(Portrait of Chaucer as a Canterbury pilgrim, Ellesmere manuscript of The Canterbury Tales, c. 15th century, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)
In his youth, the renowned English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1400 CE), tried his hand at soldiering in the army of King Edward III of England during the Hundred Years’ War. He was deployed on the French front in 1359, but he soon found that war was not his calling—the eighteen year-old Chaucer was captured by the French during the English siege of Rheims in 1360.
Yet, Chaucer was a man with connections. In the years prior to his being called up for war in France, Chaucer had been employed as a page for the Countess of Ulster. Fortunately for Chaucer, the Countess had become the Duchess of Clarence, and her father-in-law was none other than King Edward III. Therefore, the king of England paid the ransom for Chaucer’s release, allowing the young man to return home—which was around the time Geoffrey Chaucer likely began dabbling in the poetry that would make him immortal.
Written by C. Keith Hansley.
- The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, translated by Nevill Coghill. New York: Penguin Classics, 1977.