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Benefit of Clergy

Exemption of the clerical order from civil punishment, based on the text, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (1 Chron. xvi. 22). In time it comprehended not only the ordained clergy, but all who, being able to write and read, were capable of entering into holy orders. This law was abolished in the reign of George IV. (1827).

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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