Chaucer on Trial

Geoffrey Chaucer may have been accused of rape 600 years ago. Do newly discovered documents exonerate him?

Ben Jones

It is not often the case that a medieval English poet makes headlines in the New York Times, or is a trending topic on Twitter. But this is what happened in October 2022 when two new legal documents were unveiled relating to the life of later medieval England’s most famous poet, Geoffrey Chaucer. As Euan Roger, principal medieval records specialist at the National Archives, explained in his announcement of the discovery, the unearthed records clarify the relationship between Chaucer and Cecily Chaumpaigne. Chaumpaigne is best known to Chaucer scholars as the woman who may have accused the poet of rape or abduction more than 600 years ago and then released him from all charges in exchange for a substantial payment of ten pounds.

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