Chaucer's Official Life HTML version
Chaucer's Career And His Relation To John Of Gaunt
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