This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for July 12, 2017: This is my letter to the World...

July 12, 2017: on this day: Richard II appoints Geoffrey Chaucer as Chief Clerk of the King’s Works

On this day in 1389, King Richard II appointed poet Geoffrey Chaucer (books by this author) to the position of Chief Clerk of the King’s Works in Westminster. Chaucer, the middle-class son of a wine merchant, spent his lifetime associated with aristocracy: as an adolescent, he served as a page for a wealthy household and later fought in France with Edward III, who paid the ransom when Chaucer was captured during a siege. The clerkship came with a significant salary — 30 pounds per year — but a heavy workload: Chaucer supervised the building and maintenance of several royal projects, including the Tower of London and Westminster Palace. Chaucer traveled widely as Clerk, which afforded him the opportunity to meet people across a spectrum of social classes: peasants, nobles, and clergy. Their voices are the narrative cornerstone of Chaucer’s greatest work, The Canterbury Tales, the story of group of pilgrims journeying to St. Thomas Becket’s shrine at Canterbury Cathedral.