Chaucer's day jobChaucer’s London job was always a precarious one. The king’s own advisers and allies in the City of London colluded to put him there, as their fall guy in a major profiteering scheme. His job as controller of customs was to certify honesty of the powerful and influential customs collectors – including the wealthy and imperious Nicholas Brembre, long-term mayor of London – and to ensure the proper collection of duties on all outgoing wool shipments. This sounds routine enough, until we realise how much was at stake: in the 14th century, wool duties contributed one-third of the total revenues of the realm. What’s more, the collectors of customs whose activities Chaucer was expected to regulate were themselves wool shippers and wool profiteers on a grand scale, taking advantage of their positions to accumulate immense fortunes at public expense. Their wealth enabled them to become donors and lenders to the king, and to multiply their privileges and profits. As lone watchdog of customs revenues, Chaucer was hardly likely to bring them to heel. His job was, essentially, to look the other way.