Edmund Plowden

Edmund Plowden

Edmund Plowden (1518 Plowden Hall, Lydbury, Shropshire, England - 6 February 1585 London, England) was a distinguished English lawyer, legal scholar and theorist during the late Tudor period.


Educated at the University of Cambridge, Plowden did not take a degree, and proceeded to the Middle Temple in 1538 to study law. Subsequent to studies at Oxford, he qualified as a surgeon and physician in 1552.

Upon the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary, Plowden was appointed one of the Council of the Marches (of Wales). In 1553, he was elected Member of Parliament for Wallingford (then in Berkshire now in Oxfordshire), followed, the next year, by the same office for both Reading, Berkshire and Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire. He lived mostly at Shiplake Court in Oxfordshire and Wokefield Park in Berkshire. The unusual breadth of his religious views were shown early in his career when he, however, withdrew from the House, on 12 January 1555, because he disapproved of the proceedings there.

His loyalty to the Roman Catholic faith, prevented Edmund Plowden from further promotion under Queen Elizabeth I, and he received increasing suspicion from members of the Privy Council. At one time, Queen Elizabeth wished to elevate Plowden to the Lord Chancellorship, requiring that abandon Catholicism for and adopt the Anglican faith. However, Plowden declined through an eloquent defense of his faith, and a bold statement denouncing religious persecution. Despite this, Plowden continued in the Queen's employ in his capacity as a lawyer.

He sought to assist those of his faith, including his defense of Robert Horne, Bishop of Winchester. 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".


Plowden is noted today for his legal scholarship and theory, in his written works, which include "Les comentaries ou les reportes de Edmunde Plowden" (1571) (otherwise known as "Quares del Monsieur Plowden"). "A Treatise on Succession" attempted to prove that Mary, Queen of Scots, was not debarred from the English throne under Henry VIII's will. Several of Plowden's manuscripts, commentaries, and legal opinions are preserved in the British Library and in the libraries of the University of Cambridge.


He was the son of Humphrey Plowden (1490-1557) and Elizabeth Wollascot (nee Sturry) (?-1599). Plowden married Catherine Sheldon of Beoley and by her had three sons and three daughters. He died on 6 February 1585, in London and was entombed in the Temple Church.

External links

* [http://www.berkshirehistory.com/bios/eplowden.html Royal Berkshire History: Edmund Plowden]
*CathEncy|wstitle=Edmund Plowden

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