scales Edmund Plowden Trust durham cathedral


Law & Justice
Edmund Plowden Trust
Memorial Lecture
Journal Index
Contact Us




The Edmund Plowden Trust

Charity Number: 313580

Sir Edmund Plowden (1518 - 1585) was a great English lawyer and scholar during the Elizabethan period. He studied at Cambridge University and became a member of Middle Temple in about 1538. Later on, in Oxford, he also qualified as a physician. Plowden confined himself to the practice of the law and the compilation of his Commentaries, until the accession of Queen Mary in 1553. He then undertook a number of public posts, including being a Member of Parliament, but, with the accession of Elizabeth, public life was closed to him, for he was a Roman Catholic.

middle templePlowden was extremely well thought of as a lawyer by Coke and other leading jurists of the day, but his loyalty to his faith meant that he was not promoted in line with his abilities and he was regarded with suspicion by the some of the Privy Council. Queen Elizabeth I wanted to make him Lord Chancellor on condition that he renounce Catholicism and join the Church of England. Bravely, given the political climate, Plowden declined and spoke eloquently of his faith, also denouncing the religious persecution which had been harsh throughout the Tudor period. The Queen still thought highly enough of him to keep him on as a lawyer despite these words.

For the remainder of his life, he continued in practice, acting for all who wished to engage his considerable legal ability, producing his Commentaries and other legal notes and reports and looking after the interests of his beloved Middle Temple, of which he was Treasurer for six years. Plowden used his considerable talents to defend fellow Catholics. In one famous case attributed to him, he was defending a man charged with hearing Mass. On hearing that the Mass had been performed by a layman in order to catch and inform on those attending, he announced, "The case is altered; no priest, no Mass", and the man was acquitted. From this came the legal proverb, "The case is altered, quoth Plowden".

Managing to have avoided both conformity with the Church of England and persecution for his faith, Plowden died 1585 was buried in the Temple Church.


The Objects of the
Edmund Plowden Trust

The Trust was constituted by a Trust Deed dated 15th March 1968 and is registered as a Charity under the provisions of the Charities Act 1993. Its objects may be stated as follows:

  1. To assist in and promote the study and understanding of the laws of this country (UK) and its legal system in themselves and by comparing them with the laws and systems of other countries and by considering them in the light of Christian sources such as The Declaration of Religious Freedom (of the Second Vatican Council), International Law, Canon Law, the Law of Nature and ethics and morals and for this purpose (inter alia)
  2. To publish and contribute to the publication of legal and other periodicals and publications dealing with such matters
  3. To conduct research and exchanges of relevant information with learned bodies in the UK and other countries and with international institutions and collate such information
  4. To arrange lectures, broadcasts and television talks, exhibitions, films, seminars and study conferences and the like.

In addition to publishing "Law & Justice" the Trust holds the Richard O'Sullivan Memorial Lecture, when a distinguished lawyer speaks on a topic concerned with Law and Christian values.



Published by:

The Edmund Plowden Trust

subject index
case index
Hein Online



  © 2023 The Edmund Plowden Trust - Charity Number 313580