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As appears from the earliest surviving admissions records, the Inn has a long-established practice of admitting men as members honoris causa, very often courtiers, city merchants, well-known clerics, diplomats and scholars. (The header shows the admission of the Italian jurist Alberico Gentili in 1600).

The first Honorary Benchers, however, Lord O’Hagan and Lord Fitzgerald, were elected on 21 December 1883.

One of the most unexpected elections was that of Maj-Gen Iona Nikitchenko, notorious as a prominent judge in the show-trials during Stalin’s purges; he was elected in 1946 after serving as the main Soviet judge in the Nuremberg Trials (there is no record that he ever accepted the honour).

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