One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1historical Exemption of the English clergy and nuns from the jurisdiction of the ordinary civil courts, granted in the Middle Ages but abolished in 1827.
- ‘He was convicted and escaped hanging only by pleading benefit of clergy.’
- ‘On conviction of a felony the felon was liable to forfeiture of his land and goods (abolished by the Forfeiture Act 1870) and, if Parliament had declared a crime to be a felony without benefit of clergy, the penalty was death.’
- ‘In England and America, branding on the thumb was a standard non-capital sentence for those granted benefit of clergy after conviction for many crimes such as grand larceny.’
- ‘Much of this disparity was due to the fact that women could not plead benefit of clergy, a legal fiction that helped a great many male thieves escape with a branding.’
- ‘In 1598 he killed a fellow actor in a duel, but escaped hanging by pleading benefit of clergy, being branded instead as a felon.’
- ‘In the 12th cent. the boundaries between royal and ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the extent of benefit of clergy were hotly disputed and contributed much to the conflict between Henry II and Becket.’
2Ecclesiastical sanction.‘they lived together without benefit of clergy’
- ‘She generally portrayed a successful career woman pursued by a chauvinist (usually Rock Hudson), to whom she eventually decides to give herself without benefit of clergy.’
- ‘Many poor couples live together, however, without benefit of clergy or legal license.’
- ‘Dedicating and consecrating, commemorating and celebrating - all these can be done ‘without benefit of clergy.’’
- ‘Men and women living together and having sexual relations ‘without benefit of clergy,’ as the old phrasing goes, became not merely an accepted lifestyle, but the dominant lifestyle in the under-30 demographic within the past few years.’
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