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Geoffrey Chaucer: A Life Summary
Chaucer was born in 1340 in London into a prosperous family of French-Norman origin (the name derives from the French word chaussier, "shoemaker"). At the age of seventeen he became a Court page. In 1359 he fought in France with the English army in The Hundred Years' War, and was taken prisoner. Ransomed the following year, Geoffrey returned to London and was at the king's service; he obtained the patronage of John of Gaunt. When peace negotiations were arranged at Calais, the government paid Chaucer to carry letters from Calais to England. These diplomatic errands and messenger services were the first of many journeys during his life. His travelling abroad brought him in touch with European culture. In 1366 Chaucer married Philippa Roet, who served in the queen's household. He was recorded as a member of the royal household: the king granted him an annuity for life of twenty pounds. In 1372 Chaucer travelled to Italy on a diplomatic mission: he went to Genoa to establish an English port for Genoese trade, to Florence to negotiate a loan for the king, and to Milan. His journeys to Italy gave him the opportunity to come into contact with Italian poetry. In 1374 he was appointed Controller of the Customs for hides, skins and wool in the port of London. Under the reign of Richard II, Geoffrey suffered a period of misfortune, but it changed when Henry IV (the son of his patron) became king. Chaucer died in London in 1400, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. A tomb, erected by an admirer in the 15th century, marked his grave and his remains were subsequently moved. He was the first to be buried in what we know as the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.