The records of Chaucer's official life never mention his poetry nor give exact dates for his birth or death.
He was born about
1343 to a wealthy merchant family that included both wine-makers and customs
officials. There's a good chance that he lived in Vintry Ward, a very wealthy
section of London that included homes of nobles (Queen Phillipa had a dwelling
there that later passed to Joan of Kent, mother of King Richard II) and of
very wealthy merchants.
He probably had a good education, perhaps at St. Paul's Cathedral school on the Thames where he would have had access to works by Roman poets such as Virgil, Claudian, Lucan, Statius, and Ovid.
Chaucer served as an attendant in the house of the Countess of Ulster, a daughter-in-law to King Edward III. In 1359, Chaucer was part of the English army invading France, and he was a prisoner for a short time. No records exist of his life from 1360-66, although some suggest he may have been doing secret-service type work. In 1366, he traveled in Spain, perhaps on a pilgrimage or on a diplomatic mission. Also in 1366 he married the daughter of a knight, Phillipa, who was an attendant for three of the royal family.
By 1367, Chaucer was in the king's service and was also probably studying law. As part of the royal household, he would have to know French which was still the official language of England. Chaucer also traveled in France and in Italy.
In 1374, Chaucer obtained a dwelling over a gate in the city wall of London from which he walked to his new job as controller of the export tax or customs on wool, sheepskins, and leather.
In 1380, Chaucer was cleared of responsibility for the "raptus" (rape or abduction) of one Cecilia Chaumpaigne. In 1386, he was made a "knight of the shire," a member of the House of Commons, who represented Kent. By 1388, Chaucer left London to live in Kent (location of Canterbury). Between 1386 and 1389 he could have had time to work on his Canterbury Tales. But in 1389, he was made Clerk of the King's Works for Richard II.
In 1399, Richard II took revenge on some of his enemies giving Henry of Derby an excuse to depose him and become Henry IV. Chaucer continued to tread the thin lines of politics and even wrote a poem to the new king. Chaucer died in 1400 as far as can be ascertained.