In 1506 he was sent to Cambridge, and was elected to a fellowship in Clare Hall in February 1510, just before graduating B.A. In 1514 he proceeded M.A. He took priest's orders at Lincoln, but the date is not known. In 1522 he was one of twelve preachers licensed by his university to preach in any part of England, and he was also appointed to carry the silver cross of the university in processions.
In 1524 he attained the degree of B.D., but, as appears by the proctors' books, did not pay the usual fees, and his right to the degree was afterwards denied. His public oration on that occasion was directed against the teaching of Melanchthon, as he still adhered to the old religion. One of his hearers was Bilney, the future martyr, who became his intimate friend, and influenced his opinions [see Bilney, Thomas]. With Bilney he went about visiting prisoners and sick persons. The first time that he had an interview with Henry VIII (six years later) he obtained the pardon of a woman whom he had seen unjustly imprisoned at Cambridge. On 28 Aug. 1524 he was named trustee in a deed to find a priest to sing mass in Clare Hall chapel for the soul of one John à Bolton; and in October, being at Kimbolton, on his way home to Thurcaston, he wrote the first of his extant letters, applying to Dr. Greene, the vice-chancellor of Cambridge, in behalf of Sir Richard Wingfield, who was desirous to become steward of the university.
In 1525 he preached in Latin in the university church. The diocesan, Bishop West of Ely, came up to hear him unexpectedly, and entered just after he had begun his sermon. Latimer adroitly changed his discourse, and started from Heb. ix. 11 to describe the office of a 'high priest' or bishop. West thanked him for his good admonition, and asked him to preach a sermon against Luther. Latimer wisely answered that he could not refute Luther's doctrines, not having read his works, which had been for some years prohibited. The bishop was not satisfied, and remarked that Latimer 'smelt of the pan,' and would repent. The sole account of this interview hardly does justice to West's undoubted sagacity. He inhibited Latimer from preaching in his diocese, and, to counteract his influence, preached himself in Barnwell Abbey, near Cambridge. But Latimer's friend, Robert Barnes [q.v.], prior of the Austin Friars at Cambridge, being exempt from episcopal jurisdiction, lent him his pulpit on Sunday, 24 Dec., while Barnes himself preached a violent sermon at St. Edward's Church. Barnes was soon afterwards obliged to abjure before Wolsey as legate, and Latimer had to explain himself before the same authority. He disowned Lutheran tendencies, and, being examined by Wolsey's chaplains, Dr. Capon and Dr. Marshall, showed himself better versed in Duns Scotus than his examiners. He also declared what he had said before the Bishop of Ely, and in the end was dismissed by the cardinal with liberty to preach throughout all England.
On 19 Dec. 1529 Latimer again provoked criticism by his two famous sermons 'on the card,' preached in St. Edward's Church, in which he told his hearers allegorically how to win salvation by playing trumps. This gave offence by his depreciation of what he called 'voluntary works,' such as pilgrimages or costly gifts to churches, in comparison with works of mercy. Prior Buckenham [q.v.], of the Black Friars, Cambridge, answered him by preaching from the game of dice, showing his hearers how to throw cinque and quatre to protect themselves against Lutheranism. Some other foolish observations brought upon him a withering rejoinder from Latimer; but some fellows of St. John's College continued the controversy with Latimer.
Latimer incurred additional displeasure because he was known to favour Henry VIII's divorce. In January 1530 the king enjoined silence as to their private dispute both upon him and Buckenham. But in the next month Gardiner came to Cambridge and obtained the appointment of a select committee of divines to report upon the validity of the marriage to Catherine. In the list of the committee which he forwarded to the king, Latimer's name, marked, like others favourable to the king's purpose, with an A, appears in the class of 'masters in theology,' not in that of doctors. Latimer was at once appointed to preach before the king at Windsor on 13 March, to the deep annoyance of his opponents; and the king, highly commending his sermon, remarked significantly to the Duke of Norfolk that it was very unpalatable to the vice-chancellor of Cambridge, who was present during part of it. Latimer received for his sermon the usual gratuity of 20s. paid to a court preacher, and a further sum of 5l. from the privy purse (Cal. Henry VIII, v. 317, 749). His expenses to and from Cambridge were also defrayed through the vice-chancellor (ib. p. 751). About this time royal letters were sent to Cambridge for the appointment of twelve divines, to join a like number from Oxford, in examining books containing objectionable opinions. Latimer was one of those selected for this duty by the vice-chan-