Perhaps a touch of projection here

Prince Charles’s time at school is widely thought to have been far from happy – and he is reported to have even described it as “Colditz in kilts”.

But his Scottish boarding school has hit back after Netflix drama The Crown depicted an unhappy, bullied Charles struggling with cross country runs and hostile classmates.

Gordonstoun School has pointed to a speech the Prince made in the House of Lords, as well as an interview printed in the Observer Magazine, to suggest that he has a more nuanced view of his education that the drama suggests.

Both took place in the 1970s, less than 20 years after he attended the school, and paint the Prince’s time at Gordonstoun in a more positive light than the drama.

Episode 9 of its second series chronicles the Prince’s experiences at the school, focusing on his shabby dormitory, hostile classmates and freezing morning runs.

It also includes a flashback to his father Prince Phillip’s experience at the school, which is located in the north east of Scotland.

Fritz – Peter – Morgan might be projecting a little here. Although Downside really wasn’t that bad when we were there.

25 thoughts on “Perhaps a touch of projection here”

  1. Anyone who attended boarding school pre the80s wasexposed to privations the current generation of film producers would regard as punitive but which were an excellent preparation for a remore posting in the Empire. What was it Terry Waite said on being released after being a hostage in Lebanon?

  2. I’m of an age with HRH, though far less exalted. I’m pretty certain. there were rumours in plenty that HRH was not a happy bunny at Gordonstoun. Mind you, at that time the family paper was the Mirror, as reliable as its always been.

  3. I know the Empire’s boarding schools had not changed significantly since the Boer War. The Edwardian Age lingered on into the 70s when I left school. The Anglican establishment which ran the place often retaliated by claiming that well bred Enlish girls at their Oxfordshire school did not complain about mass food poisoning or ice in the water jugs for washing in of a winter’s morning. Us colonials were insufficiently stoical or mayhap of alower class.

  4. Certainly, the boarders who arrived at Britannia Royal Naval College in the mid-80s were unfazed by the Victorian plumbing, unreliable heating, long walks for food etc that were (more than) slightly disconcerting to those of us who hadn’t been abandoned by our parents at 12 🙂

  5. At my bog standard local grammar in Lancashire, we had cross-country along snow-covered moorland roads in shorts, singlets and plimsolls. I rather enjoyed it (better than getting my shins kicked at soccer, anyway).

  6. Gordonstoun School has pointed to a speech the Prince made in the House of Lords, as well as an interview printed in the Observer Magazine, to suggest that he has a more nuanced view of his education that the drama suggests.

    Then again if we look at the Prince’s expressed versus revealed preferences…he sent his kids to Eton.

    …and of the second generation, only Anne sent her kids to Gordonstoun, even though she never went there.

  7. @ John Galt
    Anne was very probably the individual who, after himself, best knew Charles’ thoughts on Gordonstoun. OTOH she was a fairly tough cookie herself.

  8. Pah! Downside. In the balmy Somerset countryside? What would you know about privation? We, at Ampleforth – and its even more spartan prep school, Gilling Castle – had to cope with icy tundra that is the North York Moors.

    And the food. Don’t mention the food………

  9. My old neighbour’s son was educated at Gordonstoun… Next time I saw the lad some years had passed and he was a member of the SAS. I congratulated him on his fortitude for passing the fearsome entry tests, his reply? “It was a piece of piss after Gordonstoun!” 🙂

  10. Wasn’t there some fuss at school about him being merry after necking a quantity of cherry brandy which marked the poor chap as being effete and degenerate from an early age?

    Had he gone to school near Windsor like his sons, he could have nipped across the bridge and raided the butler’s pantry with impunity.

  11. Anne was very probably the individual who, after himself, best knew Charles’ thoughts on Gordonstoun. OTOH she was a fairly tough cookie herself.

    I think you mischaracterize the source of influence, Anne was always far closer to her father than anyone else and resembles him in character and attitude.

    I believe it is that influence that led her to send her two (boy and girl) to Gordonstoun and why she is on the board of governors of the school, maintaining the family link.

    Charles may have had mixed views about the school, but he was pretty certain about not sending his own sons there and the “praise” he has given is lacklustre at best. I suspect he still doesn’t wish to upset his father (HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh) by commenting further.

  12. I forgot about the great “Cherry Brandy” debacle.

    The Prince was a pupil at Gordonstoun School when the school training ship, the Pinta, arrived at the Isle of Lewis town on June 17, 1963. Dinner at the Crown was arranged for them before a movie at the Stornoway Playhouse. There was just time for some of the older lads to have a quick drink and the Prince tagged along.

    The Prince, who has since said he had tasted no alcohol until then, except when the Queen had once given him a tot of cherry brandy before a hunt, decided to ask for just that. It cost him two shillings and sixpence (12.5p).

    It was illegal for him to be served until he was 18. Unfortunately for him, a reporter was at the end of the bar and the incident grew into an embarrassing row in the national press.

  13. @ John Galt
    I was not mischaracterising the source of influence – I was pointing out that she did it as an informed adult.

    Re Cherry Brandy – it was reported at the time that his Private Detective (in those days the Royal family didn’t admit to needing bodyguards) had actually bought the drink for him

  14. @ Tim Newman
    There was, however, a story about a “barrack-room lawyer” on the small ship commanded by Lt-Commander Mountbatten-Windsor who complained about the food and the ex-public school boy tasted his plate and said words to the effect of “I don’t see anything wrong with that” – the response was “I’m going to take this higher” and, thereto, “How much hiogher do you think that you can go?”
    Having endured public school food, habitually losing half-a-stone per term, I was happy to believe the story.

  15. Peter Morgan bends the truth all the time. Did it with Frost/Nixon, did it with Rush. It’s much easier to just fall back on lazy tropes than to do a thorough job.

  16. The food at prep school was sufficiently bad that parents kicked up a stink and got the caterers sacked. There’s a difference between unappetising and inedible. At public school grub was actually pretty decent and there was plenty of it. Accommodation was a bit spartan, especially the washing facilities. Judging by photos on the website, thirty years on the place is like a decent hotel (not Claridge’s but a provincial Holiday Inn, perhaps).

  17. I suspect Charlie and Diana wanted the kids nearer than Hopeman. After Diana’s death it was probably thought to be better for them too. Also Diana probably lacked the ties to the North East that the Balmoral brigade had.

  18. The RN version of that story has him as Officer of the Day in a stone frigate (rather than the CO onboard – you can’t really go much higher than the CO onboard. Prince or Pauper.)

    As OOD, one of your duties is (was?) to attend the Junior Ratings’ Mess at dinner time and be the recipient of food complaints. Never had anybody bother me with anything more than “they’ve run out of what I wanted.” Which you could only note and report.

    Another duty was to attend the Senior Ratings’ Bar at closing time (and fight off being offered a pint, which you had then to authorise extending hours to drink.) This became less of a problem once we started arming the sentries and probably is non-existent nowadays with the spread of contractorisation.

  19. @ SE
    I bow to your superior knowledge: I may have (cannot remember after all these years) have heard it from a RAF officer. Your version is more plausible.

  20. @ BiCR
    Food at my Prep School was good – I just didn’t like it so cycled home for lunch as often as possible; at public school it was awful – I was only one among several who regularly queued up at the San at the end of each term to be checked in case we had consumption.
    Your commemt duggests that you are about twenty years younger than I so the general level of hardship may have reduced in the meantime – we still had a shrinking Empire in the early 60s so Public schools still toughened boys up to be fit to go out and rule it/fight for it.

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