13 Pages

The Man of Business

THE Italian journey of 1372-3 was far from being Chaucer's last embassy. In 1376 he was abroad on secret service with Sir John Burley; in February of next year he was associated on another secret mission with Sir Thomas Percy, afterwards Earl of Worcester, and Hotspur's partner at the battle of Shrewsbury; so that our poet, if he had lived only three years longer, would have seen his old fellow-envoy's head grinning down from the spikes of London Bridge side by side with /I a quarter of Sir Harry Percy."· In April of the same year he was sent to Montreuil with Sir Guichard d'Angle and Sir Richard Stury, for no less a matter than a treaty of peace with France. The French envoys proposed a marriage between their little princess Marie, aged)even, and the future Richard 11., only three years older; a subject upon which the English envoys seem to have received no authority to treat. So the embassy ended only in a very brief extension of the existing truce; the little princess died a few months afterwards, and Chaucer lived to see the great feasts in London twenty-one years later, when Richard took to second wife Marie's niece Isabella, then only in her eighth year. In January 1378, our poet was again associated with Sir Guichard d'Angle and two others on a mission

to negotiate for Richard's marriage with one of poor little Marie's sisters. Here also the discussions came to nothing; but already in May Chaucer was sent with Sir Edward Berkeley on a fresh embassy to Italy. This time it was to treat II of certain matters touching the King's war" with the great English condottiere Sir John Hawkwood, and with that tyrant of Milan who was suspected of having poisoned Prince Lionel, and whose subsequent fate afforded matter for one of the Monk's II tragedies" in the II Canterbury Tales "-

During this journey Chaucer appointed for his agents in England the poet John Gower and another friend, Richard Forrester, of whom we shall hear once more. He was home again early in February of the next year; and this, so far as we know, was the last of his diplomatic missions.