April 30, 2011

How Many British Royals Have A Degree?

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.


  1. What an interesting question! I haven't the foggiest idea but I would love someone schooled in royal academia to shed some light on the matter!

  2. It was mentioned in the "William & Kate" Lifetime movie.. but I can't remember what was actually said.

    Useless relevancy!

  3. I do not know about this doctor, I have always liked the fact that aristocracy holds academics in contempt.

  4. I suppose it may sound mercenary, But if your name starts with HRH. and you have more money than God then does it really matter about a University degree?

  5. Increasingly, they seem to think it does. I wonder why.

  6. I guess it doesn't really 'matter' if a royal has a university degree.

    But I think it makes a person more interesting.

    It makes it look as if they have some sort of will to exist besides just being rich and catered to.

    I attended a excellent university in Canada. I have an honors degree in Forensic Anthropology.

    Am I a Forensic Anthropologist? No. I wish I was, but no.

    However, I learned a lot of things that people who haven't attended university may not know. I got to experience university culture, meet a lot of new people. It earned me a teensy bit of respect, because I took the time and effort to go to school (and do well) when I could have just chosen to do something else. One isn't forced to go to school at that point.

    But does it really 'matter'? In the grand scheme of things? Probably not. My degree doesn't allow me to save lives or anything.

    I expect it's the same for any of the Royals that are attending/have attended.

    Prince William is never going to be a geographer. He knew that when he went in. But I think his degree is cool anyway. More so because he wasn't required to get one.

  7. Perhaps because even Britain's royal family must now accept that the kingdom neither has, nor can imagine, nor yet will ever see again an army the which the dignified part of the constitution should lead honorably...

  8. That is odd, I figured there would be a large number from Cambridge and Oxford.

  9. Doesn't Sandhurst Military Academy give out a degree?

  10. Kyna, your insight confirms my suspicion that the royal family is doing its best to ape middle-class values. Your justification of going to university rings true for the vast majority, and I wouldn't argue with it at all.

    No, I don't think you get a degree from Sandhurst, but it's a wonder that Tony Blair didn't institute an MSc in Military Science when he had the chance.


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