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boy went to school in the neighbourhood; and no doubt he sometimes helped his father in the wine-cellar, and filled the pots of the citizens with their daily supply of draught-wine. But Chaucer's father had a connection with the court of Edward III. He attended that king when he went with his Queen Philippa on an expedition to Flanders and Cologne ; and it is to this connection that Geoffrey owed his appointment as page in the household of Elizabeth, the wife of Prince Lionel, the third son of Edward III. He was then seventeen. Young men in the time of Chaucer went either to the university, or entered the service of some nobleman as page. There they learned courtesy of manners, riding, the use of arms, and all that related to the life of a soldier, a nobleman, and a man of public affairs. There is also a tradition that Chaucer was a member of both of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge ; but this is doubtful. His position in the household of Prince Lionel threw him into the society of the most distinguished men and women of the time ; his imagination would be fired by the splendour of the court festivities; he would meet on frank and cordial terms the great statesmen and warriors and writers
of the age.
3. His Official Life.—In the year 1359, Chaucer—then a young man of nineteen-joined the army of Edward III., which invaded France in November of that year. In this campaign Chaucer was made prisoner ; but he was released under the Peace of Brétigny in 1360, when the king paid for him a ransom of £16. In the year 1367, he was appointed one of the 'valets of the king's chamber, and is mentioned in the patent or commission as dilectus valettus noster.' He received, by the same patent, a pension of twenty marks* for life. John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the fourth son of Edward, a man of exactly Chaucer's age, was his great friend and patron ; and he remained true to Chaucer to the end of his days. When Blanche, the wife of John of Gaunt, died at the age of twenty-nine, Chaucer wrote a beautiful poem in her honour—The Dethe of Blaunche the Duchesse.' Between the years 1370 and 1380, the poet was employed in seven diplomatic missions—some of them of great
* A mark is 135. 40. But there was little or no comparison between the buying power of money in Chaucer's time and now. A sheep sold for 2s. 6d.; a horse might be bought for 18s. 4d. ; a chicken cost 2d. ; and the price of a day's labour at the plough was 3d. Money must have gone, then, from ten to twenty times as far as it does now.