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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: October 2013

11 - Patrick's Reasons for Leaving Britain


As a foreigner in his adoptive land with no kin to vouch for him, Patrick needed to secure protection from local kings who guaranteed his safety. Such protection, it seems, did not come cheaply. In his Confessio Patrick famously describes how he lavished praemia ‘gifts’ on kings and made mercedes ‘payments’ to sons of kings who travelled with him. He also had to grease the palms of judges, to whom he gave pretium quindecim hominum ‘the price of fifteen men’, although we are never told what he received in return. But while Patrick may have given gifts to others, he insists that he never received any himself. Rather, he turned down many gifts and refused to accept so much as dimidium scriptulae ‘half a scruple’, or even pretium calciamenti mei ‘the price of my shoe’ in return for performing baptisms. In an attempt to explain why Patrick should stress his generosity and meekness, Thomas Charles-Edwards proposed that ‘in part Patrick emphasised his attitude to gifts because of the accusation that he had gone to Ireland in the hope of enriching himself’. Echoes of this accusation can also be found in Patrick's insistence that he did not go to Ireland of his own free will. Charles-Edwards's comment is the impetus for the present essay, which asks why Patrick was suspected of going to Ireland for financial gain.

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Tome: Studies in Medieval Celtic History and Law in Honour of Thomas Charles-Edwards
  • Online ISBN: 9781846159640
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