Queen Elizabeth II and Eton

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Queen Elizabeth’s life was dedicated to the service of her country, the Commonwealth and the international community. Despite the grand scope of her duties, she always carried them out with genuine interest and a personal touch. As such, it is only fitting that we remember fondly her contribution to our community, as well as Eton’s small contribution to her life.

Elizabeth’s history with the school began when she was a young girl. As was common for aristocratic girls at the time, she was home-schooled by a variety of tutors. Possibly the most important to the Queen’s outlook and reign was Sir Henry Marten, then Eton’s Vice-Provost, starting in 1938. He taught the heiress constitutional history in twice-weekly lessons, with frequent reference to the history of not just England but also Europe and often the United States. From these lessons, she learnt the importance as a constitutional monarch of reservation and avoiding involvement in affairs of government, a hallmark of her reign. On account of her partial education at Eton, Queen Elizabeth graciously accepted honorary membership of the Old Etonian Association.

For his teaching of Elizabeth, on 4 March 1945 King George VI made the now-Provost Sir Henry Marten a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order – a rare form of knighthood exclusively given for personal service to the monarch. In an extraordinary ceremony, he did not travel to the King, rather the King travelled to him; he was knighted on the steps to College Chapel in front of the whole school.

Painting of Sir Henry Marten’s knighting by Richard Eurich. https://catalogue.etoncollege.com/object-fda-p-282-2010

Queen Elizabeth’s association with the school continued throughout her life. Famously, two of her grandsons, Prince William and Prince Harry, attended the school in Manor House. More recently, she visited the CCF in 2010 and the Jafar Hall in 2016, and came to open the refurbished Queen’s Schools, originally named for Queen Victoria.

Eton College may be connected to the monarchy as a Royal Foundation, but its longstanding connection with Queen Elizabeth herself was a personal one. We can only give thanks for her faultless service to the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and even to Eton.