The education of a royal: What lies ahead for Prince George and Princess Charlotte
For generations, members of the royal family were educated at the palace but that changed with Prince William and Prince Harry
Last summer, when Prince Philip retired at the ripe old age of 96, he made one thing absolutely clear: the life of a royal is not easy and requires a multitude of skills. Just like most kids in the UK, the royal children start their education at the age of two-and-a-half.
However, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, who are heirs to the British throne, tend to receive some very specific extracurricular instructions along with their regular education. Here is a look at what Prince George and Princess Charlotte have in store for them.
For generations, members of the royal family have been taught at home with the help of a governess. During his time, Prince Charles received nursery education at the Buckingham Palace from Catherine Peebles, just like his younger sister Princess Anne and brothers Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
However, by the 1980s, the palace's policy regarding education for the royals began to change, and William and Harry became the first generation of royals to attend a nursery school. William and Harry went to Mrs Mynor’s right around the corner from Kensington Palace, with Prince William joining the school in 1985 and Prince Harry following in his footsteps two years later.
Almost three decades later, it was time for Prince George to start school and he went to the Westacre Montessori School when he was 2 1/2, while his family lived in Norfolk. Princess Charlotte, on the other hand, started school at Willcocks Nursery School when she reached a similar age after the family had moved to London. It is speculated that Prince Louis too will end up attending Willcocks.
When Queen Elizabeth was a young girl, she was homeschooled with her sister Princess Margaret by their governess Marion Crawford, along with a number of assorted tutors, including Henry Marten, the vice-provost of prestigious Eton College. Even Prince Charles started his academic journey under the guidance of a governess, until it was decided that he would be educated outside of the home.
Members of the royal family do not usually attend state-funded schools and, like many other children who come from extremely well-to-do families, they start young at the best private schools.
Prince Charles spent his pre-prep years attending school at Hill House in West London, which was a mixed gender establishment that claimed to educate children to be part of a world community. However, both his sons, Prince William and Harry, went to Wetherby in Kensington from the ages of five to eight. The younger lot, i.e. Prince George, started at Thomas’ in Battersea, London in 2017 at age four, and it is highly expected that his sister Charlotte will follow suit in 2019.
Prep school or preparatory school is considered to be the second stage of primary school education and the entry into a prep-school is generally placed around the ages of eight to 13. Ideally, the aim of a good prep school is to prepare students for the Common Entrance Exam, which is a gateway to one of the UK’s most prestigious private secondary schools.
The last two generations of royals have pretty much followed in the footsteps of Prince Phillip who started attending boarding school at the age of eight. As a young boy, Philip was sent to Cheam, a school located just outside of London, and it was the same place he sent his son Prince Charles, although Charles didn’t respond as well as his father had to boarding school.
Even Prince William and Harry became full-time boarders by the time they turned eight and the boys ended up attending Ludgrove School in the Berkshire countryside where they were encouraged to build dens and camps in the countryside and grow their own flowers and vegetables in the shared gardens. However, it is too early to say whether Prince George will become a boarding school student when he turns eight, but there is a possibility that he might stay home, for his current school has children up to the age of 13.
For generations, Gordonstoun in Fife, Scotland has usually been the prime and popular choice of the royals for secondary education and, hence, the school boasts of alma maters like Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Peter Phillips, and Zara Tindall. Prince Charles was pretty vocal about his absolute distaste for the place and, on occasions, was even heard calling his time at the school "disastrous."
After his traumatizing experience, Prince Charles chose to send his sons William and Harry to Eton College in Windsor, which came with quite a high royal pedigree for it was founded in 1440 by Henry VI. Both the princes enjoyed their school years and made a lot of friends, although some reports suggest Harry struggled a little owing to his dyslexia.
As for the women of the royal family, Marlborough College in Wiltshire was the school of choice, and it was attended by Kate Middleton and her sister Pippa, as well as Princess Eugenie. But it looks like Prince George will follow in the footsteps of his father and attend Eton once he comes of age.
Although there was no concept of a gap year during Queen Elizabeth or her son Price Charles' time, the modern phenomenon, which aims at giving teenagers a broad range of life experiences, has been embraced bhy the younger generation of the royal family. A gap year is usually a year taken after finishing secondary education and before moving onto higher education. Students all over England are fans of this phenomenon, for most students use this time to travel and work.
Prince William, during his gap year, trained with Welsh Guards in Belize, undertook voluntary work in Chile and Africa, and worked on British dairy farms. His wife Kate, on the other hand, did volunteer work in Chile, studied at the British Institute in Florence, Italy, and crewed Round the World Challenge boats in the UK. As for Prince Harry, he worked as a ranch hand in Australia, spent time on a polo farm in Argentina, and undertook volunteer work in Lesotho, Africa.
The common phenomenon of college too is quite a modern concept for the British monarchy. While Princess Anne and Princess Andrew started their royal life at the age of 18, with Anne becoming the president of the charity Save The Children and Andrew joined the military, Prince Charles became the first royal family member to get a university degree, studying archaeology and anthropology before switching to history at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Ever since, other members of the royal family have followed suit and pursued degrees in the humanities at their choice of university. Both Prince William and Kate studied art history at the prestigious St Andrews University in Scotland, but William later changed his major from art history to geography. Other royals like Princess Beatrice studied history at Goldsmiths in London, while Princess Eugenie graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English and art history.
However, as for the Queen's other grandkids, university majors were not just restricted to humanities. Phillips studied sports science at Exeter University and his sister Zara Tindall followed him there, earning her degree in physiotherapy. Even Prince Harry skipped the humanities route and let go of university altogether by joining the military but his wife, Meghan Markle, studied theater and international relations at Northwestern and reportedly interned at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Royal teachings and instructions
The education of a royal goes beyond general education. As royals, they have to go through training with the Special Air Services (SAS) and learn to deal with dangerous situations such as a terror attacks or attempted kidnappings.
Senior royal family members also go on a specialist tactical driving course which has been specifically designed to get them out of trouble if they are ever in a hostile situation.
As per Town&Country magazine, there is a specially designed training for royals that deals with "all the areas that members of the royal family need to feel comfortable, including international relations, constitutional history, and public speaking, as well as ongoing briefings ahead of engagements, state visits, and overseas tours regarding the socio-economic, cultural, religious, and political matters of that area."
Although getting substantial work experience is not mandatory for royal family members, as a future monarch, Prince William aimed to get a little work experience at the Bank of England, London Stock Exchange, Lloyds of London, and Billingsgate Fish Market in order to have a “much better understanding of how all the different financial institutions work and how they fit together,” as he put it at the time.
He also spent time completing a ten-week agricultural management course in 2014 so as to prepare himself for the future when he inherits his father’s Duchy of Cornwall estate. However, it is still too early to gauge whether Prince George will embark upon such apprenticeships.