Tunstall, Clerk, and Gardiner forward to him 20l. with an invitation to attend the coronation of the new queen (1 June 1533); but he avoided all open rupture with the authorities. At Christmas 1533 the council issued a proclamation attacking the pope, and justifying Henry VIII's action in divorcing Queen Catherine. A pamphlet issued by More's nephew, William Rastell, defended the pope, and More was suspected by Cromwell of the authorship. Rastell was summoned before the council. He flatly denied his uncle's responsibility, and More repeated the denial in a letter to Cromwell. He solemnly assured Cromwell that he was not capable of dealing with such lofty matters of politics, and knew his bounden duty to his prince too well to criticise, or encourage others to criticise, his policy (1 Feb. 1533-4). The matter went no further, but both Cromwell and his master resented More's neutrality, and Cromwell awaited an opportunity of extorting a direct expression of opinion.
Throughout 1533 the Holy Maid of Kent [see Barton, Elizabeth] was prophesying with growing vehemence the king's perdition as the penalty he should pay for the divorce. At the close of the year she and the priests who had supported her pretensions to divine inspiration were arrested, and their confessions showed that More was among her disciples. Cromwell invited an explanation. More readily explained that eight or nine years ago he had examined some messages sent by the Maid to the king, and had regarded them as frivolous impostures; but during 1533 several friars of his acquaintance had awakened his interest in her anew, and he had visited her when she was sojourning with the Carthusians at Sion House. Her spiritual fervour then impressed him favourably, but he advised her to devote herself to pious exercises, and both by word of mouth and subsequently by a letter, of which he sent Cromwell a copy, he specially warned her against discussing political topics (Burnet). More's story of his relations with the woman is corroborated by her own confessions and those of her accomplices. After learning of their arrest and of the evidence adduced against them, he freely admitted that he had been the dupe of a foolish imposture (cf. Letters and Papers, 1534, pp. 118 sq.)
But Henry was not easily satisfied, and More found that his name figured as guilty of misprision of treason in the bill of attainder aimed at the nun's friends, which was introduced on 21 Feb. 1533-4 into the House of Lords (cf. ib. No. 1468, p. 2). More applied for permission to address the house in his defence. By way of reply he received a summons to appear before four members of the council (Cranmer, Audley, Norfolk, and Cromwell). When in their presence he found he had to meet another issue. He was asked why he had declined to acknowledge the wisdom and necessity of Henry's recent attitude to the pope. He replied that he wished to do all that was acceptable to the king, and that he had from time to time explained his position without incurring the royal displeasure. His personal popularity proved so great, however, that Henry reluctantly agreed to strike his name out of the bill, but not until it had been read a third time (Lords' Journals, p. 72). For this concession More wrote in grateful terms to the king (Ellis, Orig. Lett. ii. 48-52; cf. Letters and Papers, vol. vii. No. 387). The incident roused More to a sense of his danger, but did not disturb his equanimity. When warned by the Duke of Norfolk that ‘indignatio principis mors est,’ he coolly answered, ‘Is that all, my lord? Then in good faith between your grace and me is but this, that I shall die to-day and you to-morrow.’
On 30 March 1534 a bill imposing an oath of adherence to the new act of succession which vested the crown in Anne Boleyn's issue received the royal assent. The commissioners nominated to administer the oath added to it a formula abjuring ‘any foreign potentate,’ and, in the case of the clergy, demanded a full renunciation of the pope. More was in no yielding mood. On 13 April, after hearing mass and taking the holy communion, he appeared by summons at Lambeth before the commissioners (Cranmer, Audley, Cromwell, and Benson, abbot of Westminster). He explained that, while ready to swear fidelity to the new succession' act, he could take no oath that should impugn the pope's authority or assume the justice of the divorce. The abbot of Westminster urged that he was setting up his private judgment against the wisdom of the nation, as expressed by the parliament and council. More replied that the council of one realm was setting itself ‘against the general council of Christendom’ (More to his daughter, English Works, p. 1428). He was committed to the custody of the abbot of Westminster. Four days later Cranmer suggested that the king might be well advised in accepting More's modified oath of fidelity (17 April). But Anne Boleyn was especially incensed against him, and the king and Cromwell declined to make an exception in his favour. On 17 April he was committed to the Tower, and he remained a prisoner till death. His friend John Fisher, bishop of Rochester,