Canadian Royal Heritage Trust

A National Educational Charity

Education of Princes of Wales

by Claudia Willetts

King George III, by John Brooke, summarises the King’s views on the education of his son who later succeeded him as King George IV. The King wished his sons to be educated the way he himself had been brought up, with a sense of duty and service. Their daily timetable was rigorous, requiring them to be in the schoolroom for twelve hours a day. After supper, they were to read by themselves “and give an account of what they have read to the sub-preceptor”. Apart from an hour on alternate days, no time was set for play or recreation. The eighteenth century was impressed with the disposition of young people to get into trouble if left to themselves, and believed it best to regulate their lives.

There was strong emphasis on classical languages and literature, but the curriculum also covered morals, religion, government and laws, mathematics, science, history, drawing, music, and some English literature, with Shakespeare, Milton and Pope, considered worthy of study, according to Christopher Hibbert in George IV: Prince of Wales 1762-1811.

For a survey of the educational plans for the future King Edward VII, we turn to Victoria’s Guardian Angel: A Study of Baron Stockmar, by Pierre Crabites. The Baron’s Memoranda to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, ”On the Education of the Royal Children”, defines the general objects as depending on whether the future sovereign will reign in harmony with, or in opposition to the prevailing opinions of his people. He further elaborated that it was the duty of the Crown not “to take the lead in change, but to act as a balance wheel on the movement of the social body”. The author praises the advice as containing the synthesis of Victorianism.

According to Prince Albert: A Biography, by Robert Rhodes James, Baron Stockmar’s principal concern was “the judicious moral management of the prince”. He urged that the Prince’s education should “prepare him for approaching events, rather than educate him to resist change”. In King Without a Crown: Albert Prince Consort of England 1819-1861, Daphne Bennett tells us that the Prince was to be moulded by a carefully designed scheme of education into one of the “enlightened princes’, a “perfect man”: wise, just and beloved, who would keep the monarchy safe.

By contrast, Anthony Holden writes in Charles, Prince of Wales, that the Queen and Prince Philip realised that a constitutional monarch needs a good, all-round education more than special training. The first step with Prince Charles was to ensure that he was treated as an ordinary boy. Prince Philip said, “The Queen and I want Charles to go to school with other boys of his generation and learn to live with other children, and to absorb from childhood the discipline imposed by education with others.” The decision was made to send Charles to a private boarding school, Cheam for five years, and then to the spartan Gordonstoun.

How far this plan worked can be told from Jonathan Dimbleby’s book The Prince of Wales: A Biography. Prince Charles was inevitably far from being a normal pupil at Cheam: when he returned with a new pencil box, the other children wanted one similar. At Gordonstoun, the Prince found himself socially isolated and bullied by the other students, though he was to find solace in art, music, swimming, and theatre. Next he was sent to Timbertop School, in outback Australia, where conditions were more suitable.