Skip to main contentSkip to footer

How Princess Diana changed education for the royal family

The late royal wanted to keep her sons grounded

diana school
Danielle Stacey
Danielle StaceyOnline Royal CorrespondentLondon
Share this:

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have made the decision to send their three children to Lambrook school in September.

MORE: Prince George and Charlotte start school next month - see their surprising schedule

But the British royal family’s education over the years has changed with the times and it’s all down to Princess Diana, who wanted to give sons Prince William and Prince Harry an ordinary upbringing.

WATCH: Kate Middleton's distraction technique to get Prince Louis to behave at Jubilee Pageant

William became the first future monarch to be entirely educated in the public school system, starting at Mrs Mynors' nursery in Notting Hill in September 1985, before going to Wetherby Prep School two years later. Following this, William attended Ludgrove independent boarding school in Wokingham and then he was admitted to Eton College in 1995 after passing the entrance exam.

MORE: Lady Louise Windsor's future revealed following A-Level results

SEE: Kate Middleton and Prince William 'immensely touched' by sweet gesture towards Prince George

In contrast, his grandmother the Queen and her sister Princess Margaret were home-schooled in Buckingham Palace by their governess Marion Crawford and private tutors, as was tradition. Their lessons at the palace concentrated on history, language, literature and music. When her father George VI became king in 1936, the then Princess Elizabeth received private tuition in constitutional history from Eton College’s Vice-Provost, Henry Marten, as she prepared for her future role as monarch.

Diana Charles William Harry at nursery school© Photo: Getty Images

Charles, Diana and William on Harry's first day at Mrs Mynors' nursery in 1987

Similarly, her eldest child and heir to the throne Prince Charles was taught by his governess Catherine Peebles at Buckingham Palace between the ages of five and eight, before he attended Hill House school in west London. He then followed in his father Prince Philip’s footsteps at Cheam Preparatory School in Berkshire and then Gordonstoun in Scotland.

While there have been conflicting reports over whether Charles enjoyed his time at boarding school, in an interview with the Observer Magazine in 1974, the Prince said: "I am glad I went to Gordonstoun. It wasn't the toughness of the place - that's all much exaggerated by report - it was the general character of the education there - Kurt Hahn's principles; an education which tried to balance the physical and mental with the emphasis on self-reliance to develop a rounded human being. I didn't enjoy school as much as I might have, but that was only because I'm happier at home than anywhere else."

Charles' siblings Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward were also taught by a governess within the palace walls, who would have been responsible for their early education. At the age of 13, Anne was sent to Benenden School, an independent boarding school for girls in Kent, where she later left with six O-Levels and two A-Levels in 1968. After their initial home-schooling, Andrew and younger brother Edward both attended Heatherdown, a prep school for boys in Ascot, before going to Gordonstoun.

Diana takes William and Harry to school© Photo: Getty Images

Diana was a regular on the school run with William and Harry

But when it came to Prince William and Harry, Diana insisted on giving her children an education that was as normal as possible, outside palace walls. During her childhood, she was initially home-schooled by her governess, Gertrude Allen but later began her formal education at Silfield Private School, followed by Riddlesworth Hall, all-girls boarding school near Thetford, when she was nine. In 1973, she joined West Heath Girls’ School in Sevenoaks, Kent, but failed her O-Levels twice. She did however show a particular talent for music, dancing and domestic science.

Before meeting Prince Charles, Diana was an assistant at the Young England Kindergarten school in Pimlico, a nursery, which used the Montessori method. It was therefore no surprise that she wanted her sons to be schooled in the same way – a teaching method that balances work and play and encourages children to develop at their own rate.

Kate William and George on Charlotte first day of school© Photo: Alamy

Kate, William and George on Charlotte's first day at school

Diana's former press secretary Patrick Jephson also told ABC News that Diana did her best to keep her boys grounded in other ways. "She made sure that they experienced things like going to the cinema, queuing up to buy a McDonalds, going to amusement parks, those sorts of things that were experiences that they could share with their friends," he said.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have followed suit with Prince George, as he began his education at Westacre Montessori nursery school in Norfolk in January 2016, when the Cambridges lived at Anmer Hall. He was enrolled at the co-educational Thomas’s Battersea in September 2017, which teaches pupils aged four to 13. It's too early to say whether nine-year-old George, who has enrolled at Lambrook School, will also follow in his father and uncle Prince Harry’s footsteps and go to Eton for his secondary school education.

Make sure you never miss a ROYAL story! Sign up to our newsletter to get all of our celebrity, royal and lifestyle news delivered directly to your inbox.

More Royalty

See more