Kate Middleton set to break 1095-year King rule and send Prince George to co-ed school

In 2001, it was revealed that Prince William and heart-throb HRH had decided to skip the Oxbridge university route and would head to St Andrews in Scotland instead. Adios to the possibility of years of languid punting and declaiming Shelley and hello to four years of rugger scrums and lukewarm refectory tatties! After the St Andrews news broke, enrolments at the university jumped nearly 50 per cent.

With this in mind, let’s hope the admissions staff of Marlborough College have gotten in plenty of No Doz and a few fresh typewriter ribbons with the prospect being raised this week that the future King George V could be about to be enrolled.

History could be about to be made, thanks to one simple detail – girls.

The $90,850 a year Marlborough, unlike many other high profile public schools (which are, counterintuitively what Brits call very expensive non-government schools) is … co-ed.

George could become the first ever King, since the advent of the English throne with Æthelstan in 927, to be educated the whole way through in a multiple-sex, and not same sex, environment.

See, traditionally, heirs to the throne got about as much education as your average third-grader, albeit with polo lessons and instruction in the various Mitteleuropa land wars fought by their second cousins.

King Charles is the first monarch to have actually even gone to school.

Her late Majesty never stepped foot in a classroom, instead having a governess who taught her handy things like French and why to never cross her legs and then later having people like the Archbishop of Canterbury pop around for some one-on-one tutoring. (Her sister Princess Margaret is said to have greatly resented that they were not given a decent education.)

In 1957 a knobby kneed Charles became the first future monarch to be educated outside the home, first attending Hill House School in Knightsbridge, being dropped off via royal chauffeur every day (Imagine the grouse and stilton sambos in his lunch box everyday.) Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were hailed for the modernity of their approach.

Later he was shunted off to board at Cheam and then later Gordonstoun, which an adult Charles famously dubbed “Colditz in kilts”.

Prince William enjoyed a similar education trajectory – Notting Hill’s Weatherby prep school followed by boarding at Ludgrove and Eton.

Today, the conundrum that William and his wife Kate, the Princess of Wales is, just which of the famed bastions of privilege and hockey sticks should they choose for George?

Until now, Eton, Williams’s alma mater had seemed like a shoe-in, not least because it’s a ten minute drive from the Waleses’ Adelaide Cottage home. So too has it been turning out Prime Ministers (20) famed intellectuals (George Orwell, John Maynard Keynes and Henry Fielding) and Fulham real estate agents since it was founded in 1440 by Henry VI. (The joint’s original name – “Kynge’s College of Our Ladye of Eton besyde Windesore”. Catchy)

However, now comes quite the curve ball, thanks to Daily Mail columnist Richard Eden who has reported that the princess has been spied back at her old school, Marlborough College, with speculation that the Waleses might send their son there.

“Catherine was here the other day,” a source told Eden. “It’s been the talk of the school.”

Thus enter the dark horse into the scholastic race, Marlborough.

If George is signed on to be a member of the class of 2031 he will be the first sovereign in the 956 years since Normans showed the Saxons what-for to be educated alongside not only boys but girls and maybe even non-binary teens. It would be a small step for a 13-year-old with an incipient fight on his hands with acne but a major step for the monarchy.

Look, I know, sending him to Marlborough is not exactly sending him to the local Slough comprehensive and wherever the prince goes, he is unlikely to ever rub shoulders with tradies kids’ or anyone who does not have an intimate knowledge of the slopes of Verbier. (Only 7 per cent of British children are educated privately.)

But at least it might expose him to a marginally wider and more varied (let me stress again here, marginally) group of teenagers than if he goes to Eton.

What do we know of the famed school? As of 2020, fewer than one in five pupils (19 per cent) were from black, Asian, and minority ethnic pupils and it draws only “a very small minority” of students outside of the UK, according to the Independent Schools Council.

The school is clearly trying to modernise – it now has a feminism society and marks black and LGBTQ+ history months. So, how is this all going? The New York Times quoted one alumnus, Felix Kirkby, 21, who went on record to say of the institution’s attempt at a cultural shift, “Horrible. It’s destroying its reputation.” (That Kirby – bet he’s a real delight at parties.)

To say that Eton seems culturally preserved in aspic is unfair to gelatine everywhere. Take the famed Wall Game, which has been played at Eton, and solely at Eton, since at least the 1750s, a sport in which no team has scored in the main annual match since 1909. Or when Prince George’s great great great great grandfather Edward VII was on the throne.

Contrast this with Marlborough, where students come from “42 countries, represent 36 nationalities, with 15 languages spoken at home,” according to the school and right now their website is bigging up the school’s newly installed prefects with a responsibility for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion). (Congrats to Sophie E and Harlan H on the gig.)

My point is, if William and Kate chose to not go down the centuries-old, tediously trodden, tired path chosen by the wealthy and the titled parents for their sons, and don’t send George to Eton, instead choosing somewhere with a hint more diversity, they will be doing the kid a huge service.

The boy will one day have to serve as a unifying figure for, by then, probably more than 100 million Britons who will come from an incredibly varied range of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds. How can he even remotely be adequately prepared for such a momentous task if he goes to a school where ‘diversity’ equates to boasting some boys whose families ski in Italy?

Sending George to Marlborough is not that wild of a prospect, given they surprised everyone worth their Tatler Schools Guide, when they made the left field choice of Thomas’ Battersea in London for George, and Princess Charlotte’s, schooling. (The kids, and brother Prince Louis, are now all at Windsor’s Lambrook School.)

Note please that both Thomas’ and Lambrook are co-ed.

William and Kate have shown every sign of wanting to raise their future King son in a wholly new way to every other future heir and the hope now is that they will continue this somewhat insubordinate approach to their childrens’ education.

Still, progress only seems likely to go so far. No matter where George et al are enrolled, they are all but assured to board and not day students. Long may the tuck box reign!

Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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