King Charles’s Schooldays

“Colditz in kilts” was how King Charles described his experience at Gordonstoun, comparing his Scottish boarding school to the famous Nazi camp for prisoners of war. In retrospect, this now seems a little harsh. At least in Colditz the prisoners were able to close the windows at night. In Gordonstoun, it was school policy to leave them open, even in winter — pupils would wake up in the morning with snow on their blankets.

Much has been made of Charles’s formative years, and as the coronation looms, old stories are being dredged up from his school, near Elgin on the north coast of Scotland. So what was it actually like? When Charles arrived in 1962, contemporaries reported that it was less Dead Poets Society and more Lord of the Flies. Ross Benson, a peer, recalled that had their classmates been unable to afford the exorbitant fees, they “probably have ended their educational careers in prison rather than at a public school”.

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