The Washington Post

Who is the most educated English queen?

Kate Middleton, if/when she is crowned queen of England, would be the first ever with a college degree. But the queen with the broadest education and deepest intellect was probably the brilliant Queen Elizabeth 1, who was learning Latin at age 5.

Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, who is marrying Prince William on Friday, could become queen of England if William is crowned king.

Middleton attended exclusive private schools. For primary (elementary) grades, she attended until she was 13 years old St. Andrew School in the village of Pangbourne in Berkshire. Founded in 1934, it is located in a Victorian mansion on 54 acres of playing fields, lawns and woods.

She then enrolled in Marlborough College in the market town of Marlborough in Wilshire for what Americans call high school. Marlborough is a coeducational, independent boarding school for students 13-18 years old.

Middleton took the final exams required of all graduates and did extremely well.

(In England, students study General Certificate of Secondary Education, or GCSE, for two years starting at the age of 15, and then take the mandatory GCSE exams. Students can also take accelerated classes, called ‘A levels,’ that are seen as the route to college.)

Middleton earned two As and a B on A-level exams, and passed 11 GCSEs, the Daily Mail reported.)

The future royal then took a gap year, which is more of a tradition in Britain than in the United States, during which she visited Italy and Chile. It was then that she went to the University of St Andrews in Scotland, where she earned a degree, with honors, in art history, and where she met the prince.

But college degrees aren’t the only way to get a broad or deep education. Queen Elizabeth 1, who was queen from 1558 to her death in 1603, had a most extraordinary education.

An especially precocious child, she studied for years with tutors and learned to speak six languages fluently as well as grammar, theology, history, rhetoric, logic, philosophy, math, logic, literature and geometry. There were non-academic subjects too, including archery, riding, dance and music. She could read Latin, which she started studying at age 5, as well as Italian and English by the time she was 11. She did remarkable translations of Italian works.

Incidentally, her father, Henry VIII, was the first truly educated British king, but he was schooled because his own father originally intended him to go into the clergy. The death of his older brother made him heir to the throne and changed history.

Queen Victoria was no slouch in the education department, either, having read 150 works “between the ages of seven and 16,” many of which “would be largely impenetrable to even the most dedicated and scholarly modern pupil,” according to an article on website of The Times. She studied astronomy, history, religion, geography, natural history and other subjects.

Queen Elizabeth II, the current queen, was educated at home, but had some prominent teachers. After her father succeeded to the throne in 1936 and she became his heir, she began studying constitutional history and law, and was taught by Henry Marten, the vice provost of Eton College. She also took lessons in religion from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and learned French from various governesses.


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Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.


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