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The following summary is based largely on "A Chaucer
Chronology" in John H. Fisher's Complete Poetry and
Prose of Geoffrey Chaucer, 2nd edition, with some minor
additions and abbreviations of my own. Records of plague outbreaks
are taken from Singman and McLean's Daily Life in Chaucer's
England. For more information, see "Chaucer in His
Time," in pp. 956-960 of Fisher, which covers the material
in greater detail, and a list
of biographies at the bottom of this page. Text in
black refers to general historical events. Text
in red refers to events specific to Chaucer's life.
Text in purple refers
to Chaucer's writings. A more complete list of events for
the years 1300-1400 can be found here.
III crowned king. He comes to power at age fourteen after
a coup d'état takes place against his father,
Edward II. (According to legend, Edward II was killed
in a particularly gruesome manner while in prison.)
|| Edward marries Philipa
of Hainault. He is fifteen years old.
Edward, the Black
Prince, born as son of Edward IV.
Edward III assumes full royal
||England at war with
Scotland and Scotland's French allies.
||The Hundred Years'
War, a conflict between France and England.
attempts to invade northern France (First major military
expedition of the Hundred Years' War, often considered
the conflict's beginning).Geoffrey Chaucer's father
(John Chaucer) participates in the company of Edward
(?) Probable birth
of Geoffrey Chaucer between 1340 and 1343.
of John of Gaunt. Edward III takes title, "King
||Battle of Crecy
England and France.
Plague arrives in Italy.
||Black Plague strikes
England. The outbreak in 1348 marks the most devastating
plague outbreak in recorded history for Britain, and deaths
continue through 1350.
the Statute of Laborers to keep down wages.
||Boccaccio writes the
|| Battle of Poitiers
||First record of Geoffrey
Chaucer. He works as a page in the household of Elizabeth
de Burgh, Countess of Ulster (wife of Prince Lionel).
Philippa Pan (Chaucer's future wife) also in household.
||May (?): Chaucer
attends wedding of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster.
Gaunt becomes Duke of Lancaster. November 3: Chaucer
in French war in Prince Lionel's company.
captured by French soldiers. King Edward III contributes
funding to help pay Chaucer's ransom.
Chaucer carries letters to England
from Calais for Lionel, earl of Ulster.
Treaty of Bretigny ends the first
phase of the Hundred Years' War.
The Black Prince
marries Joan of Kent. (?)
Chaucer at Inns of Chancery.
(1361-1367): Chaucer works on
Prior a Nostre Dame, Romaunt of the Rose, and early
Outbreak of plague.
||First version of Piers
Plowman, the first major literary work to be written
in the English language since the Norman conquest.
Death of Countess
of Ulster (?) Philippa
Pan, (Chaucer's future wife) enters service of Queen
Philippa of Hainault.
(?) Chaucer at Inns of Court
24: Chaucer travels to Spain under safe conduct.
(?) Chaucer marries Philippa?
Prince of Wales leads an expedition to Spain in aid
of Pedro the Cruel, the deposed King of Castile.
For the first time, the king
addresses parliament in English rather than French.
Edward III grants to Chaucer,
his "valet," an annuity of twenty marks for
Death of Blanche,
Duchess of Lancaster. French war intensifies.
Chaucer sent on mission in France.
(1368-1369) probable date of
Chaucer's The Book of The Duchess.
Chaucer writes "Fragment A" of The Romaunt
of the Rose.
Chaucer writes "The Complaint unto Pity" (?)
Chaucer writes "A Complaint to His Lady" (?)
Chaucer in service
as an esquire in the royal household. Chaucer
attends Gaunt during his raid on Picardy (northern France).
Queen Philippa dies.
Outbreak of Plague
(?) Philippa Chaucer possibly
enters Gaunt's household as a lady in waiting.
Hostilities resume in the Hundred
Years' War, marking the second major phase of military
29: Chaucer running diplomatic errands in France
for the King.
(?) Chaucer accompanies John
of Gaunt in Aquitaine.
Edward the Black Prince sacks
Gregory XI becomes Pope. He holds the Papal See until
||Gaunt marries Princess
Costanza of Castile.
Katherine Swynford, bears a son to John of Gaunt. August
30: Philippa Chaucer granted an annuity of 10 pounds.
December 1: Chaucer commissioned to establish
an English seaport for Genoese trade. To this end for
"other matters of the king's business," Chaucer
leaves for Genoa, visits Florence. At this time, Boccaccio
is in Florence and Petrarch is in Padua. Chaucer remains
in Italy until the summer of the next year.
Chaucer's wife, Philippa, works
in the household of John of Gaunt's wife.
(1372-1377) probable dates of
The Parliament of Fowles, The Monk's tragedies,
Anelida, and "St. Cecilia."
||May 23: Chaucer
in London. (?) Birth of Thomas Chaucer.
July 13 Gaunt goes to French wars, leading a new
10: Gaunt returns from
French wars. He takes control of the government while
Edward III shows signs of increasing senility. The Black
Prince falls ill. April 23: Chaucer receives
a royal grant of a pitcher of wine daily. May 10:
Chaucer leases Aldgate house and sets up housekeeping.
June 8: Chaucer made Comptroller of Wool Customs
and Subsidy for the Port of London (a lucrative and powerful
position). June 13: Geoffrey and Philippa receive
10 pound annuity from Gaunt.
Outbreak of Plague.
Truce of Bruges temporarily ends
hostilities between England and France.
Death of Boccaccio.
Edward the Black Prince calls the Good
Parliament to convene. The Good Parliament introduces
many long overdue reforms of government.
Chaucer's early trips to France on diplomatic missions
negotiating for peace.
Death of Edward the Black Prince
at age 45. Chaucer on mission to Calais.
Parliament impeaches royal servants
belonging to the faction of John of Gaunt, the king's
The Civil Dominion published
by Oxford don, John Wycliffe, calling for reforms in
Death of Edward
III, accession of his grandson Richard II, still only
11 years old.
Poll tax levied.
The papacy returns to Rome from
Avignon, where it had resided since 1309.
Pope Gregtory XI condemns the
doctrines of John Wycliffe. The Lollard movement grows.
Chaucer goes to France and Flanders
on the king's secret business. He assists at negotiations
at Montreuil-sur-Mer for peace. He later participates
in negotiations for the marriage of Prince Richard.
April 30: Chaucer on missions in France concerning
peace treaty and marriage of Richard. He also probably
travels to Italy (Milan) on diplomatic missions. John
Gower and Richard Forester have Chaucer's power of attorney
while he travels abroad.
22: death of Edward
III and accession of his grandson, Richard II, age 10.
Government controlled by John of Gaunt.
The Great Schism:
Pope Gregory XI dies. The French-dominated College of
Cardinals is intimidated by the Roman mob into choosing
an Italian candidate, Pope Urban VI, as head of the
church. Urban upsets the cardinals, who declare him
deposed, and elect a Frenchman, Clement VII. Clement
sets up papal court in Avignon, but Urban continues
holding court in Rome. England, Scandinavia, Germany,
and northern Italy support the Roman Pope. France, Scotland,
Naples, Sicily, and the kingdoms in Spain support the
French Pope. This schism will remain unreconciled until
a truce in 1409 and reunion in 1417.
(1378-1381) probable dates of
The House of Fame, Boece, Boethian
balades, Anelida and Arcite.
Chaucer released from suit for "raptus"
of Cecily Champain. Cecily signs a document releasing
Chaucer from all actions "in the case of my rape"
(de raptu meo). (Raptus may or may not
refer to rape, kidnapping, or inappropriate seizure).
John Wycliffe, an advocate of
religious reform, is ordered to stop his teaching at
(?) Birth of Lewis Chaucer, Chaucer's
(1380-82) Chaucer writes The
Parliament of Fowls.
Tyler's Peasant Revolt. Rebels pass under Chaucer's
residence at Aldgate en route to confront the king.
June 19: deed of Geoffrey Chaucer, son of John
Chaucer, vintner of London, quitclaiming his father's
Chaucer receives a gift of twenty-two
pounds from Richard II for his diplomatic service in
Death of Chaucer's mother, Agnes.
Richard II marries
Anne of Bohemia.
John Wycliffe and his Lollard
followers complete the first full English translation
of the Bible--a later version follows in 1388..
(1382-1386) Chaucer write Troilus
and Criseyde, Legend of Good Women
||Chaucer signs his
first loan against his annuity. (First sign of financial
||John Wycliffe dies.
Richard II and
his uncle, John of Gaunt, undertake a fruitless military
campaign in Scotland.
Eustache Deschamps sends Chaucer
a poem lauding Chaucer as a "great translator,
noble Geoffrey Chaucer."
October 12: Chaucer appointed
justice of the peace in Kent. Political
struggle between Gaunt and his brother, Thomas of Woodstock.
September: death of Joan of Kent.
Justice of peace
reaffirmed. February 19: Philippa admitted to
fraternity of Lincoln Cathedral. August: Chaucer elected
to parliament as Knight of the Shire for Kent.
John of Gaunt leads an expensive
and unsuccessful military expedition to Spain in an
effort to win the crown of Castile, which he claims
by right of marriage to his second wife. He is eventually
beaten in 1388.
Thomas Usk, author of The
Testament of Love, praises Chaucer as a poet of
love and philosophy.
October 5: Aldgate house
rented to Richard Forester.
October 15: Scrope-Grosvenor
trial. Chaucer is a witness.
December 4: Adam Yardley
appointed controller of customs. Chaucer stripped of
his position by King Richard II while John of Gaunt
was on a military foray in Spain. Chaucer is not restored
to an important post until his benefactor's return.
(1386-1387) Canterbury General
Prologue, early tales, Knight, Part VII
||Last recorded payment
of an annuity to Philippa Chaucer.
Chaucer surrenders his royal annuities to John Scalby
Scottish Parliament at Otterburn.
The Lords Appellant and Parliament
impeach several of King Richard II's favorite courtiers.
These include close supporters of the king such as Thomas
Usk, one of Chaucer's "disciples" in literature.
(1388-1390) probable date of
Chaucer's fabliaux (Miller, Reeve)
II assumes power as an adult at age 22. Chaucer
appointed Clerk of the King's Works (his pay rises to
more than thirty pounds a year). He is responsible for
construction at Westminster, the Tower of London, and
several castles and manors. The job appointment coincides
with Gaunt's return from Spain.
IX becomes Pope at Rome.
to repair Saint George's chapel, Windsor; oversees repairs
on the lower Thames sewers and conduits between Woolwich
and Greenwich; instructed to build bleachers for jousts
at Smithfield, etc.
Chaucer robbed of horsse, goods,
and a considerable amount of money at Hacham in Surrey--and
possibly robbed again a month or two later.
appointed deputy forester of the Royal Forest of North
Petherton, Somerset (possibly does not begin his forestry
duties until retiring from his position of Clerk of
Outbreak of Plague.
(1390-1394) probable dates of
Chaucer's "marriage group" of tales: Wife
of Bath, Friar, Summoner, Merchant, Clerk, Franklin,
and the Astrolabe and Equatorie.
||June 17: a
new Clerk of the Works is appointed in Chaucer's position.
Chaucer appointed deputy forester of the Royal Forest
of North Petherton, Somerset.
a gift of ten pounds from Richard for services rendered
"for good services [. . .] "in this year now
Chaucer probably makes revisions
and additions to A Treatise on the Astrolabe.
Richard II campaigns
in Ireland. He returns to England in 1395.
Death of Queen Anne.
Chaucer granted a new annuity
of 20 pounds for life.
||Richard marries Isabella
of France. Chaucer's son
Thomas marries heiress Maud Burghersh.
of Gaunt marries longtime mistress, Katherine Swynford.
Richard II marries Isabella of
France. Isabella is seven years old.
(1396-1399) probable dates of
Balades to Scogan, Bukton, probable dates of "The
Nun's Priest's Tale," the final version of "The
Canon Yeoman's Tale," and "The Parson's Tale."
Chaucer borrows against his annuity; action for debt
against Chaucer. The King provides letters of protection
from these debts.
Richard II begins policy of absolute
Richard II's final gift to Chaucer
is a "tonel" (252 gallons) of wine a year
Richard II overthrown.
Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV) lands in Yorkshire with
40 followers, and soon has 60,000 supporters. He takes
control of government and is promptly "elected"regent.
Death of John of Gaunt.
13: on his coronation
day, Henry confirms and doubles Chaucer's annuity (now
forty marks). December 24: Chaucer signs a 53
lease for tenement in the garden of the Lady Chapel,
II, the deposed English king, is murdered in his prison
at Pontefract Castle.
Owen Glyndwr proclaims himself
Prince of Wales and rebels against England.
September 29: Last record
of Chaucer: He signs a receipt for a tun of wine delivered
Outbreak of Plague.
||Chaucer's tomb erected
in Westminster Abbey, the first poet of "the Poets'
Corner," where other famous British poets will continue
to be buried through the 1830s. The date on the tombstone
is October 25, 1400.
||Thomas Speght prints
a version of Chaucer's Works aimed at Protestant readers.
His biography of Chaucer includes an account stating that
Chaucer was fined for beating up a friar on Fleet Street.
Select Chaucer Biographies:
Baugh, Albert C. "Chaucer the
Man." In Companion to Chaucer Studies. Ed. Beryl
Rowland. rev. ed. NY: Oxford UP, 1979.
Brewer, Derek. Chaucer and His
World. NY: Dodd, Mead, 1977.
Crow, Martin M., and Clair C. Olson,
eds. Chaucer Life-Records From Materials Compiled by
John M. Manly and Edith Rickert, with the Assistance of
Lilian J. Redstone and Others. Oxford, Clarendon 1966.
Gardner, John Champlin. The Life
and Times of Chaucer. NY: Knopf, 1976. (Use
Howard, Donald R. Chaucer: His Life,
His World, His Works. NY: Dutton, 1987.
Hulbert, James R. Chaucer's Official
Life. Menasha, WI, 1912.
Kern, Alfred. The Ancestry of Chaucer.
Baltimore, MD, 1906.