Born: ABT 1518, Plowden Hall, Shropshire, England

Died: 6 Feb 1585, London, Middlesex, England

Father: Humphrey PLOWDEN of Plowden Hall (Esq.)

Mother: Elizabeth STURRY

Married: Catherine SHELTON


1. Edmund PLOWDEN

2. Anne PLOWDEN (b. ABT 1550 - d. 1635) (m. Francis Perkins of Ufton)


4. Mary PLOWDEN (b. ABT 1554 - d. AFT 1587) (m. Richard White)

5. Dau. PLOWDEN (m. Humphrey Sanford)

6. Francis PLOWDEN (b. ABT 1562 - d. 1652) (m. Mary Fermor)

Plowden,Edmund.JPG (33721 bytes)

Edmund was the son of Humphrey Plowden Esq. of Plowden Hall in Shropshire, by his wife, Elizabeth. He was educated at Cambridge but, taking no degree, went on to the Middle Temple, in 1538, to study law. Through hard work, he was thus able to become the most distinguished lawyer the late Tudor Age. It is said that, among the men of his profession, he was, not only easily first in knowledge of the law, but also second to none in integrity of character. He studied at Oxford for a while too and qualified as a surgeon and physician in 1552. Upon the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary, he was appointed one of the Council of the Marches (of Wales). In 1553, he was elected Member of Parliament for Wallingford (Berkshire), followed, the next year, by the same office for both Reading (Berkshire) and Wootton Bassett (Wiltshire). The unusual breadth of his religious views were shown early in his career when he, however, withdrew from the House, on 12 Jan 1555, because he disapproved of the proceedings there.

He continued to lecture on law at Middle Temple and was Treasurer there from 1561-1567. While occupying of this office, the magnificent hall of the inn was begun and, afterwards, he stayed on as ďprocurator and promoter for building the new Hall and making collectionsĒ. He was prevented from gaining further promotion under Queen Elizabeth on account of his steady loyalty to the Roman Catholic faith; and was viewed with increasing suspicion by the Privy Council which, in 1569, forced him to give bond to be on good behaviour in religious matters. At one time the Queen had wished to bestow the Lord Chancellorship upon Plowden, and wrote him a letter to that effect, asking only that he should join the Anglican Church in return, but his answer was as follows:

'Hold me, dread Sovereign, excused. Your Majesty well knows, I find no reason to swerve from the Catholic Faith, in which you & I were brought up. I can never, therefore, countenance the persecution of its professors. I should not have in charge your Majesty's conscience one week, before I should incur your displeasure, if it be your Majesty's intent to continue the system of persecuting the retainer's of the Catholic Faith'

It is much to Elizabethís credit that this bold answer did not alter the esteem in which she continued to hold her faithful lawyer and servant to the end of his life. Perhaps this was because his opinions seem to have been held with a moderation equal to their firmness. He asked for a week in which to consider the Act of Uniformity before he sent in his refusal to observe it, and is said to have sometimes attended the services of the Church of English until 1570. It was apparently not until 1580 that articles were exhibited against him on the matter of religion.

Plowdenís written works include 'Les comentaries ou les reportes de Edmunde Plowden' (1571) (otherwise known as 'Quares del Monsieur Plowden') and 'A Treatise on Succession' which attempted to prove that Mary, Queen of Scots, was not debarred from the English throne under Henry VIIIís will. Edmund successfully defended Bishop Horne of Winchester, and helped other Catholics with his legal knowledge. On one occasion, while defending a gentleman charged with hearing Mass, he worked out that the service had been performed by a layman for the sole purpose of informing against those present, and exclaimed, "The case is altered; no priest, no Mass", and thus secured an acquittal. This incident has given rise to a common legal proverb: "The case is altered, quoth Plowden".

Edmund married Catherine Shelton of Beoley and by her had three sons and three daughters. He succeeded to his fatherís Shropshire estates in 1577; but, when not in London, seems to have resided mostly at Shiplake (Oxfordshire) and Wokefield (Berkshire) where he became associated with many of the local Catholic gentry. The protector of itinerant Catholic priests, Francis Perkins of Ufton Court, was his son-in-law and Plowden acquired the guardianship of young Francis Englefield, the nephew of the famous recusant, Sir Francis Englefield of Englefield. However, despite his over-generous dealings with the latter, he received little thanks in return.

Through the intercession of the Earl of Pembroke, Plowden had received, from Queen Elizabeth I, the guardianship of young Francis Englefield; but, instead of taking advantage of the office for his own profit, as was usually done in such cases, by bestowing his ward in marriage in exchange for a sum of money paid to himself, he formally made a gift of his authority to his ward. The scene is described as follows:

About the pointe of younge Englefielde's agge of XXI yeres Mrs. Englefield (the mother) Mr. Francis Fitten, her brother & young Englefield were at Shiplake. After dinner Mr. Plowden went into his newe parlor, called them unto him, called also Mr. Perkyns who then before had married his eldest daughter, ould Mr. Wollascott, younge Edmund Plowden, my cozen Humfry Sandford & myselfe & I know not whether any others. Then turned his talke to younge Mr. Englefield & said thus in effecte, Mr. Englefield you are my ward ... your expectation is greate and according to that I may now here receive for your wardship & marriage, & my ould Lord Montague hath offered for you, £2,000. Take it (says he) as a gift of £2,000 & in recompense I crave for no benefitte for myself or my own children.

The only request that the Sergeant made to Francis Englefield in return, was that he should continue to Humphrey Sandford, his son-in-law, the three lives' lease of lands at Englefield then held by Richard Sandford the father. A promise to this effect was readily made, but, sad to say, after the death of Edmund Plowden the Sergeant, as readily forgotten. Francis Englefield not only did not renew the lease, but turned the old man Richard Sandford out of his home. He exclaiming: 'Wife, carry me to Plowden. He hath killed me! he hath killed me!' with these words continually in his mouth, languished for about a month, and then for very sorrow and conceyte died.

Plowden died on 6 Feb 1585, leaving, as his heir, his eldest son and namesake. There is a portrait effigy on his tomb in the Temple Church and a bust in the Middle Temple Hall copied from one at Plowden.

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