Gordonstoun: The Scottish boarding school that taught King Charles III

Monarch was first in his family to attend senior school instead of being privately tutored

Furvah Shah
Tuesday 13 September 2022 09:15 BST
Who is King Charles III?

When King Charles III was a young boy, the royal family took the unique step of sending him to Gordonstoun Boarding School in Elgin, Scotland instead of enlisting private tutors.

The King’s accession to the throne since the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8 makes Gordonstoun the first senior school to have educated a British monarch.

Charles’s time at the school saw him playing lead roles in the schools theatre productions and singing in the school choir.

The then-prince joined the school at aged 13 and was flown there on his first day in a plane piloted by his father, the late Prince Philip.

He spent five years at the school where he studied a broad curriculum as well as taking part in various extra-curricular activities such as sailing and playing musical instruments including the cello and trumpet.

His Majesty partook in drama productions and starred in Shakespeare’s Macbeth in a performance watched by his parents, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.

Charles starred in Gordonstoun School’s production of Shakespeare’s play when he was 17 (PA)

He was described as “the best actor in the school” by journalist Donald McLachlan in the Sunday Telegraph and other starring roles included the Duke of Exeter in Shakespeare’s Henry V and the Pirate King in Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Pirates of Penzance.

Other extra-curricular activities the future king took part in included being a member of the debating society and going on walking expeditions in the Scottish Highlands, and in his final year at Gordonstoun, he became head boy.

He left Gordonstoun in 1967 and achieved above average results in his O-levels in English Language, English Literature, History, Latin and French and two A-levels in History and French.

Charles with his father Philip on his first day at Gordonstoun in 1962 (PA)

He then went on to study archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge University.

The prince was at the centre of a royal controversy during his time at school after he drank a cherry brandy at a hotel on the Isle of Lewis. Then aged 14, he was under the legal drinking age and it was also forbidden for Gordonstoun pupils to drink alcohol.

The Cherry Brandy Affair, as it became known in the press, made scandalised headlines and led to the future kind being spoken to “strongly” by his headteacher.

The Queen at Gordonstoun School to open the new sports centre, accompanied by her son the Prince of Wales who was the school’s head boy (PA)

It has been reported Charles did not enjoy his time at Gordonstoun due to the strict teaching, but His Majesty has since refuted such claims.

During a speech at the House of Lords in 1975, he said: “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.”

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