Primary School Life: The Early Years
The young prince was first enrolled in Hill House School in London when he was eight years old. His enrollment made him the first royal heir to be educated outside of the palace, though he never went to a public school. It was emphasised that he would not be given preferential treatment wherever he studied. Headmaster Stuart Townend agreed and advised the Queen to let Charles play football so the other students would learn not to be deferential to him.
He later enrolled in Cheam School, the country’s oldest private school. Charles had difficulty befriending other elementary school students because he was shy and reserved. His father, Prince Philip, was determined to toughen him up, which led to the decision to enrol him in his alma mater.
Gordonstoun Was Hard On Young Charles
Prince Charles was sent to start his secondary education in Gordonstoun. It was located in Scotland, so he would have more privacy. Prince Philip had been a popular athlete during his own Gordonstoun years, and he was hopeful Charles would learn to become more disciplined there.
Charles had trouble adjusting to the Spartan rigour at first, and described the school as ‘Colditz in kilts’. He was often bullied for his large ears, and he wrote to his mother, “I hardly get any sleep in the House because I snore and I get hit on the head all the time. It’s absolute hell.”
Prince Charles’ school years in Gordonstoun were challenging for him, but he rose to the occasion and got elected head boy in his final year. Later on, Charles mused about why he despised the school: “I didn't enjoy school as much as I might have, but that was only because I'm happier at home than anywhere else."
He also praised the toughness of the school system, saying, "It was only tough in the sense that it demanded more of you as an individual than most other schools did — mentally or physically. I am lucky in that I believe it taught me a great deal about myself and my own abilities and disabilities. It taught me to accept challenges and take the initiative.”
An Exchange Student Stint Pre-Uni
Before he finished his secondary school education, Prince Charles left for Australia in 1966. He spent two school terms as an exchange student in Geelong Grammar’s Timbertop campus. It’s no surprise that the Royal Family chose to send him there, as it’s the largest co-educational boarding school in Australia and known for academic excellence. The rural campus, like Gordonstoun, emphasised physical activities, such as camping and hiking.
During his stay, the press was requested to leave him alone. His time in sunnier shores seems to have been good for him. Fondly nicknamed ‘Pommie’ by his classmates, Prince Charles was described by Timbertop’s headmaster as “a friendly, intelligent, natural boy with a good sense of humour.”
A Different Royal Education: Off To University
After he finished his exchange year, Prince Charles returned to Gordonstoun and graduated in 1967. He then went straight to university, after being admitted into Trinity College, Cambridge. There, he studied anthropology, history, and archaeology. Prince Charles also studied Welsh history and language at the University College of Wales for a term during his second year.
Charles was the first royal heir to obtain a university degree, graduating from Cambridge in 1970 with a 2:2 Bachelor of Arts. It was only after his graduation that he joined the British Armed Forces, in keeping with royal tradition.
His Education Shaped His Social Interests
Because he received a less reclusive education than previous royals, Charles learned to be a passionate advocate. He founded the Prince’s Trust in 1976, focused on education, the youth, and environmental sustainability. While he’s a British royal, he makes it a point to frequently visit Commonwealth countries and do charitable work there, which explains why he later established the Prince’s Trust for Canada and Australia.
While the prince does not sit on the board of any school, he’s remained committed to giving disadvantaged children a better education. Several public schools are named after the Prince in Brantford and Belleville, Ontario. In Edmonton, Canada, they don’t just have a school in his name – the town of North Inglewood’s name was changed to Prince Charles in his honour!
Charles never pursued graduate studies, but he’s earned multiple honorary degrees from universities in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Given his thorough education and early discipline, we’re not surprised to see that he continues to tour and get involved in important social issues. It’s definitely a great quality to see in the heir to the British throne!