First a struggle, then ‘positive impact’ – Inside Prince Charles’s time at Gordonstoun

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Members of the Royal Family have attended Gordonstoun School in Scotland, with the Queen and Prince Philip’s three sons and their two grandchildren Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall boarding at the establishment over the decades. But famously, Prince Charles was the first heir to the throne to attend the school in Scotland.

Current Gordonstoun principal Lisa Kerr told Reuters: “For everybody at Gordonstoun, it’s a huge sense of pride to have been the first school to educate an heir to the British throne.

“What’s more powerful for us is knowing that many of the attributes which Prince Charles takes forward as monarch were developed here at Gordonstoun.”

Much has been written of Charles’ time at the Scottish boarding school, but an aquaitance of Charles said he was “one of the boys”.

Retired PE teacher Alison Shockley, 71, a student at a nearby girls’ school, shared the stage with Charles for the Gordonstoun production of ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ in which Charles played the role of the Pirate King.

She told the news agency: “He carried it off very well. (He was) just one of the boys … He just joined in as we all did.”

Before the Queen and Prince Philip’s children, royals tended to be educated at home by a tutor rather than attending school.

The Queen and her sister Princess Margaret were educated at home by their governess, Marion Crawford, and the Queen was instructed by the provost of Eton College in constitutional history to prepare for her future role.

But the Queen and Prince Philip decided to break the royal mould and send their eldest son (and later Prince Andrew and Prince Edward) to the Duke of Edinburgh’s alma mater, Gordonstoun.

Whether or not Charles had a good time at Gordonstoun has been disputed, with some accounts suggesting the Prince struggled being so far away from home.

Charles was thought to have disliked the school’s rigorous curriculum of starting each day with a run followed by a cold shower, and it has been suggested the future King was bullied during his time there.

In 1963, Charles reportedly wrote in a letter home: “The people in my dormitory are foul. Goodness, they are horrid.

“I don’t know how anybody could be so foul.”

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Charles is said to have called the school “Colditz in kilts”, and when it came to choosing a school for his two sons Prince William and Prince Harry, he and Princess Diana opted for Eton College.

But Charles acknowledged in a speech to the House of Lords in 1975 that his time at Gordonstoun was not as bad as it has been made out to be. He said: “I am always astonished by the amount of rot talked about Gordonstoun and the careless use of ancient clichés used to describe it.”

Asked if Charles had been happy at Gordonstoun, Ms Kerr said: “I suppose everyone’s school days have their ups and downs, and it’s probably no surprise that the downs are more interesting from a media perspective.

“But interestingly, Prince Charles himself has said that he’s always astonished at the amount of rot talked about Gordonstoun … in many speeches, he’s talked about the really positive impact that his time here had on his life.”

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