Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – October 25, 1400) was an English author, poet, philosopher, bureaucrat courtier, and diplomat. Although he wrote many works, he is best remembered for his unfinished frame narrative The Canterbury Tales. Sometimes called the father of English literature, Chaucer is credited by some scholars as being the first author to demonstrate the artistic legitimacy of the vernacular English language, rather than French or Latin.
Chaucer was born in 1343 in London, although the exact date and location of his birth are not known. His father and grandfather were both London vintners and before that, for several generations, the family were merchants in Ipswich. His name is derived from the French chausseur, meaning shoemaker. In 1324 John Chaucer, Geoffrey's father, was kidnapped by an aunt in the hope of marrying the twelve year old boy to her daughter in an attempt to keep property in Ipswich. The aunt was imprisoned and the £250 fine levied suggests that the family was financially secure, upper middle-class, if not in the elite. John married Agnes Copton, who in 1349 inherited property including 24 shops in London from her uncle, Hamo de Copton, who is described as the "moneyer" at the Tower of London.
There are no details of Chaucer's early life and education but compared to his near contemporary poets, William Langland and The Pearl Poet, his life is well documented, with nearly five hundred written items testifying to his career. The first time he is mentioned is in 1357, in the household accounts of Elizabeth de Burgh, the Countess of Ulster, when his father's connections enabled him to become the noblewoman's page. He also worked as a courtier, a diplomat, and a civil servant, as well as working for the king collecting and inventorying scrap metal. In 1359, in the early stages of the Hundred Years' War, Edward III invaded France and Chaucer travelled with Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, Elizabeth's husband, as part of the English army. In 1360, he was captured during the siege of Rheims, becoming a prisoner of war. Edward contributed £16 as part of a ransom, and Chaucer was released. Chaucer was then known as the prisoner.
After this, Chaucer's life is uncertain, but he seems to have travelled in France, Spain, and Flanders, possibly as a messenger and perhaps even going on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Around 1366, Chaucer married Philippa (de) Roet. She was a lady-in-waiting to Edward III's queen, Philippa of Hainault, and a sister of Katherine Swynford, who later (ca. 1396) became the third wife of Chaucer's friend and patron, John of Gaunt. It is uncertain how many children Chaucer and Philippa had, but three or four are the numbers most widely agreed upon. His son, Thomas Chaucer, had an illustrious career, chief butler to four kings, envoy to France, and Speaker of the House of Commons. Thomas' great-grandson (Geoffrey’s great-great-grandson), John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, was the heir to the throne designated by Richard III before he was deposed. Geoffrey's other children probably included Elizabeth Chaucy, a nun; Agnes, an attendant at Henry IV's coronation; and another son, Lewis Chaucer