Today, Sept. 7, marks the start of the British school year. And for millions of parents around the UK, they’ll be clutching onto the tissues as they see their child off for their first day of school. In the blink of an eye, their once tiny baby will waltz into the school gates. At Kensington Palace, it will be no different for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, whose oldest child, son Prince George, is set commence at Thomas’s Battersea in London while Prince William and Kate Middleton wave him off.
It would have been Kate’s first appearance since announcing her third pregnancy earlier this week, but unfortunately the Duchess was not able to make the first drop off, mostly due to her severe morning sickness. It’s a familiar scene that will no doubt remind royal watchers of William’s first day of at Ludgrove School. But not all royals followed the same path — from home-schooling to boarding and gap years, we’re taking a look back at the monarchy’s schooling history…
Who could forget when a sheepish Prince William tottered hesitantly into Mrs. Mynor’s Nursery School in Notting Hill in 1985? An overwhelmed Will — who was three at the time — clung onto mom Princess Diana’s hand before letting out a shy wave. After kindergarten, which also included a stint at the pre-preparatory Wetherby School, a much more confident William moved onto the prestigious Ludgrove Prep School in Berkshire, England.
Princes William and Harry before school in 1989. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Throughout his high school years, William attended the exclusive boarding school for boys Eton College, where he took biology, history, and geography. This broke with royal tradition as the men of Windsor House usually attend the co-ed school Gordonstoun in Scotland. At Eton, the future King of England also played water polo and football. For his A-level exams, William scored a C in biology, a B in the history of art, and an A in geography. Looking back on his schooling, the father-of-two has since confessed, “I didn’t really like school.”
William, now 35, rounded off his studies at the University of St Andrews, where he met his future wife and graduated with a Masters of Arts degree in geography. A rather fitting qualification considering he’ll be the ruler of several countries one day!
Prince Harry has always admitted he struggled academically, especially as a child before he found his calling in the military. Like his big brother, Harry attended nursery school at both Jane Mynors’ and the pre-preparatory Wetherby School in London. Harry also continued onto Ludgrove and Eton. At Eton, the sports-mad royal shone on the rugby union field and in the pool playing polo. He went on to score a B in art and a D in geography for his A-levels. “Exams were always a nightmare, but anything like kicking a ball around or playing PlayStation — or flying — I do generally find a little bit easier than walking, sometimes,” Harry has explained.
Following a Gap year in Australia and Africa, Harry landed a coveted spot at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where he enjoyed an impressive innings as an Apache pilot, which is one of the hardest and most challenging roles to secure in the military and requires an insane amount of skill.
Before she became the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton was just a normal little girl growing up in the countryside of England. Her parents sent her to the local private school called St Andrew’s in Berkshire, England. Kate went on to board at the co-ed Marlborough College in Wiltshire, before ending up at the University of St Andrews — a decision which would ultimately change her life! But bright Kate wasn’t just at university to chase Princes, the smart student graduated with an art history degree.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip
In order to prepare for the very unique path of one day being the Queen, Princess Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret, were homeschooled by the best tutors money could buy. Here, she was served up a diverse offering on everything from her future job description, constitutional history, French, and math. Although she’s never technically taken an exam, Queen Elizabeth is said to be one clever cookie and can clearly hold her own when consulting with world leaders. “The Queen’s father had disliked school and her mother thought it was more important to have fun,” Professor Kate Williams, who penned the book Young Elizabeth, told Good Housekeeping.
Kate at St Andrews in 2005. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Proving she wasn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves, Elizabeth broke with royal protocol during World War II and joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she trained as a mechanic. After that, she went on to become the longest-serving and arguably the most respected monarch of all time. Not bad for a home-schooled princess!
Her husband, Prince Philip, had a rather unsettled path as a result of his unwell mother, who suffered schizophrenia and was sadly sent to an asylum. He first attended an American school in Paris, before going to Cheam School in Hampshire, England. One of his teachers described him as a “know it all smarty person, but always remarkably polite.” During his teens, he went to Gordonstoun boarding school in Scotland before joining the Royal Navy.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana
As the heir to the throne, Prince Charles’ education followed the traditional royal path. In 1975, he commenced at the Hill House School in West London before starting at his dad’s stomping ground of Cheam, where he was the school captain. During high school, Charles went on to board at Gordonstoun in Scotland and studied math, English language, English literature, Latin, French, and history. In 1967, he took his A-level exams and scored a B in history, a C in French, and a distinction in history. He attended university at Cambridge and University College of Wales, where he studied archaeology and anthropology. The young Prince was the first ever heir apparent to receive a university degree, scoring a Master of Arts degree from Cambridge. In 1971, he joined the British Armed Forces.
Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie before school in 1994. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Diana Spencer may not have been academic, but she was a natural-born leader even in the early days of her life. “I was always told by my family that I was the thick one and that my brother was the clever one and I was always so conscious of that,” Diana once said. During the early years of her life, Diana longed to be a ballet dancer and was homeschooled by a governess. At just nine years old, she was sent to Riddlesworth Hall boarding school, which she said was a lonely and challenging time. “When he [my father] left, he kissed me goodbye, that day I said to him, ‘If you leave me now, you don’t love me,’ which is a crippler, isn’t it? But I meant it,” she recalled of being dropped off at boarding school by her dad.
Next she went to the exclusive West Heath Girls’ School in Kent, England, where she failed her O-level exams twice. Despite this, she awarded an accolade for her strong sense of community spirit — a sign of things to come! She rounded off her education at an elite finishing school in Switzerland called Institut Alpin Videmanette. In the late 70s, she returned to London where she worked as a nanny and preschool teacher until she married Prince Charles.
Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie
Both girls began their schooling at Upton House School in Windsor, before attending Coworth Park School and then onto St George’s School in Ascot. In 2007, Beatrice showed her leadership skills after being elected the head girl. In 2011, she graduated with a degree in History and History of Ideas from Goldsmiths College in London. Her little sister, Eugenie, opted for a globe-trotting gap year around India, America, South Africa, and Australia before completing a English literature and history of art degree at Newcastle University.
Zara at school with grandfather Prince Philip in 1991. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Zara Tindall and Peter Philips
Both Zara Tindall and Peter Philips went to Port Regis Prep School in Shaftesbury, Dorset. The siblings kept in line with family tradition and carved out the rest of their schooling at Gordonstoun in Scotland. Sporty Zara shone during her formative years and was the school captain. Although she went on to be an Olympic equestrian rider, she also has a physiotherapy degree from the University of Exeter, while big brother Peter studied sports science at the same university.
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This post was written by Bella Brennan. It originally appeared on our sister site, Now to Love.