Geoffrey Chaucer enjoyed an eventful life, serving with the Duke of Clarence and with Edward III. Through his wife, Philippa, he gained the patronage of John of Gaunt, which helped him carve out a career at Court. His official posts included Controller of Customs at the Port of London, Knight of the Shire for Kent, and King’s Forester. He went on numerous adventurous diplomatic missions to France and Italy, and in 1359 was taken prisoner in France and ransomed.
He began to write in the 1360s, and his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, dominated the last part of his life. He died in 1400.
Peter Ackroyd’s short biography, rich in drama and colour, evokes the medieval world of London and Kent, and provides an entertaining introduction to Chaucer’s poetry.