Where: Near Windsor, Berkshire, England
When: Founded in 1440 by King Henry VI
History: Once a Rennaisance college for free education, now the most expensive and exclusive boy’s private school in the world
Go there for: A glimpse of how the other half live, and centuries of fine education history
Eton is the home of England’s most posh public school – a testament to fine education and proof that the English class system is still well and truly alive. Eton claims to educate without arrogance, a bold statement for an institution that essentially serves to gentrify the upper classes.
Eton’s great alumni
Eton is the most prestigious school in the country for boys aged thirteen to eighteen with past pupils including both Prince William and Prince Harry – the second and third in line to the Commonwealth throne. Eighteen British Prime Ministers, the founder of Amnesty International, and countless princes have all schooled at Eton. George Orwell, Harold Macmillan, William Gladstone, Ian Fleming, and Christopher Lee are just a few of Eton’s grand alumni. Eton also trained great military men from days gone by. Lord Wellingtonsaid that ‘Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton,’ and today you can see the plaque of Eton’s most recent war hero who died in service in Iraq.
History of Eton
The school was started back in 1440 by King Henry VI and was originally set up to provide free education for 70 scholars. Six centuries years later, fees top an enormous £23,000 ($40,000) per year – the same as the average person in Britain’s pre-tax income for a year – and that’s just for the privileged few who are accepted into the school. Up until the 1960s you had to be registered at birth in order to take the common entrance exam. There are still a few scholarships awarded each year but there is fierce competition for these.
Boarding at Eton
All Eton pupils live at the school during term time, attending lessons on a Saturday, extra activities in the evenings, and church on Sundays. Each boy becomes a member of a house which they will board in for the duration of their stay. Here they are put in the care of a House Master, Dame, and Tutor who will look after all their needs. There are so many words specific to Eton that their website even has its own glossary.
If you want to get glimpse of Eton life for a snip of the price then you can tour the school. General admission costs £3.80 ($7) and gives access to the School Yard, College Chapel, The Cloisters, and the Museum of Eton Life. A guided tour costs £4.90 ($8) and lasts around an hour. Any groups of eight or more people must book a tour in advance.
Other places of interest nearby
Tom Browns Tailors
No. 1 Eton High Street is the place Etonians go for their special uniform: crisp white shirt, waistcoat, dickie bow, long tails, pin striped trousers, and black shiny shoes. Etonians between the 1850s and the 1940s would have also worn a top hat.
Eton is located near Windsor on the River Thames, about an hour outside London. Near here is Windsor Castle, one of three official residences of the Queen which is a great place to visit. It is the largest inhabited castle in the world and has been the monarchy’s main address for over 900 years. You can tell if the Queen is in by what type of flag is flying. If the Union Jack is flying this means she isn’t in residence, but if she is then the Royal Standard is flying. A tour costs £12.50 ($20) for adults and £6.50 ($11) for children. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7930 9625 to book.
If you are traveling with kids then treat them to a day at Legoland in Windsor, with over 50 interactive attractions. Tel: +44 (0) 8705 040404.
Telephone: +44 (0) 1753 671000
Thanks to Rebecca Hunkin for all her assistance with setting up Globe Trekker’s visit to Eton College.
By Emma Jones & Sophie Mitchell