The Legal Documents

The surviving legal documents around Cecily Chaumpaigne and Geoffrey Chaucer have been transcribed and translated, and can be accessed through the links below. An outdated interactive Omeka/NeatlineTime timeline can be found at Timeline. More recently, Euan Roger and Sebastian Sobecki have published a fuller timeline available open-access at The Chaucer Review.

There are eight documents total. The first three are new finds by Roger and Sobecki as of October 2022: the first, on October 16, 1379, is an action under the Statute and Ordinance of Laborers brought by Thomas Staundon against Chaucer and Chaumpaigne both. It describes Chaumpaigne as his former servant and summons them to court. The next two are Chaucer appointing Stephen del Falle as his lawyer in the matter, and then Chaumpaigne, on April 9, 1380, appointing that same Stephen del Falle and an Edmund Herryng as her lawyers.

The most contentious record is that from May 4, 1380, Chaumpaigne’s copy onto the Close Rolls of her release of Chaucer. (The original, signed May 1, would have been given into Chaucer’s possession.) Three days later a more publicly accessible copy was entered at the King’s Bench, crucially omitting the charged phrase de raptu meo and instead releasing Chaucer from unspecific offenses. This second, altered copy was discovered by Christopher Cannon in 1993.

On June 28 Chaucer’s friends Richard Goodchild and John Grove entered a memorandum in the city records releasing Chaucer from unspecified complaints, contracts, or debts. In the very next entry, the same day, Chaumpaigne entered a similar memorandum releasing Goodchild and Grove. Finally, on July 2, Grove recorded a financial debt to Chaumpaigne, due (and, it seems, paid) that winter.

Staundon’s Writ     |     Chaucer’s Attorney     |      Chaumpaigne’s Attorney

Close Rolls     |     King’s Bench Release

Goodchild and Grove’s Memorandum     |     Chaumpaigne’s Memorandum

Grove’s Debt