I was given to ask this question yesterday when I remembered that the Duke of Cambridge’s last title will forever be ‘MA’. Such a fuss was made years ago when Prince William opted for St. Andrews that anyone might have been forgiven for thinking he had broken with sacred tradition in snubbing Cambridge. In truth, William was probably the first to go to University according to merit (in the Blairite sense). Military careers have been more the norm for the British monarchy, not known for its intellectual nous, and in fact the royal degree remains a rare bird indeed.
Only six of the royal family ever have earned a degree. You can find out quite easily that Charles, current Prince of Wales, was the third ever royal to gain a degree, with a 2:2 from Trinity, Cambridge in 1970. Working out who the two before him were has proven challenging. Edward VII, then the Prince of Wales, seems to have been the first to attend university, most notably studying history with Charles Kingsley at Trinity, Cambridge, but he didn’t graduate. That takes us down to the 1860s already. Queen Victoria’s eighth child, the Prince Leopold (Duke of Albany) went to Christ Church, Oxford, and left with an honorary Doctorate in Civil Law in 1876. Does that count? The second would then have been Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, who has a BA in Architecture from Magdalene, Cambridge (1966).
Prince Richard, the bright spark in the Royal Family
More recently, Prince Edward, current Earl of Wessex has a degree in History from Jesus, Cambridge (1986, after some controversy about his rather unmeritorious admission); Peter Phillips, who often gets forgotten because his mother didn’t want them to have royal titles, has a BA in Sports Science from Exeter (his sister Zara also went to Exeter, but I’m not sure her physiotherapy qualification is a degree); and then there’s William, with his Geography MA from St. Andrews. Beatrice (Goldsmiths, 2011) and Eugenie (Newcastle, 2012) will follow along soon, all being well. And I suppose we must now count the Duchess of Cambridge as number seven?
My interest here is purely academic, as it were, but I’d be grateful to anyone who could correct any of this, or provide further information.