University

King Charles III, the first British ruler with a university degree

Unlike his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Charles III went to school. He is even the first British sovereign to receive a diploma.

Flawless uniform, boarding school life, running in the Scottish rain and a cup of tea at tea time: the education of King Charles III. looks like a British stereotype, but actually marks a real break with his family’s history. Because of all the members of the royal family, he was the first to set foot in the school.

In 1958, Charles was only 7 years old when his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, officially broke the family tradition: her son went to school and followed the traditional school curriculum. Until then, all the children of the royal family were educated at home by prestigious teachers, but only for a few hours a day. Queen Elizabeth never went to school. The Prince then began his education at Hill House School in London and Cheam School in Berkshire. Two high-end facilities, popular with large British families.

The future king Karol III. in 1958, the year he first entered school.

At 13, Charles’ course took a different turn when his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, decided to send him to Gordonstoun School, a freezing boarding school in north-east Scotland. Education is particularly strict there: whether it’s raining, blowing or snowing, the teenager gets up at 7 a.m., then goes for a run in nature and takes an ice shower (the famous Scottish shower?). Then follow a bowl of porridge and homework before classes start. Latin, French, history and geography lessons follow each other throughout the day, marked by a break for lunch and another for tea. By enrolling his son in the school where he himself was a pupil, Philip is convinced that Charles – usually quiet and literary – will find an opportunity to toughen up there.

However, Gordonstoun School is also known for the violence of the punishments meted out, actual corporal punishment to toughen up the young boys. For example: a march of about fifty kilometers, a sack full of pebbles on the back, for those who disobeyed. Unlike his father, who insists he spent the best years of his youth there, Prince Charles saw those years as torture. Only the pottery workshop and theater classes will make him forget the frolicking of his friends, solitude and exhausting foot races.

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Prince Charles first day at Gordonstoun School in 1962.

What did not deter him from continuing his studies: by entering Trinity College, Cambridge, as soon as he graduated, Prince Charles became the first member of the royal family to immediately enter the university, instead of going through the British armed forces. By earning a Bachelor of Arts after studying anthropology, archaeology, history and the Welsh language, he also became the first in his line to earn a university degree. He continued on this path until 1975, when he obtained the title of Master Of Arts in Cambridge.

Charles’ years of study are punctuated by various experiences, between evil and tradition. In 1959, when he was 11 years old, the future head of the Commonwealth was instructed by a young French-speaking Canadian to speak French as well as his mother. A few years later, Charles spent two semesters at Geelong Grammar School, an Australian school in the state of Virginia, tens of thousands of kilometers from Windsor Castle. Then as a second-year student at Cambridge, Charles followed in the footsteps of his father and his ancestors by being trained by the Royal Air Force to become an aircraft pilot. A position he will hold for several years while continuing his studies.

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Charles III during a theater performance at Trinity College, 1970.

Prince Charles undoubtedly paved the way for the next member of the royal family. After him, his two little brothers, Andrew and Edward, also sat in the desks of Gordonstoun school. Meanwhile, his sons entered Eton College, an elite institution attended by the English aristocracy and wealthy Britons, but with much more refined methods than his former Scottish high school.

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