Chaucer's Official Life
by James Root Hulbert
Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse

The JOHN DE COBEHAM whose name follows that of de Burley in the list, was one of the most eminent barons of his day. I shall merely outline a few of the most important features in his career. He came of one of the oldest families in Kent. [Footnote: Ireland's Kent V, 240 ff.] His father had been at various times admiral of the King's fleet in the west, justice in Kent, and constable of Rochester. His mother was Joan, daughter of John, lord Beauchamp of Stoke. In 40, 41 Edward III John de Cobeham served in the wars in France; in 41 Edward III he was ambassador to Rome. In 1 Richard II he was a member of the King's council, served later in France with three Knights, 105 esquires and 110 men at arms, and was made a banneret. In 10 Richard II he was one of the thirteen lord governours of the realm, appointed to oversee the government of the King. From 1377 on he was on many commissions to treat for peace with foreign powers. In 1387 he was with the five lords appellant at Waltham Cross (evidently then he was of the party of Gloucester and Arundel). He was Member of Parliament from Kent in 1390, 1394 and 1398. In 1392 he was lieutenant to the constable of England, and in the same year he was given a cup in the Earl of Arundel's will. [Footnote: Test. Vet., p. 133.] With the downfall of Gloucester he fell out of favour. He died in 1409, leaving extensive possessions ( forty-three items in all) in London, Wiltshire, Kent and Surrey. He married Margaret, daughter of Hugh Courtenay, Earl of Devonshire. [On Cobeham cf. Nicolas Hist. Peerage, and Kent. Arch. Soc. II, p. 71.]

JOHN CLINTON came of a prominent Kentish family. He was son of John de Clinton of Maxtoke and Ida d'Odingsel. [Footnote: Froissart XXI, pp. 17 ff.] He was in the French and Scottish campaigns, was appointed on commissions and was at one time lieutenant of John Devereux, warden of the Cinque Ports. He died in 1396, leaving extensive lands in Kent (twenty-six items in all). [Footnote: Cal. Inq. P. M. III, 228.] He married Margery Corbet, of a good Kentish family.

JOHN DEVEREUX was son of William Devereux. Edward III attached him to the person of his grandson (Richard II?) and gave him two hundred marks as a pension. [Footnote: Froissart XXI, p. 94 Statham Hist. of Dover, p. 380.] He was in Spain with the Black Prince. In 1377 he was appointed one of the King's council, [Footnote: Rymer old ed. VII, 161.] in 1378 constable of Leeds Castle for life, and in 1380 Captain of the city of Calais. [Footnote: idem, p. 259.] He was on many commissions to treat of peace with France and Flanders [Footnote: idem, 308, 338, 248.] and from 1384 on he was frequently summoned to Parliament. In 1386 he was one of the council of eleven appointed to govern England. From 1386 to 1390 (and perhaps longer) he was steward of the King's household. [Footnote: Rymer old ed. VII, 495, 675.] In 1387 he was with the lords appellant at Waltham Cross. [Footnote: Rot. Parl. III, 229.] In 1387 he succeeded Simon de Burley as Constable of Dover and Warden of the Cinque Ports. [Footnote: Ireland's Kent I, 710.] He died in 1394, a Knight of the Garter [Footnote: Beltz, p. 323.] and the possessor, in right of his wife, of the manor of Penshurst, Kent. His only other property seems to have been the manor of Donyngton in Buckinghamshire. [Footnote: Cal. Inq. P. M. III, 174.]

THOMAS CULPEPER came from a great Kentish family which at one time could boast of having twelve members bearing the order of Knighthood. [Footnote: Kent. Arch. XXI, 212.] A Thomas Culpeper was Member of Parliament for Kent in 1361 and in other later years.

THOMAS FOGG was Member of Parliament for Kent in 1378, 1380, 1383, 1384, 1388. He held lands by Knight's service of the Lord of Ponynges, and came, through right of his wife, into part of the property of Warresins de Valoynes. In 1377 he was constable of the castle of Calais. [Footnote: Rymer IV, 2.] He was prominent in the wars of the time, especially in naval action. In 1386 he went to Spain with John of Gaunt. [Footnote: Rymer old ed. VII, 499.] In 1405 he died. [Footnote: Kent. Arch. XVIII, p. 360.]

WILLIAM RIKHILL was a justice of the King's bench. He may have been in the list for that reason, or perhaps because he was an inhabitant of Kent. At any rate he came of a landed family in Kent. [Footnote: Ireland's Kent, IV, 416.] He died in Henry IV's reign.

JOHN FREMINGHAM, son of Sir Ralph Fremingham of Lose, was derived from a prominent Kentish family. [Footnote: idem, III, 111. Kent Arch. XXI, 214, XXIII, 57.] He himself is called "chivaler;" was sheriff of Kent in 1378 and 1393, and a Member of Parliament in 1377, 1381 and 1399. He was executor of the will of William Courtenay, Archbishop of Canterbury. He died 12 Henry IV, possessing the manor and advowson of the church of Otham, and Read Court.

JAMES DE PEKHAM was of another old Kentish family which can be traced as far back as Richard I. [Footnote: Ireland's Kent III, 529. Kent Arch. Soc. XXI, 214, XXVIII, 210.] His great grandfather possessed the manor of Pekham in Hadlow (temp. Edward I) and the estates had been increased since that time. James Pekham was sheriff of Kent in 1377 and 1380 and a member of Parliament in 1372, 1377, 1383, 1388.

WILLIAM TOPCLYF was apparently the only man in the list (except Chaucer) who did not come from a landed Kentish family. He was, however, in 1382 and doubtless later, land steward to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He held a manor in Kent, whether as steward of the Archbishop or of his own right, I have not been able to find out. [Footnote: Kent Arch. IV, 125.]

THOMAS BROKHILL, of Saltwood, chivaler, derived from a good Kentish family, was Sheriff in 1382, 1383, 1385, 1395, 1397, 1399, and 1402. He died in 1437-38, leaving no male heirs. [Footnote: Ireland's Kent II, 218. Kent Arch. XXI, 215, XVIII, 422, 3.]

WILLIAM BRENCHESLEY was lord of the manor of Benenden, near Dartford, and a justice of the Common Pleas (in Henry IV's time). [Footnote: Kent Arch. V, 27.] THE CUSTOMS [Footnote: Atton & Holland: the King's Customs.]

The duties of the collectors of customs were to ensure payment on all wools and leather shipped from their port, to have the wool or leather weighed at the wool-beam and each bale tested and sealed with the Government stamp or "coket" seal. The collectors, of whom there were two in every important port, were clerical officers rather than coast guards—their most arduous duty the preparing and balancing of the accounts which had to be written by their own hands. Their salary was twenty pounds a year each. The controller, who was intended as a check on the collectors, prepared and presented an independent account to the Exchequer. He seems to have had no fixed salary, but the collectors were empowered to pay the controller's salary out of the takings. [Footnote: Summarized from Hubert Hall: History of the Customs Revenue.] The sums thus paid, were however, mostly nominal, (in Chaucer's case ten pounds a year) and it is evident that both collectors and controllers were allowed to levy fees.

The collectors of the Port of London during Chaucer's service as controller were:

1374 John de Bernes and Nicholas Brembre. 1375 Brembre and William de Walworth. 1376 John Warde and Robert Girdelere. 1377 Warde and Richard Northbury. 1378-1384 Brembre and John Philipot. 1384-1386 Brembre and John Organ.

These were in every case prominent citizens and merchants of London, and after 1377, they were members of a clique especially friendly to the King, and inimical to John of Gaunt. To gain the right conception of their relations, one must learn something about London politics. I shall follow Trevelyan's account [Footnote: Age of Wyclif, pp. 278 ff.] of the factional struggles in the city, which from the documents which he has published and from such evidence as that afforded by the Rolls of Parliament, is unquestionably the correct one. The aldermen of London were the representatives of the companies (the associations of merchants of different sorts), each company choosing a given number according to its influence and wealth. Further in 1376 a method of electing the mayor and the sheriffs, was introduced, which consisted in a vote by companies. Now the most powerful of these companies was the Grocers' which at this time had sixteen aldermen—many more than its nearest competitor. Allied with this company were the other companies of merchants dealing in provisions, especially the Fishmongers. The chief opponents of this group were the companies of clothing merchants, the mercers, drapers, cordwainers, etc. The Grocers' Company and its allies stood for the established order of things because they were faring well under it. The Mercers and Drapers were rebellious and ready to take any opportunity to eject their rivals from power.

At this time (1376) John of Gaunt's clique in the court, especially Lord Latimer and Richard Lyons, had aroused the enmity of the Londoners because of their irregular and "grafting" financial operations. [Footnote: Trevelyan, p. 10.] The Londoners paraded the streets in demonstration against John of Gaunt. The latter demanded revenge and gained the deposition of the mayor, Adam Staple. The Londoners rallied and elected Nicholas Brembre mayor. [Footnote: idem, p. 49.] Brembre and his allies defended the Londoners vigorously before Parliament. Naturally then John of Gaunt felt a still greater hatred of Brembre and his party and was willing to act as patron to their opponents. The latter in turn, eager to gain any aid they could in their struggles, willingly accepted John of Gaunt as a friend. This, as clearly as I can make out, is the train of circumstances which brought about an unquestioned condition: John of Gaunt's hatred of London and especially of Brembre and his party, and his patronage of John of Northampton, the chief representative of the clothiers. Brembre's chief political allies were Sir William Walworth, Sir John Philipot and Nicholas Exton. These men were very definitely patronised by Richard II in opposition to John Northampton, Richard Northbury and John More.

During Chaucer's tenure of the office of controller only one certain adherent of the Northampton faction acted as collector—Richard Northbury, who was dropped from the office almost as soon as Richard II came to the throne. The other men with whom Chaucer had to deal were the very leaders of the royal faction. Further they were the most eminent merchants of their time. In the [Footnote: (3) See Robert Girdelere, p. 46.] first half of the fourteenth century the king had been forced to rely upon foreign, especially Italian, merchants for financial aids, loans, etc., since no group of Englishmen could control sufficient money to aid him in an emergency. [Footnote: W. D. Chester, Chronicles of the Customs Department, pp. 13 ff.] But in the second half he had at his hand a group of London merchants, powerful enough to meet the sudden financial needs of government. Moreover they were picturesque figures-Sir William Walworth striking down Wat Tyler in the presence of the peasant-host, Sir John Philipot fitting out a fleet at his own expense, scouring the channel and finally bringing the dreaded pirate Mercer in triumph to London.

JOHN DE BERNES, Collector in 1374, was, in 1360, Sheriff, in 1363 and 1370 Alderman, of London, and in 45, 46, Edward III, Mayor.' In 1370 he lent the King L100, in 1363 he was apparently employed in buying for the king's household. [Footnote: Devon's Issues, p. 170. Rymer III, 696.] He was dead by 1378, and I have not found out anything more about him.

NICHOLAS BREMBRE, Collector 1374, 1375, 1378-1386. See account in D. N. B. Brembre was mayor in 1377, 1383-4-5. He was the political leader of the group of King Richard's friends in London. Of his public career I shall not treat since that is sufficiently covered elsewhere. To illustrate his financial dealings, the following abstracts of documents are important. In September 1377, the King borrowed L10,000 of Brembre, Wallworth, Philipot and John Haddele (grocer, later Mayor of London), and certain other merchants, for whom these were attorneys, pledging the crown jewels. [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll, p. 25.] In May 1378 this sum was repaid. In 1378, Hugh de Calvylegh, captain of Calais, Nicholas Brembre and John Philipot, in the service of the war, agreed to pay to William von de Voorde of Bruges, the sum of L2,166, 13s. 4d. as directed by the council, delivered their bond to the King's clerk, and a tally of that amount was placed in the hands of William de Wallworth. [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll, p. 280.] In 1382 the King granted Brembre in discharge of 2,000 m. lent by him to the King to discharge a debt to Sir Bretrucat de Lebret, half a mark from the subsidy of each sack of wool and wool-fells passing out of the ports of London and Boston, with custody of one part of the coket seal of the latter port, until the loan should be fully paid [Footnote: idem, p. 164.]. In 1380 Brembre, Philipot and Walworth were appointed [Footnote: 2 Riley Memorials, pp. 305, 313, 345. Gregory's Chronicle (Camden Soc. p. 88.) on a commission to investigate the finances of the realm—together with the Archbishop of York, Earl of Arundel, etc. This group of men is, indeed, constantly mentioned together; throughout such documents as the Patent Rolls, where matters of national finance are under consideration, Brembre, Philipot and Walworth, or perhaps two of them, are sure to be mentioned [Footnote: It is noticeable that from 1377 on John of Northampton is never mentioned in the Patent Rolls in connection with financial operations, loans to the King, etc.].

In the latter part of his career complaints were sent to Parliament against him and Exton, by the Mereers, Cordwainers, Pounders, Sadlers, Painters, Armourers, Pinners, Embroiderers, Spurriors and Blacksmiths—obviously the trades belonging to the then defunct party of John Northampton. [Footnote: Rot. Parl. in, 141 ff. 225.]

He was accused in 1388 together with de la Pole, Robert Tresilian and other friends of the King of the following: having prevented access by others to the King, misled the King, caused the King to give manors, lands, and other offices to persons of their party and to persons from whom they received gifts or whom they wished to use (such as Usk), having caused the King to grant them money, etc. [Footnote: Rot. Parl. III, 230.] As is well known Brembre was condemned and executed.

At his death Brembre left extensive estates (entered in the Inquisitions) in London and Kent.

WILLIAM DE WALWOKTH was born about 1320. He was apprenticed to John Lovekin, Stockfishmonger, Mayor of London, 1348, 1358, 1365, 1366. [Footnote: Woodcock, Lives of Lord Mayors, Surrey Arch. Coll. VIII, 277 ff.] He was executor of Lovekin's will and seems to have retained a special feeling of loyalty for him, because in 1381 he founded a college of a master and nine chaplains to celebrate divine service for the good estate of the King, himself, and Margaret his wife, for their souls after death and for that of John Lovekin, formerly his master. [Footnote: Cal. Pst. Roll, p. 99.] He was elected Mayor of London in 1374 and again in 1380. In 1370 he and Simon de Morden lent the king L300. On the day of Edward Ill's death he and John Philipot went to the young King, implored his favour for the city of London, and asked him to put a stop to John of Gaunt's persecutions. When the Commons voted a subsidy to the King for carrying on the war, they expressed distrust of the management of it, and demanded that the funds be intrusted to Walworth and Philipot, treasurers for the war. In 1381 Walworth accompanied the boy King at his meeting with the Peasant leaders, and he, Brembre and Philipot were knighted by the King for their bravery on this occasion. He died in 1381. Walworth was appointed on many commissions of various sorts and dealt extensively in land.

JOHN WARDE did not bulk so large in London affairs as did the others and consequently I have been able to learn but little about him. He belonged to the Grocers' Company and consequently without doubt to Brembre's faction. [Footnote: Orridge, Citizens of London.] He had been sheriff in 1366 and was elected Mayor of London in 1375. [Footnote: Coll. of London Cit. (Camden Soc.) pp. 88, 89.]

ROBERT GIRDELERE is even more difficult to trace than Warde. He was sheriff of London 1368-9. [Footnote: Coll. of London Cit. (Camden Soc,) p. 88.] I have found reference to a transaction in which Robert Girdler agreed to buy certain cables and cords [Footnote: Cal. of Letters, City of London, p. 144.]. Consequently he may not have been a dealer in provisions and was perhaps a member of John Northampton's party. The last reference that I have found to him is the date of his collectorship, 1376.

RICHARD NORTHBURY was a leader of John Northampton's party. He was a member of the Mercer's Company. [Footnote: Cal. Rot. Pat. Turr. Lon., p. 223.] In 1384 he was found guilty with John of Northampton of sedition, and imprisoned. Certain tenements which he held in London were forfeited to the King [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll, p. 481.]. In 1385 the King granted him 10m. a year for clothing and 26m. a year for victuals, while he was a prisoner in Corfe Castle [Footnote: idem, p. 548.]. In 1391 the Commons petitioned the King to annul the decision against him and to restore him his lands, at the same time making similar petitions for John Northampton and John More. All three were granted [Footnote: Rot. Parl., p. 292.].

JOHN PHILIPOT is treated in D. N. B. He was apparently a ship owner, and certainly a member of the Grocers' Company. In 1363 he was appointed on a commission to seize forfeited goods for the King. In 1364 he was granted license to buy victuals and take them to Calais. In 1378 he was elected Mayor. In 1379 Sir Roger Beauchamp, lord chamberlain to the King's household, bequeathed him "my great cup gilt, which the King of Navarre gave me," and made him one of the executors of his will. In the same year he contributed largely to fitting out a fleet against the French, hiring a number of ships at his own expense and redeeming a thousand sets of armour and arms which had been pawned. In 1383 he was appointed on a commission to treat of peace with the Duke of Flanders. He died in 1384.

JOHN OEGSN was alderman of London and sheriff in 1385. [Footnote: Oal. Pat. Roll, p. 90.] I have not been able to discover what company he belonged to. In 1378 he was appointed one of the collectors of the tax of two-fifteenths. [Footnote: Rymer IV, 34.] In 1383 he was appointed one of the collectors of the subsidy of 2s. from each tun of wine and 6d. in the pound from the merchandise in the port of London. [Footnote: Oal. Pat. Roll, p. 128.] From these appointments it seems likely that he was friendly to the Brembre faction—note also that he succeeded Philipot at the latter's death.


John de Burley, with whom Chaucer in 1376 went on a diplomatic mission, was a brother of Simon de Burley. [Footnote: R. 242 mem, 17.] He was certainly attached personally to the Black Prince, for in 1378 Richard II confirmed to him a grant made by himself, when prince (51 Ed. III) confirming a grant of his father the prince of Wales (41 Ed. III) of L40 yearly for de Burley's services, especially at the battle of Nazare where he was the prince's bodyguard. [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll, p. 19*7.] In 1373 he was appointed Captain of Calais and commissioned to supervise the fortifications of Oderwyk and other places besides Calais. [Footnote: Rymer III, 989, 992.] In 1375 he was on a commission to treat for peace with France. [Footnote: Rymer III, 1021.] In 1377 he was a witness of Edward III's will, [Footnote: Test. Vet. p. 11.] and stepped out of the position of Captain of Calais. [Footnote: Rymer IV, 2.] In 1377 he was granted the constableship of Nottingham Castle for life. [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll, p. 34.] (He gave it up in 1381). [Footnote: idem, p. 60.] In 1378 Richard II confirmed to him a grant (47,50 Edward III) of 40m. yearly in addition to the L40 already granted. [Footnote: idem, p. 108.] In 1378, L40 yearly were granted at his supplication, to his son W. de Burley, esquire, "retained to stay with the King." [Footnote: idem, p, 283.] In 1377 John de Burley, Knight of the King's Chamber, [Footnote: He was also so mentioned in 1370.] was given the custody of Sherwood Forest. [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll, p. 88.] In 1378 he had the King change his grants of L40 and 40m. to one of 100 m. and give the latter to his son, John de Burley, Kt. [Footnote: idem, p. 281.] In 1378 he was on a commission to treat for the marriage of Richard II with a daughter of the Duke of Milan. [Footnote: Rymer old ed. VII, 213.] Later he was engaged in negotiations for Richard's marriage with Anne of Bohemia. While so employed, he and Michael de la Pole and Gerard del Isle were taken prisoners and held for ransom. On this occasion the King sent money for the ransom of the three. [Footnote: Devon's Issues III, 224-5.] On another occasion he was taken prisoner in Germany after having been sent as messenger to the King of Bohemia, and the King contributed 500m. to his ransom. [Footnote: Issue Roll (Devon) 7 Rich. II, p. 225. ] In 1381 he gave up the custody of Sherwood forest, and also that of Nottingham Castle. [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll, pp. 54, 60.] In that year and the following he and Simon de Burley are mentioned in connection with transfers of land. [Footnote: idem, p. 160.] In 1382 he was a Justice of the Peace in Hereford. In 1385 he was granted for life the custody of the alien priory of Wotton Waweyn, provided that its value should not exceed L45, 13s. 4d. yearly, the rent which he was wont to pay for it. [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll, p, 45.] I find no later mention of him, except the rather doubtful one of his inheriting land from Simon de Burley (in 1388).


Sir Edward de Berkeley was a Knight of the chamber to Richard II. [Footnote: Rymer IV, 53.] In 1376 he was appointed on a commission to treat for peace with France. [Footnote: idem III, 1067, 9.] In 1378, Richard II confirmed a grant made by himself when Prince (50 Edward III) confirming letters patent of his father (45 Edward III)—of fifty pounds yearly. [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll, p. 232.] In 1378 he is mentioned as going on an expedition with John of Gaunt, [Footnote: Rymer IV, 45.] and is again appointed on a commission to treat for peace with Flanders. [Footnote: Rymer IV, 53] He died 4 Richard II, leaving a manor and some lands in Suffolk. [Footnote: Cal. Inq. P. M. III, 28.] His will, which is extant, [Footnote: Test Vet., p. 113.] directs that his body be buried in the church of St. Mary Carmelites in Calais; and bequeathes his "dominion and monastery at Hikeling" to "Sir John Clanbrow" (probably Sir John Clanvowe),


Sir Thomas de Percy, with whom Chaucer was sent to Flanders in 1377, was brother of Henry de Percy, count of Northumberland. [Footnote: Rymer IV, 51.] He was with the Black Prince at Bergerath, 44 Edward III. [Footnote: Dugdale 1, 285.] In 1378 a grant by Edward III to Thomas de Percy, "whom the King has retained to stay with him," of 100m. yearly was confirmed. [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll,.108.] In that year and at many times subsequent he was admiral of the north. [Footnote: idem, p. 327.] In 1378 he was appointed with others to treat with the King of Scotland, [Footnote: Rymer IV, 51.] in 1379 to treat with the Duke of Brittany. [Footnote: Rymer old. ed. VII, 223.] From 1381 on many pardons were granted at his request. In 1381 he was appointed custodian of the Castle of Brest. In 1383 he was on a commission to treat with Flanders and France. [Footnote: idem, 412.] In 1386 he was sub-chamberlain in the King's household (literally "south chamberlain"). [Footnote: idem, 675] By 1392 he was chamberlain of the household. [Footnote: idem, 721.] In 1398 he was made Earl of Worcester [Footnote: Dugdale I, 285.] and appointed with John of Gaunt on a commission for redressing violations of the truce. In 1399 he was appointed executor of the Duchess of Gloucester's will. He was beheaded in 1403 because of his connexion with the rising of Hotspur. He was a Knight of the Garter.


That Sir William de Beauchamp was a friend to Chaucer has been recognized for some time. In May 1888 Mr. W. D. Selby called attention to this connection with Chaucer in a short article in The Athenaeum. In this article Mr. Selby gave a few facts about him, gathered professedly from Dugdale, but omitted all mention of the curious connection Sir William de Beauchamp had with the property of the Earl of Pembroke, for his custodianship of which Chaucer was one of the sureties.

William de Beauchamp was a younger son of Thomas, Earl of Warwick. [Footnote: Cf. Dugdale's Baronage I, 238 ff, Dugdale Antiquities of Warwickshire II, 1029 ff.] In 40 Edward III he attended John of Gaunt in his expedition into Spain. In 44 Edward III he served as a Knight in France, in the retinue of John of Gaunt, and again in 47 Edward III. In 47 Edward III de Beauchamp signed an indenture to serve John of Gaunt in peace and in war during his life in consideration of one hundred marks yearly and wages for six horses and four boys. [Footnote: Register of John, duke of Lancaster, vol. 13. Misc. Books-Rec. Off.] He had been connected with John of Gaunt's household even earlier, in 1340 and 1346. [Footnote: Same book.] In 1 Richard II he served with Edmund de Langley, Earl of Cambridge, in Spain with 200 men-at-arms and 200 archers, and in the King's navy at sea under John of Gaunt. In 13 Richard II he served again in France.

In 1377 he was granted for life the custody of Feckanham forest and park at a farm of L37, 14s. 4-1/2d. From the beginning of his reign, Richard II granted many pardons at the supplication of William de Beauchamp. In 1379 he was chamberlain of the King's household; in 1380 he was granted an annuity of 200m. [Footnote: Not L200 as Mr. Selby says. See Pat. Roll 1380, pp. 561, 600.] He was regularly on commissions of the peace in Warwick, in company with his brother, the Earl of Warwick. In 1379 he and Lewis de Clifford aided Robert de Ferrers in acquiring the manor of Wemme in fee. [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll, p, 332.] In 1383 he was appointed on a commission to treat with Flanders. In 1384 he was appointed Captain of Calais—a position he held until 1392.

To return now to one matter in which Chaucer is closely connected with William de Beauchamp. In 1378 the King granted William de Beauchamp the custody of the Castle and estates of Pembroke, in his hands by reason of the minority of the Earl of Pembroke. The father of the last Earl of Pembroke, John de Hastings, had, by license from the crown, settled all his possessions, in the event of failure of his own issue, except the Castle and town of Pembroke, upon his cousin William de Beauchamp (his mother's sister's son) [Footnote: Surrey Arch. Coll. XVH, 29, 30.] These lands were in the hands of the King in 1378 because John de Hastings had died and his son was still a minor; naturally he appointed the next heir custodian of them. But William de Beauchamp's management of the estates was certainly not satisfactory and, if the suretyship of Chaucer was anything but a form, the poet stood a good chance of losing by it. The first notice we find of Beauchamp's unsatisfactory management is in 1386, when a commission was appointed to enquire touching the waste in the possessions of John de Hastyngs by William de Beauchamp, to whom the King had committed the custody of the land. In the same year we find record of an indenture made between Margaret Mareschall, countess of Norfolk, guardian of John de Hastyngs, and the said John, on the one side, and William de Beauchamp on the other, whereby the latter agreed to surrender his custody of the estates, and the former in return to free him of liability for the "waste." [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll, p. 257.] In 1389 the King appointed a commission to enquire touching the waste in the lands of the alien priory of Kirkeby Monachorum, county Warwick, in the time of William de Beauchamp, Knight, farmer thereof. [Footnote: idem, p. 350. i idem, p. 208.]

In 1390 we find a "Revocation for reasons declared before the King and council in the present parliament, with the assent of the nobles, magnates, etc., of recent letters granting during pleasure to William de Beauchamp the custody of the lands, tenements, etc. of John de Hastyngs." [Footnote: Whether these were part of the Pembroke holdings or not, I do not know.] In the same year the custody was regranted to John Golafre, Knight of the King's chamber, at a farm of L600 (Beauchamp had paid L500). [Footnote: Gal. Pat. Roll, p. 180.] In 1390, however, the young Earl of Pembroke was killed in a tournament, and according to the provisions made by his father, the estates devolved upon William de Beauchamp. Other heirs contested his rights to them, but he won. A curious story told about his claim, is as follows: "Beauchamp invited his learned counsel to his house in Paternoster Row in the city of London; amongst whom were Robert Charlton (then a judge), William Pinchbek, William Brenchesley, and John Catesby (all learned lawyers); and after dinner, coming out of his chapel in an angry mood, threw to each of them a piece of gold and said: 'Sirs, I desire you forthwith to tell me, whether I have any right and title to Hasting's lordships and lands!' Whereupon Pinchbek stood up (the rest being silent, fearing that he suspected them) and said: 'No man here, nor in England, dare say that you have any right in them, except Hastings [Footnote: Evidently Edward Hastings, a contesting heir.] quit his claim therein; and should he do it 'being now under age, it would be of no validity.'" (Dugdale).

In 1387 [Footnote: According to Beltz, p. 229]when Richard II was preparing for his assault upon the Gloucester faction with which William de Beauchamp was evidently, as his brother the Earl of Warwick was certainly, connected, he tried to remove Beauchamp from the office of Captain of Calais, by messenger. Beauchamp refused to leave the office, "saying that he received that charge and trust publicly from the King, in the presence of his nobles, and therefore would not quit it in a private manner" (Dugdale). When his successor arrived, Beauchamp arrested him, and took him to England. There Beauchamp himself was arrested but was soon released. In 1393 he was summoned to Parliament as Baron Bergavenny (a title received in connection with the Pembroke estates). From 1390-96 I find reference to grants of land made by him to religious bodies. He seems to have been rather in disfavour in these closing years of Richard II's reign, but under Henry IV he received new grants, of the manor of Feckenham, rent-free, and of the custody of the Castle and county of Pembroke. He died 12 Henry IV and was buried in Black Friars, Hereford.

He married Joan, second sister and coheir of Thomas Fitz Alen, Earl of Arundel. He was a Knight of the Garter. Dugdale prints (in his Warwickshire) the wills of William de Beauchamp and his wife, remarkable medieval documents.


The name of Richard Forester is connected with Chaucer's first in 1378, when Chaucer, about to go abroad on a mission for the King, had letters of attorney under the names of John Cower and Richard Forester, [Footnote: Life Records, No. 120, p. 216.] and again in 1386, when a lease for the house over Aldgate which Chaucer had occupied during his years as controller of the customs in London was made out by the Mayor and Aldermen to Richard Forester, citizen of London. [Footnote: Life Records, No. 192, p. 264.] Various entries with regard to Richard Forester occur in the public records. Whether all of them refer to one man or not, and whether any concerns Chaucer's friend, I cannot say. I shall merely present them in order of their occurrence.

In 37 Edward III Richard Forester was appointed custodian and supervisor of the river bank called "la Ree de Ettemore." [Footnote: Pat. Roll 267, mem. 6.] In 1369 he is on the list of esquires of less degree. [Footnote: L. R., p. 174.] In 1370 ten pounds were paid out of the Exchequer to Richard Forester, of Stanton, who had been sent with six archers to Shropshire to carry a certain sum of money from thence to London. [Footnote: Devon's Issues, p. 170.] Later in the same year he received ninety-one pounds, two shillings, seven pence half penny for the expenses of himself, his men at arms and archers in the war. [Footnote: idem, p. 461.] In 44 Edward III our beloved armiger Richard Forester of Stanton was granted custody of the manor of Stokelaty in Hereford which had belonged to Richard Rissholm, deceased. [Footnote: Pat. Roll 281, mem. 36.] In 47 Edward III, Richard la Forester de Beckele had a grant of ten pounds and one robe per annum as a "vallettus" of the royal chamber. [Footnote: Pat. Roll 289, mem. 21.] In 50 Edward III Richard Forester was granted custody of the manor of Waterpyrye and one messuage in Thomele in Oxfordshire, and the manor of Wormenhale in Buckinghamshire, during the minority of the heir. [Footnote: idem 293, mem. 8.]

In 1378 Richard II confirmed to Richard le Forester of Beckele, "whom the King has retained to stay with him," his annuity of ten pounds. [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll, p. 126.] In 5 Richard II the King granted to Richard Forester and his son Lambert custody of the royal manor of Bekkele with the hamlet of Horton for ten years at a rent of fifty marks per annum. [Footnote: Fine Roll 184, mem. 14.] In 7 Richard II Forester is referred to as an inhabitant of Oxfordshire. [Footnote: idem 187, mem. 25.] In 12 Richard II Richard Forester of Stanton paid two marks for a confirmation of a grant of Edward III of certain lands in Oxfordshire. [Footnote: idem 192, mem. 3.] In 16 Richard II Richard Forester, citizen of London, with a group of London mercers acquired some land. [Footnote: C. R. 234, mem. 20 dorm.] Again in 21 Richard II he acquired more land, but later assigned it to his associates. [Footnote: C. R. 241, mem. 14 dorm, mem. 12 dorm.]


With regard to Henry Scogan I have but few facts which do not appear in Professor Kittredge's article. [Footnote: Harvard Studies and Notes I.] In 9 and 10 Richard II he was a vallettus of Simon de Burley's. Many entries in the Issue Roll of those years indicate that he was employed to carry money from the exchequer to de Burley, and to arrange for the fortification of Dover. [Footnote: Issues, P. 313, mem. 12, 13, 19, 21 (2 entries) P. 314, mem. 1, 4, 7, 12, 13. P. 315, mem. 15, 18. P. 316, mem. 1, 2, 16.] In 15 Richard II ten pounds were given to Henry Scoggan, scutifer, at Nottingham. [Footnote: Issues, P. 325, mem. 8.] In 20 Richard II Henry Sooggan of Reynham granted to Thomas Wery and others three pieces of land in Tostes, for which they were to pay him a penny yearly. [Footnote: C. R. 238, mem. 32 dorso.] In the same year he and John Hollech, chivaler, went on a bond for Henry Recheford, under penalty of two hundred pounds each, that the latter should do no harm to the Gedneys. [Footnote: C. R. 238, mem. 12 dorm.] In 21 Richard II he conveyed a hundred shillings from the Exchequer into the King's chamber [Footnote: Issues, P. 343, mem. 12.]—an action which suggests that he was probably connected with the King's court at this time.


The only important fact which I have found with regard to de Graunson—aside from those mentioned in Romania XIX—is an indenture made apparently in 48 Edward III, between Otz de Granson chivaler, and John of Lancaster. [Footnote: Duchy of Lancaster Registers, No. 13 f, 134 dorm. On de Graunson, see note in Earl of Derby's Expeditions (Camden Soc.) p. 309.] According to this document de Granson agrees to serve the Duke in time of peace as well as of war in return for a fee of a hundred marks a year.


Skeat has supposed the Bukton mentioned in Chaucer's Lenvoy a Bukton, to be Sir Peter Bukton of York. There is, however, at least one other possibility. A Robert de Bukton is mentioned in 3 Richard II as armiger to Thomas de Percy, [Footnote: Issues, P. 301, mem. 21.] with whom it will be remembered Chaucer had some three years before been associated in a diplomatic mission. In 14, 15 and 16 Richard II, Robert de Bukton, scutifer of Thomas de Percy, is frequently mentioned in the Issue Roll as transmitting money from the Exchequer to de Percy, [Footnote: P. 323, mem. 11. P. 324, mem. 1, 12, 21. P. 327, mem. 17, P. 328, mem. 16. P. 330, mem. 1, 22.] and in one case to Louis Clifford. [Footnote: p. 323, mem. 8.] In 15 Richard II, the King inspected and confirmed a patent of Queen Anne dated 15 Richard II, being a grant for the term of her life to her esquire Robert Bucton, of a quantity of pasture and wood called "Gosewold" in her lordship of Eye, "by the yearly service of the rent of a rose." [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll, p. 324.] In 1399 this was confirmed, [Footnote: idem 1399, p. 16.] and in 1401 Robert de Bukton is mentioned as constable of the Castle of Eye. [Footnote: idem 1401, p. 540.] Robert de Bukton was returned to Parliament from the county of Suffolk in 17 Richard II (1393-4), 20 Richard II (1396-7), 21 Richard II ( 1397, 1397-8) and 2 Henry IV, (1400-1). On account of his constant connection with the court, Robert de Bukton would seem more probably to have been Chaucer's Bukton, than Skeat's candidate. [Footnote: On Sir Peter Bukton, see note in Scrope-Grosvenor Roll, II, 466-7, containing many facts not in Skeat.]


What then is the bearing of all this upon Chaucer's career? Let us take up the matter point by point. In the first place it is clear that although in a few cases the esquires were connected with important families, in none did any come from a major branch of an important family and in most the derivation is from ordinary stock. Chaucer was then associated with a group of men who came from much the same class as himself. [Footnote: Cf., pp. 6-11 above.] Secondly it appears that the esquires were frequently the sons of men connected in some way with the court. [Footnote: p. 12.] In this respect also Chaucer, was like his associates, for his father, in 1338 at least was in the King's service. [Footnote: L. R. No. 13, p. 145 Intro. p. XI.] Further many of the esquires had served in the household of one of the King's children before becoming members of the King's household. In this respect also Chaucer with his service in the Duke of Clarence's house was like a number of his fellows.

The exact nature of Chaucer's position in the household it is difficult to discover. Dr. Furnivall supposed from an entry of May 25, 1368, the second half yearly payment of Chaucer's annuity, that he was first a "vallettus" of the King's chamber. [Footnote: L. R. No. 50, p. 161.] But it is by no means certain that this is correct. Chaucer is called "vallettus" of the King's chamber only once; in all other early references he is described, if at all, as "vallectus hospicii Regis." There is, I believe, a difference between these two. As I have already pointed out, [Footnote: p. 17 above.] a certain confusion with regard to the use of such phrases undoubtedly exists in the records. As evidence of this confusion we find men called "vallettus" after they have been called "armiger," and sometimes men who are normally called "vallettus camere Regis" named as "vallettus hospicii Regis." Yet if we look up the entries with regard to the men called "valletz de la chambre du Roi" in the list of 1368, [Footnote: L. R., p. 167. 'In many cases, of course, they are called merely "vallettus noster," "dileatus vallettus" or "dileatus servitor."] we find that in such records as the Patent Rolls where DEFINITELY characterized, they are generally referred to as "vallettus camere nostre." For example, William Gambon is so titled seven times and never as "vallettus hospicii nostri." [Footnote: Pat. Roll 285, mem. 2, idem 274, mem. 37, 257, mem. 25. Cal. Pat. Roll 1377, p. 79. Issues, P. 228, mem. 17. C. R. 207, mem. 12. Pat. Roll 295, mem. 26.] Reginald Neuport is called six times "vallettus camere Regis." [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll 1378, p. 139. Issues, P. 237, mem. 17. P. 249, mem. 3. P. 251, mem. Pat. Roll 288, mem. 21, etc.] John Tipet is called the same at least five times, and never by any other title. [Footnote: Issues A 169, mem. 35. P. 228, mem. 17. P. 228, mem. 38. P. 235, mem. 20, etc.] Thomas Cheyne is called "vallettus camere Regis" five times. [Footnote: Pat. Roll 262, mem. 23, 254, mem. 4, 255, mem. 25. Cal. Rot. Pat. Turr. Lon. p. 174. Abb. Rot. Orig. II, 222.] Thomas Loveden alone is called "vallettus hospicii Regis" twice and "vallettus camere" once. [Footnote: Issues, P. 287, mem. 8. p. 250, mem. 1. Pat. Roll 266, mem. 5.] Under the circumstances, if Chaucer ever was a "vallettus camerae Regis," we should expect him to have been so called more than once. It seems rather more likely that his proper position was that of "vallettus hospicii Regis" [Footnote: The household books, published in the Chaucer Records, recognize no such classification as "vallettus hospicii Regis," pet the records certainly point to the existence of such a classification.] and later of course, "armiger" or "scutifer." This view is of course supported by the fact that in the household lists his name does not appear in 1368 as a "vallet de la chambre du Roi" or in 1369 even near the names of men who had been "valletti" of the King's chamber. Further that Chaucer's position by 1363 was distinctly honourable appears from the fact that his name appears as Esquier among a group of men who were not engaged in menial occupations of any kind—as distinguished from the cooks and farriers of the groups called "esquiers survenantz" and "sergeantz des offices parvantz furrures a chaperon."

With regard to Chaucer's employment as an envoy abroad, it is clear that he was, when so engaged, performing a customary service, that indeed he was one of several who were constantly used in minor missions abroad and that his rank and duties were similar to those of a King's messenger today. [Footnote: Cf. pp. 19, 20 above.] Likewise the rewards which Chaucer received were not extraordinary. Practically every esquire of Chaucer's rank who remained for any considerable time in the court received an annuity; evidently such pensions were part of the perquisites of the office. A few esquires received a smaller annuity than Chaucer's, many received about the same amount, and, many received more. [Footnote: Cf. p. 21 ff.] Similarly the special offices which Chaucer held, particularly his controllerships, were not evidences of remarkable favour: other esquires received the same kind of offices and indeed they were apparently regular sinecures for the members of the King's household. [Footnote: Cf. p. 22 ff.] So also the grant of wardships and forfeited goods can be paralleled in many cases. In two respects Chaucer received rather less than the other esquires—he was given no corrody and no grant of land.

In one more respect can Chaucer's career be paralleled by that of other "esquires"—in that of his marriage. Marriages between the esquires of the King and the damsels of the queen were decidedly frequent. [Footnote: Cf. p. 25 ff.]

Indeed, it is clear from the study of the careers of the other esquires that, so far as we know, Chaucer received no exceptional favours, and that his career was in practically every respect a typical esquire's career.

In all this then there is no evidence that Chaucer enjoyed the favour of any particular patron. Aside from the fact that, like Chaucer, some of the esquires had served in the household of one of the King's children before entering the King's, I have been able in no case to find evidence of connection between them and any patron. Since Chaucer received no more favours than did the average esquire, there is no particular reason to suppose that he had any patron.

Now let us examine the evidence in favour of his close connection with John of Gaunt. We have two pieces of definite evidence of a connection between Chaucer and John of Gaunt; Chaucer's writing (probably shortly after 1369) of the Book of the Duchess, and John of Gaunt's grant of an annuity of ten pounds in June 1374. The former does not prove anything with regard to a definite relation; such complimentary poems were commonly written for nobles who were not special patrons of the poets; and Chaucer in his Parlement of Foules possibly complimented Richard II in much the same way. In regard to the latter piece of evidence—John of Gaunt's grant of an annuity—two things are to be noted, first that John of Gaunt had previously given an annuity to Philippa Chaucer (in 1372) and, second, that in the grant he gives the cause of making it to Chaucer as services rendered by Chaucer to the Duke and by Chaucer's wife to Queen Philippa and the Duke's Consort. In the grant to Philippa on the other hand no mention is made of Geoffrey. This greater particularity in the statement of Philippa's services in Geoffrey's grant, the fact that Philippa was in the duke's household (evidenced by the Christmas gifts of silver cups to her) and the fact that nothing else connects Chaucer definitely with John of Gaunt, make it seem almost certain that the grant of an annuity to Chaucer was made merely in order to increase the sum given to Philippa. Grants of this time which mention the services of both husband and wife are usually made out to both, and undoubtedly in this case the real purpose was to give it to Philippa and her husband.

On the other hand, if John of Gaunt really was "Chaucer's great patron," why did he not give the poet employment in his own household? Anyone who will run thru the Lancashire Registers of this time will be struck with the immensity of the duke's income and the regal scale of his household. [Footnote: Cf. Abstracts and Indexes I f. 13'7 dorso. Warrant to deliver to a damsel for the queen (i.e. John of Gaunt's Spanish wife) 1708 pearls of the largest, 2000 of the second sort. Warrant to bring him at the Savoy all the Rolls of Accounts of all his Recevors General and of his Treasurers of War and of the Household and other officers of the Household, there to be deposited and safely kept. Next page-long list of jewels.] Surely had he wished to patronize the poet, he could have done so most easily and most surely by giving him some honorable post in his own control. Why should he have taken the difficult method of procuring him precarious offices under the King!

Since the assertions with regard to John of Gaunt's ascendancy over Chaucer's career have been so common, however, we ought to take up the matter point by point. We have no reason to connect John of Gaunt with Chaucer's start in the world—his employment in the household of the Countess of Clarence. We know that Chaucer's father had relations with the court and, although merely a merchant, he may very likely have secured Chaucer's appointment to the place in the Countess's household, as the fathers of Simon de Burley (not a merchant, but a man of no rank), Michael de la Pole, (a merchant), John Legge, Thomas Frowyk and Thomas Hauteyn obtained appointments for their children in the households of the Prince of Wales and of the King. This was an age when the merchant class was obtaining unusual power and privileges. Richard II, it will be remembered, was called the "Londoner's King." It has been shown that John of Gaunt visited the Countess of Clarence at Christmas 1357, and it has been suggested that he may have met Chaucer then and taken a liking to him. Of actual meeting, however, we have no proof. Chaucer was in the service of the Duke of Clarence in October 1860. [Footnote: See Modern Lang. Notes March 1912 article of Dr. Samuel Moore on The New Chaucer Item.]; the Duchess of Clarence died in 1363; and we learn of him next in the King's household in 1367. The transition from the household of the wife of one of the King's sons to that of the King himself is one which can be paralleled in many cases; we have no need to suppose patronage on the part of the Duke of Lancaster to account for it. As a matter of fact we have no reason to suppose that John of Gaunt knew anything of Chaucer at this time.

The diplomatic missions, and the grants of annuities and offices were not, as I have shown, evidences of special favour; they were a regular thing in the King's court. We have no reason to suppose that John of Gaunt's influence in favour of Chaucer was a cause for any of them. Further John of Gaunt's influence would have been worthless in helping Chaucer to become Justice of the Peace in Kent in 1385. This appointment must have been made by the Chancellor—Michael de la Pole—possibly at the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant of the County or the Custos Rotulorum. Whether there was a Lord Lieutenant of Kent or not, I do not know. At any rate the constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports (at this time Simon de Burley) held powers in Kent similar to those of a lord lieutenant, and he occupies the position of the lord lieutenant in the list of Justices of the Peace—at the top. Both de la Pole and de Burley were enemies of John of Gaunt. Even if the appointment was not due to them, we cannot ascribe it to John of Gaunt, for I have been able to find no evidence that John of Gaunt had influence in Kent, or that he controlled any of the other Justices.

Furthermore that Chaucer did not owe his place in the customs to the influence of John of Gaunt is clear from the fact that the collectorships of customs in London, at any rate, were controlled by the duke's enemies. If they had sufficient power with the king to gain control of those offices, it hardly seems likely that the King would appoint a member of the faction opposed to them to serve with them. It is to be noted also that Chaucer on account of the business connections of his family—his father was a vintner and another relative evidently a pepperer—would be more likely to sympathize with the party of Brembre than with that of Northampton.

Now we come to a point where nearly all writers on Chaucer make inferences in regard to John of Gaunt's influence—Chaucer's separation from the office of controller of the customs. Most writers have said more or less directly that Chaucer lost the office because John of Gaunt had left England earlier in the same year. The facts themselves show indubitably that Chaucer's leaving office was in no respect due to John of Gaunt's departure. Before discussing this matter, I must say a word about the political situation before 1386 and in that year. At the very end of Edward III's reign John of Gaunt, who had been the real power since the death of the Black Prince, became extremely unpopular because of his bad administration of the government and his quarrels with the Condoners. This unpopularity continued both in the court and without. Under the new King the great duke had little influence; he was not even included in the great council appointed to control the government during the King's minority. Further a group of young men, connected with the King, gradually assumed charge of affairs—Michael de la Pole, Robert de Vere and others. These men were outright enemies of John of Gaunt; according to the stories of the time they even made plots to poison and to stab him. He himself retired from active political life and, apparently, largely because he saw no chance for gaining great power in England, turned his attention to his Spanish projects; [Footnote: Trevelyan's view.] and in 1386 he left England for Spain. Others of the great lords, however, were not content to play a passive role; the brother of John of Gaunt, Gloucester, as leader, and the Earl of Arundel and Warwick, most prominent followers, were particularly violent in their attacks on the King and his friends. To revert now to Chaucer's case: these are the significant facts in their order:

End of March, 1386 [Footnote: Or July 7 according to Oman.] John of Gaunt leaves England.

October 24, 1386 Gloucester, Arundel et al. succeed in ousting Michael de la Pole and the King's other cabinet officers.

December, 1386 Adam Yardley and Henry Gisors are appointed to Chaucer's places in the customs.

These dates speak for themselves; they show indubitably that Chaucer was not removed from office shortly after John of Gaunt's departure; that he was not removed from office (if at all) until the friends of John of Gaunt, the men who represented his interests, [Footnote: In the following year his son and heir, the Earl of Derby, was one of the "lord appellants"] had in some measure at least gained the government of the Kingdom.

A similar condition of affairs appears when Chaucer was appointed to his next office in 1389.

May, 1389 The King regained power—dismissed Gloucester's friends from office and appointed his own.

July 12, 1389 He made Chaucer clerk of his works at Westminster.

August, 1389 He seems to have asked John of Gaunt to return to England.

November, 1389 John of Gaunt actually returned.

Richard II then appointed Chaucer to that place a little over a month after he had regained his authority, and four months before John of Gaunt appeared in England.

Finally we cannot connect John of Gaunt in any way with Chaucer's departure from the office of Clerk of the Works in June, 1391. From John of Gaunt's return to England in 1389 until 1395 he seems to have been influential with the King. In 1390 he was made Duke of Aquitaine for life. In 1392 he was ambassador to France, in 1393 he aided in putting down a revolt in Chester. He was in England, apparently, most of this time.

Certainly the analysis of Chaucer's life does not confirm the theory that John of Gaunt exercised a ruling influence over his destiny. Nor does a study of the connections of his associates indicate his dependency on John of Gaunt. His friend William de Beauchamp was at a later date certainly a member of the Gloucester—Warwick faction. But in 1378 and 1380, when Chaucer was apparently connected with him, Beauchamp was a member of the King's household (from 1379 on chamberlain of the household), evidently in favour with the King and not a partisan of the Lancaster-Gloucester faction. Further we know that Chaucer associated in a business way at least with Brembre, Philipot and Walworth, that he probably knew Thomas Usk, that the latter admired him, and that in the King's household he was connected with some men like John de Beauchamp and John de Salesbury who were not friends to John of Gaunt. Yet toward the end of Richard II's reign we find Chaucer connected in some way with John of Gaunt's son, and when a few years later that son ascended the throne as Henry IV, Chaucer received new annuities and aids. The fact then that Chaucer was friendly with prominent men in both factions makes it incredible that his fortunes were dependent on those of John of Gaunt.

One other suggestion-was John of Gaunt likely to have had enough interest in poetry to patronize a poet? I have found no evidence that he did patronize other poets or artists of any kind, and the impression of his character which a careful scholar like Mr. Trevelyan has gained from a study of his career, is not that he was such a man as would be interested in the arts.

From all these facts, I do not see how it can be maintained that John of Gaunt was Chaucer's "great patron." The evidence, so far as I can make out at present, leads one to the conclusion that Chaucer must have received his offices and royal annuities from the King rather than from John of Gaunt, at times when John of Gaunt's influence would have been harmful rather than beneficial, or when John of Gaunt was not in England to exercise it.


Certain recent investigations have suggested that Richard II and his consort Anne may have been patrons of Chaucer. For this theory the most definite evidence is derived from references to Queen Anne in several of the poems. The most obvious of these references is that in Prologue to L. G. W., version F. 11. 496, 7; another is the one implied in Koch's explanation for the writing of P. F.; and Professor Lowes finds two more in his interpretations of a line in K. T. (M. L. N. XIX, 240.242) and of one in the Troilus. (2 p. M. L. A. 32; 285 ff) Since this investigation has to do wholly with external evidences as to Chaucer's life, it is not my business to deal with these references. I would merely point out that they can derive no active support from the facts which we know about Chaucer's life, for there is no exceptional feature of his career as an esquire which points toward patronage by anyone. We have no right from the circumstances of his rewards and appointments to suppose that Richard even knew that he was a poet, certainly none to suppose that Richard enjoyed his poetry and patronized him because of it.

To be sure we have certain evidences of Richard II's interest in literature, especially the well known stories of his suggestion to Gower that the poet write the Confessio Amantis, his gift to Froissart for the latter's book of poems, and the payment entered in 1380 on the Issue Roll of twenty-eight pounds for the Bible written in French, [Footnote: Devon's translation, p. 213, is incorrect; the phrase in the document is "lingua gallica." Issues P. 301, mem. 16.] the Romance of the Rose and the Romances of Percevale and Gawayn. But those are all; a careful reading of the Issue Roll for all the years of Richard's reign has failed to turn up another entry which would indicate an interest in literature. It is to be noted further that in the entire body of poems left to us by Chaucer but a few unmistakable references to the queen occur, and none to the King. If Chaucer is compared in this respect with his successors Hoccleve and Lydgate a marked difference appears. In a single volume of Hoccleve before me [Footnote: Hoccleve's works I, E. E. T. S. 1892.] occur three "balades" to Henry V, one to the Duke of York, one to the Duke of Bedford, and one to the Lord Chancellor. Perhaps the striking contrast between this and Chaucer's practice is due to different notions as to the function of poetry, perhaps to some other cause, but it exists, and it causes one to feel that, in comparison with Hoccleve at least, the internal evidences of patronage in Chaucer's poems are slight indeed. Finally the fact that Chaucer was treated favourably by the government of Henry IV would suggest that his personal relations with Richard II had not been very close.


Although I have objected to some of the inferences drawn by others, nevertheless it seems to me that from the facts viewed in their new relations, some legitimate inferences may be drawn. In the first place it seems almost certain that by 1386 Chaucer held considerable land in Kent. Every other man on the list of Justices of the Peace (with the single possible exception of Topclyff) held fairly extensive lands in the county; all except de Burley, Topclyff and Chaucer were of old Kentish families. De Burley's importance as Constable of Dover (indeed he undoubtedly held the office of Justice ex officio) and Topclyffs position as steward of the Archbishop of Canterbury counterbalanced the fact that they were not of Kentish stock. What then of Chaucer? He surely must have held a manor and lands of considerable value or he could never have been high enough in the estimation of the landed proprietors to gain the Justiceship and even the membership to Parliament. Now, he apparently did not receive this land by royal grant; consequently it would appear that he must have had it by grant of some great noble or by purchase. In any case we have no record to indicate what land he held or by what tenure he held it.

Again we do not know what Chaucer's income as controller of the customs amounted to. It is apparent, however, that the returns from the office of controller of the greater custom must have been very considerable. If the collectorship of the customs was not a profitable office, it is impossible to see why such men as Walworth, Philipot, and Brembre should have cared to hold it. That the twenty pounds which was their nominal salary was anything like all that they received is unbelievable. To suppose that a man who could fit out a fleet at his own expense and successfully campaign with it against a powerful pirate, should allow himself to be annoyed by so paltry an office is absurd. Yet the office was apparently not farmed, and so it seems likely that the income from fees was large and attractive. [Footnote: The View of W. D. Chester: Chronicles of the Custom's Dept., p. 30.] To how great an extent Chaucer, aside from the ten pounds yearly that he received, shared in the profits, we do not know. From the fact that the King in giving the collectors and the controller extra rewards seems to have rated the latter at about a third of the importance of the former, we might get some hint of the proportion in which he would share in the fees.

Chaucerian scholars have laid great stress upon the grant of permission to Chaucer in 1385 to appoint a permanent deputy in his office in the greater customs. They have even assumed that the L. G. W. was dedicated to the queen out of gratitude for her supposed intercession with the king, and the consequent permission, and have used these suppositions as evidence for dating L. G. W. Surely too much has been made of this matter. Not only have we no evidence whatever to connect Queen Anne with the granting of the deputyship; we do not have to assume any intercession with the king. [Footnote: See forthcoming article: Chaucer and the Earl of Oxford, in Modern Philology.] We know that esquires who were granted offices in the customs frequently did have deputies in their offices; [Footnote: Of. cases of John de Herlyng, Helming Leget, John Hermesthorpe et al.] probably leave to have a deputy could be had almost for the asking.

Moreover, the office of controller, if we can judge from the records of Chaucer's time (cf. Mr. Kirk's print in the Chaucer Society—not yet issued) could not have been a very burdensome one. Yet even the provision that Chaucer write the records with his own hand was not—in the opinion of the officials of the Record Office—held to even as early as 1381. The reason for this judgment is that the preserved records are written in a decidedly good Chancery hand, a style of writing which only a professional Chancery clerk is supposed to have been master of. [Footnote: See Tales of the Canterbury Pilgrims, Stokes & Co., Intro., by Furnivall, p. X note.] Consequently either Chaucer must have been a regular Chancery clerk, or he employed a clerk to write up the records. If he did the latter—as seems most likely—it is hard to see what work of importance can have been left to himself. Why then should he care for a permanent deputy? If we look at the circumstances of his life in 1385, we may discover a possible reason. In that year, he first appears prominently in connection with Kent. The sequence of events is:

February, 1385—deputy appointed. October, 1385-Justice of the Peace in Kent. June, 1386—Justice of the Peace in Kent. August, 1386—Member of Parliament for Kent.

He must have been out of London at latest some time early in 1385, and he may have been occupied with the purchase and management of whatever land he possessed in Kent, and with the politics of that county. Consequently, he may have desired to have a recognized deputy in the office who would relieve him of all official responsibility. One can see no reason why he should have felt particularly grateful for the grant of this merely technical freedom.

Furthermore we can have no knowledge, with our present information alone, of why Chaucer ceased to be controller at the end of 1386. I have already shown that this could not have been due to John of Gaunt's absence from England. It is almost equally certain that it was not due to the fact that Chaucer was a partisan of the King or that the council of thirteen was instructed to inquire into the conduct of the King's offices and to initiate reforms. [Footnote: As Colton in his book on Chaucer's England assumes, pp. 58-59.] The proof of those statements is this: so far as we know Chaucer's only fault in the conduct of these offices was the fact that he "performed" them by deputy; now, although the two offices were granted in December to Adam Yardley [Footnote: Adam Yard&y, clericus, was in 1383 joined with a sergeant at arms to take and arrest mariners for the passage of the Bishop of Norwich across the channel. This would suggest that he was connected in some way with the court, since such duties were commonly assigned to esquires and clerks of the court.]—and Henry Gisorz, [Footnote: Henry Gisors seems to have come from an eminent London family. (Riley Memorials pp. 74, 185. Ancient Deeds; A 7833. Maitland History of London, p. 825). In 11 Richard II and 16 Richard II he was concerned with John Hermesthorpe in certain transfers of land in London. (Ancient Deeds; B 2118, 2121).] the controllership of the greater custom was re-granted scarcely six months later to John Hermesthorpe [Footnote: John Hermesthorpe was a very much more important person. He was for some years one of the chamberlains of the King's exchequer, probably as early as 1370 when on one day he conveyed payments of their annuities to Philippa Chaucer and three other damsels of the queen. He was likewise ft priest, for a time confessor to the King, and holder of various ecclesiastical preferments, in London and elsewhere. He was in particular Master of the Hospital of St. Katherine from 1368 till a few years before his death in 1412. The fact that he was in favour with the King and that he was allowed to exercise the office by deputy, makes untenable the supposition that Chaucer was dismissed because he was a friend to the King, or because he did not actually conduct the office himself. (Devon's Issues, p. 359, Cal. Pat. Roll 1379, p. 386. Full statement of ecclesiastical offices in Bibliotheca Topographies Brittanica II, 82.)] (July 2, 1387) and with that very grant he was empowered to exercise the office by deputy.

Furthermore Henry Gisorz, who succeeded Chaucer in the controllership of the petty customs, was appointed by Chaucer as his deputy, in 7 Richard II [Footnote: C. R. 224, mem. 36. Cal. Pat. Roll, p. 502.] in that office. This office was re-granted September 2, 1388 to Robert Kesteven. Now in the case of the controllership of the greater customs, it seems evident that Adam Yardeley was merely put into the office as a stop-gap. Note that he was not considered of sufficient importance to be given another grant in 1387 to compensate him for the loss of the office. And similarly in that of the lesser customs, it seems clear that Gisors, Chaucer's deputy in the office, was appointed temporarily to the office, on the departure of Chaucer, and deprived of it again as soon as the King found some one to whom he wished to give a sinecure. Surely, if one may be allowed to draw inferences from facts, it seems most likely that Chaucer resigned the offices either to take up some work not now known to us, or to have leisure after more than ten years' occupation in office and missions, and that on his resignation the King made merely temporary appointments and later filled the offices according to his pleasure.

The theory that Chaucer's surrender of his annuity indicates any extraordinary condition or disfavour on the part of his patrons is likewise not supported by the facts. In the introduction to the Chaucer Records, Mr. Kirk writes: "It may be asserted without fear of contradiction, that it was a most unusual thing for any man to surrender a pension, and for the King to grant it to someone else. Lands and tenements, or offices, were frequently surrendered in this way, but not pensions." [Footnote: p. XXXVI.] Surely Mr. Kirk's statement is too strong, for it is easy to find plenty of examples of transfers of annuity quite, analogous to Chaucer's. For example, in 38 Edward III a grant of ten marks yearly to John Gateneys was, with his consent, taken from him and given to Thomas de Fysshebone. [Footnote: Pat. Roll 269, mem. 12.] Later an annuity held by John de Stone, a valet, was transferred by his request to Peter de Bruge. [Footnote: idem 273, mem. 10.] Other examples are a transfer of an annuity from Hugh Ferrour to John Spencer at the request of the former; [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll 1378, p. 248.] from T. de Laleham to John Stapenhull—at request of the former [Footnote: idem, p. 150.]—from Richard des Armes to John Andrews—"at supplication" of Richard [Footnote: Cal. Pat. Roll 1378, p, 146, 1389, p. 95.]—from John Roose to Roger Lestrange—granted by the former, [Footnote: Pat. Roll 1378, pp. 112.113.]—from Peter de Saneto Paulo to John de Ilerlyng—made by the former and confirmed by the King. [Footnote: Cal. pat. Roll 1350, p. 574.] Doubtless many other examples could be found since I have not attempted to do more than note the cases that fell under my eye. Apparently the sale of annuities was quite as ordinary and recognized a practice as that of offices or lands. [Footnote: John Scalby, to whom Chaucer's annuity was granted, seems to have been an esquire in the King's household. The first record of him is a grant for life to John de Scalby of the forestership and custody of the forest of Parkhurst and Odepark, Isle of Wight (1382). In 1386 John de Scalby the elder was on a commission in East Riding (Yorkshire). In 12 Richard II John Scalby, esquire of the bishop of Sarum, borrowed twenty shillings from the Exchequer. In 17 Richard II he and his wife Mathilda borrowed L 26, 13s. 4d. i. e. the forty marks of his annuity, from the Exchequer. In 1396 the King granted to his esquires Richard Cardemewe and John de Scalby the goods and chattels of a certain outlaw, to the value of thirty-Seven pounds]. In 22 Richard H John Scalby, soutifer, was sent from Lichfield to Conway on secret business of the King, and was paid sixteen, shillings eight pence for his expenses. In 1399 Henry IV confirmed the grant of forty marks a year to John Scalby. (Cal. pat. Roll, 1382, p. 150. idem p. 261. Issues, P. 319, mem. 18. idem, P. 332, mem. 23. Cal. Pat. Roll, 1396, p, 48. Issues, P. 344, mem. 11. Cal. Pat. Roll 1399, p. 62).]

That Chaucer was out of favour from 1391 on, and in financial trouble is again difficult to establish. Mr. Kirk has shown that his "borrowings" at the Exchequer, in those years, were for the most part no borrowings at all but simply a device for getting money that was due him. [Footnote: L. R. pp. XLV, XLVI.] Furthermore, many examples of the drawing of money "de prestito" from the Exchequer may be found in the Issue Roll. In 11 Richard II Philippa Duchess of Ireland drew L 133, es. 8d. in this way. [Footnote: Issues, P. 316, mem. 18.] In the same year Bdmond Rose borrowed money from the Exchequer. [Footnote: idem.] As shown above, John Scalby twice drew money in advance in this way. John Herlyng, who in Chaucer's time, was usher of the Chamber, borrowed seven pounds four pence in 28 Edward III, repaying it later; [Footnote: idem, p. 294, mem. 18.] and in 29 Edward III drew forty pounds in the same way. [Footnote: Issues, P. 212, mem. 1. On Herlyng's financial position see p. 27 above.] So hosts of examples could be collected from the Issue Roll, of such "borrowings." Certainly they do not indicate that the "borrowers" were financially insolvent.

Moreover none of the other facts which we have, warrants us in assuming that Chaucer was pressed for money and out of favour. In January 1393 he was granted ten pounds for good service rendered in this year now present, i.e. apparently the later part of 1392—the year following his "dismissal." In addition he was in 1394 granted another annuity of twenty pounds. In view of these facts it would seem that the only definite evidence of Chaucer's poverty was the action for debt of L 14. 1s. 11d. in 1398, but the circumstances connected with it—the King's letters of protection and the sheriffs inability to find Chaucer—are so remarkable that we cannot draw certain inferences from it. [Footnote: See Kirk L. R., p. XLVII f.]

Looking at all the facts, then, we must admit that they do not form any proper basis for most of the assertions that have been made. They do not constitute even the suggestion of proof that, when Chaucer lost his controllerships and gave up his annuity, he was out of favour with the King, that he was soon in dire financial straits, and that when again in 1391 he lost the clerkship of the works, he was out of favour and pressed for money.

If we wish to guess at the reasons why Chaucer gave up his offices and his pension, we can find plenty of sufficient motives. He may have left the offices for several reasons; he had held the controllership of the customs of wool for twelve years, a long time for the holding of such an office in those days; he may therefore have left because he was tired of them. He may have left them because some one had given him something better-we know, for example, that in the year after he left the clerkship of the works he was employed in some way by the King; so in the earlier case he may have received some other office or employment the record of which has not come down to us. From November 1386 until November 1387 we know that Richard II was scouring the Midlands trying to gather a force with which to oppose Gloucester; he may have employed Chaucer as a secret messenger throughout that year. As to the annuity, Chaucer may have surrendered it because he could get a good price for it and wanted a large sum of money for some purpose, perhaps to buy land or improve it. Or his surrender of the annuity may have been made by arrangement with the King, who may have wished to give an annuity to a comparatively new esquire, and who may have recompensed Chaucer in some other way.

Every fact that we have would fit into the theory that Chaucer led a prosperous and important life (in a business and financial way) from 1374 to the end of his life. Certainly he must have received a large amount of money in that time; we have no evidence of his having lost any; we know of nothing in his character which would lead us to suppose him a spendthrift or inefficient in financial affairs.

I do not wish to maintain that he was always prosperous, but only that the facts do not warrant us in assuming that he was constantly on the verge of ruin in the years when, so far as we know, he held no office.

In connection with the Piers Plowman controversy, I have been struck with Mr. Jusserand's insistence that Chaucer did not touch upon social or political matters in his poems. That was, as Mr. Manly has indicated, very probably due to a theory of the proper subject matter of poetry-an idea current in his time and enunciated by Alan Cliartier most distinctly. But back of that may have been in Chaucer's case certain peculiar traits of character. Chaucer was in direct connection with the court and with the city at the time when political enmity between two main factions was very bitter-so bitter that in 1386 it led to the killing of Simon de Burley and Sir Nicholas Brembre as well as less-known men like Beauchamp and Salesbury and Berners, and to the flight of men like Michael de la Pole and Robert de Vere, and again in 1392 led to the execution of the Earl of Arundel, the murder of Gloucester, and almost to the murder of the Earl of Warwick. Chaucer was in daily contact with men connected with one faction or the other. What was his attitude? What party did he follow? I have tried to suppose that he was a member of the Gloucester or Lancaster faction but I have found facts such as his retention by Richard as controller of the customs from 1383-4 on, and his subsequent appointment to the clerkship of the works, that could scarcely have been brought about by Lancastrian influence. Then I have tried to use as a hypothesis the conception that he was a partisan of the King. But I have not been able to reconcile with that idea the fact that he had the grant of the annuity from John of Gaunt, that Henry IV in the year of his accession granted him an extra annuity of 40 marks in addition to the L20 which he confirmed to him, and that in 1395 or 1396 he seems to have been in the employment of either John of Gaunt or Henry, his son. Consequently it seems to me that Chaucer can not have been active in politics. At the very time when factional strife was waging about him he must have kept practically free from both parties. He seems to have had friends in both camps, though by far the greater number were in that of the King: Oto de Graunson-a member of John, of Gaunt's household-and in later years apparently Henry of Derby, represent the Lancastrian side; on the other hand, Louis Clifford, John Clanvowe, John Burley—men apparently attached to the Black Prince, his wife and his son,—Brembre and Philipot with whom he must have been on fairly good terms, and probably even Thomas Usk, were men strongly opposed to John Of Gaunt. Too many things connect Chaucer with both parties to make his identification with either possible. The reasons why Chaucer did not dabble pronouncedly in politics may have been various—a clear perception that such was the only safe course for him—an entire indifference and lack of understanding of politics—or what you will. At any rate his connection with both parties is certainly in consonance with the exclusion from his poetry of political matter of the kind which appears for example in Cower.


Almannia, Henricus, (Almaigne), Archebald, William, Archer, Agnes, Archer, Roger, Alexandra de la Mote, wife of, Armes, Richard des. See, Careswell, Richard de, Barbour, Reynold (le), Bardolf, Robert, Bealknap, Robert, Beauchamp, John, Joan, wife of, Beauchamp, Sir William de, Berkeley, Sir Edward de, Bernes, John de, Beverle, John de, Ahnicia, wife of, Blacomore, William, Bokenham, Simond de, See Bukenham, Matilda Gerounde, wife of, Bonyngton, Roger, Brembre, Nicholas, Brenchesley, William, Brokhill, Thomas, Bukenham, Simon, Bukton, Burele, William de, (Burley), Burgh, Simon, Burley, Sir John de, Burley, Simon de, Byker, Patrick, John, William, Cambridge, See Edmund, Count of, Careswell, Richard, Careu, Nicholas, the elder, the younger, Cat, John, Chambre, Griffith de la, Cheyne, Hugh, Joan, wife of, Roger, Thomas, John, William, Chippenham, Walter, Clanvowe, Sir John, (or Clanbrowe), Clarence, see Lionel, Countess of, See Elizabeth, Countess of Ulster. Clebury, Roger, Clifford, Lewis de, Clinton, John, Clopton, Walter, Clopton, William, Cobeham, John de, Conyngsby, John de, Corby, Robert de, Alice, wife of, Cornewaill, Piers de, Culpeper, Thomas, Dabrichecourt, Collard, or, Nicholas, Elizabeth, wife of, Devereux, John Edward, the Black Prince Elizabeth, Countess of Ulster Felbrigge, George Margaret, wife of Anne, wife of Ferrers, Robert de Elizabeth, wife of Ferrour, Roger, see Bonyngton, Roger Fogg, Thomas Forester, Richard Foxle, Thomas Fremingham, John Frowick, Thomas Gambon, William Girdelere, Robert Gisors, Henry Goderik, John Gosedene, John Graunson, Oto de Hannemere, David Hauberk, Laurence Hauteyn, Thomas Herlyng, John de Hermesthorpe, John Hertfordyngbury, Thomas Irlonde, Richard Isabella, wife of Ingelram de Courcy Joce, John John of Gaunt Knyveton, Rauf de Lancaster, see John of Gaunt Larderer, Robert see Maghfeld, Robert. Leche, Richard see Irlonde, Richard. Leget, Helmyng Edmund, Count of Cambridge Alice, wife of Legge, John Erchedeakne, Raulyn Agnes, wife of Lionel, duke of Clarence Loath, Robert Joan, wife of Loveden, Thomas Lyngeyn, Hugh Agatha, wife of Maghfeld, Robert Mareschall, Roger Markham, Richard Narrett, Hanyn Neuport, Reginald Northbury, Richard Northrilgg, John Olney, John Stephanetta, wife of Organ, John Padbury, John Pekham, James de Percy, Thomas de Philipot, John Pole, Michael de la Prage, Nicholas Preston, Piers Alice, wife of Richard II Rikhill, William Risceby, William de Romesey, John de Margaret, wife of Romylowe, Stephen Roos, John Rose, Esmon Agnes Archer, wife of Salesbury, John de Johanna, wife of Scalby, John, Scogan, Henry, Souch, Robert la, see Zouche, Spigurnell, Thomas, Katherine, wife of, Stanes, Thomas de, Strelley, Hugh, (Straule), Strete, William, Joan wife of Stucle, Geoffrey, (Styuecle), Talbot, Gilbert Tettesworth, Edmond de, Thorpe, Johan de, Tichemerssh, Johan, see Tyschemerssh Mabel, wife of Tipet, John, Topclyf, William, Torperle, Richard, Margaret, wife of, Tresihan, Robert, Tyehemerssh, John de, see Tichemerssh Tyndale, Andrew, Ursewyk, Robert, Usk, Thomas, Vere, Robert de, Vynour, Robert, Waffrer, Richard, see Markham, Richard. Wake, Hugh, Joan wife of Walssh, Wauter, Walworth, Warde, John, Wbifrors, Walter Wyght, Walter Yardley, Adam, Ybernia, Cornelius de, York, William Zouche, Robert la, See Souch.


Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse