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Royal gap years explained – how the young royals explored the world

Dsicover what Princess Kate, Prince William, Prince Harry and more got up to before heading to university

Split image of Prince William backpacking and Prince Harry working with an orphan
Megan Bull
TV Writer
Updated: 1 day ago
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While it may be hard to imagine the royals outside of the glamorous confines of their homes during their education, many members of the royal family did take a gap year before entering university or becoming full-time working royals.

These Princes and Princesses didn't just head for a jolly time travelling, however, as many used their gap year to travel the world and learn new skills. Prince William and Princess Kate used their gap years to both volunteer with charities in South America, although they didn't cross paths until meeting at St Andrews. Meanwhile, Prince Harry and Zara Tindall explored Australia and Princess Eugenie crossed continents: from Asia to Africa and beyond.

Find out where these royals spent their gap years...


Kate Middleton in a blue jacket and pink shirt© Shutterstock

Princess Kate

Before she met Prince William at the University of St Andrews, the future Princess of Wales headed off on a gap year. In 2001, she spent ten weeks on a Raleigh International expedition trip to Patagonia in Chile, just weeks apart from her future husband.

During her time abroad she indulged in wilderness trekking and analysed marine life. Kate spent the second part of her gap year studying at the British Institute in Florence and crewing on a Round the World Challenge boat in the Solent.


Prince William painting a house© Pool/Tim Graham Picture Library

Prince William

After passing his A-levels, Prince William took a year off to travel before going to university. He began with a trip to the Belize jungle where he slept in a hammock and ate army rations alongside the Welsh Guard. After flying back to the UK to work on a farm, William volunteered with the charity Raleigh International, to build new walkways and teach English in a mountain village in the south of Chile.

In Kate: Our Future Queen, Malcolm Sutherland, who ran the expeditions the Prince and Princess undertook, said of William: "William coped very well, and what struck me about him was how normal he was. He said he wanted to be treated like everyone else, and he was. When you saw him cleaning the toilets, it wasn't for the cameras, he really did clean the lavatories."

The royal reportedly became quite well-travelled during his time away, spending time in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and the island of Rodrigues.


Prince Harry in a cowboy hat with a horse© Tim Graham

Prince Harry

After leaving Eton College in 2003, Prince Harry decided to explore the world. The Duke's first stop was at a ranch in southern Queensland, Australia where he learnt how to handle cattle and repair damaged fences; Harry was meant to spend nine months at the station, but this was cut short due to the arrival of the paparazzi. Reflecting on his experience in Spare, Harry wrote: "At first light we'd saddle up, gallop to the edges of the forty thousand acres (double the size of Balmoral) and begin to muster.

"That is, move the herd of cattle from here to there. We'd also search for individual cows that had strayed overnight, and drive them back into the herd. Or load some onto a trailer and take them to another section. I rarely knew exactly why we were moving these cows but I got the bottom line: cows need their space. I felt them."

He also worked in Southern Africa and visited an orphanage for children with Aids in Lesotho where he helped to build a clinic and road bridge.


Princess Eugenie walking in a floral mini dress, tights and grey cardigan© Tim Graham

Princess Beatrice

In 2008 it was reported that Princess Beatrice had undertaken a new, unpaid post at Selfridge's in London. Undertaking work experience as part of her gap year, the royal worked as a personal shopper for VIP customers at the iconic department store.

Before heading to Goldsmiths University in London, it was also revealed that Beatrice had travelled around Australia, Brazil, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, and the US.


Princess Eugenie carrying papers in a grey mini dress and black cardigan© Max Mumby/Indigo

Princess Eugenie

Prior to continuing with her studies at Newcastle University, Princess Eugenie travelled around India, America, Thailand and South Africa.


Zara Tindall hugging an inflatable rugby player© David Rogers

Zara Tindall

Zara Tindall met her future husband, rugby player Mike Tindall, during her gap year. Speaking to the Daily Mail in 2011, Mike explained: "She was on her gap year and in Australia with friends. Clive (Woodward, the coach) had just told me I was dropped for the semi-final, so I went out for a beer with two others who weren't playing, Martin Corry and Austin Healey.

"Zara was in the same bar, we got introduced but didn't speak that much. Later on, Austin gave me her number and said, 'She wants you to text her, to say where you're all going out after the final so she can come along.'"


Black-and-white photo of King Charles with Princess Diana and Prince Edward in New Zealand© Mirrorpix

Prince Edward

Prince Edward spent his gap year in Wanganui, New Zealand where he spent two terms as a junior master at the Wanganui Collegiate School. During his gap year, Edward played host to his older brother, King Charles, and the royal's then wife, Princess Diana, during their royal tour of the country.


Peter Phillips smiling in a white sports shirt and sunglasses© Mark Thompson

Peter Phillips

Peter Phillips really focused on his future career when he spent his gap year in Sydney. The late Queen's oldest grandchild worked for Sports Entertainment Limited and for Sir Jackie Stewart's F1 team, Stewart Grand Prix. When he finished his gap year, he studied at the University of Exeter and obtained a degree in sports science. 


Lady Amelia Windsor in a flannel jacket and jeans© David M. Benett

Lady Amelia Windsor

In 2014, Lady Amelia Windsor - granddaughter of the Duke and Duchess of Kent - worked for the Veterans Aid Charity which operates from London. The royal also explored Thailand and India during her gap year.

DISCOVER: Where the British royal family went to school and university

READ: Royal etiquette: 14 golden rules the royal family has to follow

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