King awards Chaucer 10 pounds for "services rendered."
The King grants Chaucer an annuity of 20 pounds for life.
Chaucer's son Thomas marries the heiress Maud Burghersh.
In June, Queen Anne dies.
Chaucer writes "The Envoy to Bukton," in which he addresses the reader to read The Wife of Bath's Prologue.
c. 1396 - 1400
Chaucer writes the latest of The Canterbury Tales, including (probably) The Nun's Priest's Tale, The Canon's Yeoman's Tale, The Parson's Tale, and other short poems.
The King grants Chaucer a tun (252 gallons) of wine a year.
John of Gaunt marries Katherine Swynford, Chaucer's sister-in-law.
Richard II marries Isabel (the daughter of King Philip IV of France) in order to end the wars between England and France.
Chaucer leases a tenament in the garden of the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey (for 53 years).
King Henry IV confirms and increases Chaucer's royal annuities.
In February, John of Gaunt dies. Richard II is deposed and Henry IV ascends to the throne.
Chaucer writes "The Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse," which makes an appeal to the new King Henry.
On October 25 (according to tradition), Chaucer dies. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.
There are many books about Chaucer, but I list some of the most important ones here (in chronological order):