English recusant, jurist; b. Plowden Hall, Shropshire, 1518; d. London, Feb. 6, 1585. Plowden was educated at Cambridge for three years, but left to enter the Middle Temple in London (1538). He was a distinguished lawyer who additionally obtained a license in surgery from Oxford in 1552. Plowden was a member of the council of the Marches of Wales during the reign of Queen Mary I (1553), also serving in Parliament during those years. Upon succeeding to the Plowden estates in 1557, he devoted himself to his law practice, especially at the Middle Temple, where he served as treasurer (1561) and counsel of the court of the Duchy of Lancaster (1562).
Although a faithful Roman Catholic, he worshiped in the established church until Pius V issued the Regnans in excelsis (1570) excommunicating Queen Elizabeth I. During those years, Plowden appeared in litigations defending well-known Catholics, such as Bp. Edmund Bonner and Gabriel Goodman, dean of Westminster, when their religious authority was legally assailed. Along with Sir Thomas tresham, Plowden was the leading Roman Catholic layman of his day. He suffered penalties for his religious convictions, and it is said that he sacrificed Elizabeth's offer of the Lord Chancellorship rather than renounce his Roman allegiance. His fame as a lawyer was very great. Both Sir Edward Coke and William Camden, the famous antiquarian, paid tribute to his learning and skill. Camden described him as "second to no man of his profession." There seems to be little doubt that he was the "foremost Catholic of cultural attainments of his day" (Trimble 32).
Bibliography: t. cooper, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900 (London 1885–1900) 15 (1922) 1314–15. w. r. trimble, The Catholic Laity in Elizabethan England (Cambridge, Mass. 1964). j. gillow, A Literary and Biographical History or Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics from 1534 to the Present Time (London–New York 1885–1902) 5:325–327.
[p. s. mcgarry]