Plowden, Charles and Francis

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Members of a distinguished Catholic family that contributed ten members to the Society of Jesus; lineal descendants of Edmund plowden.

Charles, rector of Stonyhurst College; b. Plowden Hall, Shropshire, Aug. 19, 1743; d. Jougne, France, June 13, 1821. Charles, the son of William and Frances Plowden, was educated at the Edgbaston Franciscan school. While registered at the College of st. omer under the alias of Simons, July 7, 1754, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Watten (1759). After theological study at Liège and Bologna, Plowden was ordained at Rome, Sept. 30, 1770. When assigned to the English College at Bruges, he taught with John carroll, the future American bishop. Both were arrested and Plowden was imprisoned from September 1773 to May 1774, following the papal suppression of the Jesuits and the Austrian confiscation of Jesuit property in the imperial domains. Upon his release, Plowden joined a number of former Jesuits in conducting the Academy of Liège. He subsequently served as chaplain to the Smythe and Maxwell families, Jacobite exiles living on the Continent. In 1784, he became chaplain at Lulworth Castle, home of Thomas Weld, a prominent Dorset Catholic; there Plowden assisted and preached at the episcopal consecration of John Carroll (1790). Until Carroll's death (1815), the two maintained a correspondence that is of historical significance. Upon the provisional restoration of the Society of Jesus in 1803, Plowden became master of novices at Hodder Place. At its formal establishment by pius vii, he was named provincial and rector of Stonyhurst College (1817), which he and Weld had helped to found in 1794. It was while returning from the Jesuit General Chapter in Rome (1820) that Plowden died.

Francis, lawyer, historian, brother of Charles; b. Plowden Hall, Shropshire, June 28, 1749; d. Paris, Jan. 4, 1819. Francis had been educated at Edgbaston, St. Omer, and the Jesuit novitiate at Watten (1766), and was teaching at Bruges (177173) at the time of the Jesuit suppression. Since he was not yet ordained, he was released from his vows, and, returning to England, he entered the Middle Temple. When the Relief Act of 1791 relieved Catholics of legal disabilities, Francis expanded his law practice. His interest in research led to the publication of Jura Anglorum (1792), a commentary on English law, which brought him condemnation from his Jesuit brother Robert, but also an honorary degree from Oxford, a rare distinction for a Catholic. He abandoned his law practice to write extensively on Church-State relations. His Historical Review of the State of Ireland (1803), written at the request of the British government, was a harsh indictment of government policy and administration. A later volume, Ireland since the Union (1811), caused a libel suit in which Plowden was ordered to pay £5,000 to the government. The independent and forthright, if impractical, Plowden, refusing to pay the fine, fled to France, where he died in relative obscurity and poverty.

Bibliography: t. cooper, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900, 63 v. (London 18851900) 15 (1922) 131213, 131517. b. m. plowden, Records of the Plowden Family (privately printed 1884). b. n. ward, Dawn of the Catholic Revival in England, 2 v. (New York 1909). j. gerard, Stonyhurst College (Belfast 1894). c. sommervogel et al., Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, 11 v. (Brussels-Paris 18901932) 6:903906. a. melville, John Carroll of Baltimore (New York 1955). j. gillow, A Literary and Biographical History or Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics from 1534 to the Preset Time, 5v. (London-New York 18851902) 5:322323, 328331.

[p. s. mcgarry]