Eton College

From Academic Kids

The King's College of Our Lady of Eton beside Windsor, commonly known as Eton College or just Eton, is a public school (that is, an independent, fee-charging secondary school) for boys located in Eton, Berkshire near Windsor in England, located about a mile north of Windsor Castle. It is the one of the most famous schools in the world.



Eton College Chapel
Eton College Chapel

Eton College boards approximately 1,200 boys between the ages of 13 and 18 (roughly 250 in each year) who enjoy some outstanding facilities at a cost of over £20,000 (GBP) a year. A small number of the pupils (approximately 14 in each year) are there on scholarships provided for by the original bequest and awarded by examination each year; hence, they are known as 'King's Scholars' and live in the college itself, paying half fees. The full-fee-paying majority belong to various 'Houses', and are known as 'Oppidans'. As at most 'public schools', its pupils achieve very good exam results.

The name 'King's Scholars' derives from the fact that the school was founded by King Henry VI in 1440 and was therefore granted royal favour. The original school consisted only of the 14 Scholars in each year, totalling only 70 students, and all of these were 'King's Scholars', educated at the king's expense. As the school grew, more students were allowed to attend, providing that they paid their own fees and lived outside the college's original buildings in the town. These students were known as 'Oppidans', from the Latin 'oppidus', meaning town: i.e. those who lived in the town as opposed to the college. The 'Houses' developed over time as a means of organising the Oppidans in a more congenial manner.

The school is famous for its alumni (known as Old Etonians) and the traditions it maintains, including a uniform of black tailcoat (or morning coat) and waistcoat, false-collar and pin-striped trousers. All students wear a white tie that is effectively a strip of cloth folded over into the collar, apart from those appointed to positions of responsibility, who wear a white bow-tie. Their positions are also often indicated by variations in the colour of waistcoat, trousers or waistcoat buttons. Those in the most senior positions are allowed to wear waistcoats of whatever colour or design they wish, for example, with grey pin-stripe trousers. Scholars are also required to wear a black gown over the top of their jackets.

The uniform was first worn as mourning for the death of George III, and the uniform is still worn today for classes (refered to as 'divisions' or 'divs'). Members of the teaching staff (known as 'Beaks') are also required to wear school dress when teaching. Other idiosyncrasies include the Eton Field Game, the Eton Wall Game, and the remnants of a peculiar slang for almost everything involved with the school.

The school is popular with the British Royal Family - Princes William and Harry are the most recent to have attended - and has produced nineteen British Prime Ministers. There are many Old Etonians in the Special Air Service (SAS) and several who went on to become famous scientists, writers or sportsmen. See the list at the foot of this page for more well-known Old Etonians. A rising number of students also come to Eton from overseas, including members of royal families from Africa and Asia, some of whom have been sending their sons to Eton for generations.


Missing image
Quadrangle, Eton College

Eton College was founded in 1440 by Henry VI as a charity school to provide free education to seventy poor students who would then go on to King's College, Cambridge, which he also founded, in 1441. Henry VI took half the scholars and the headmaster from William of Wykeham's Winchester College (founded 1382). Eton is modelled on Winchester College, and became popular in the 17th century.

When Henry founded the school he granted it a huge number of endowments, including much valuable land, a plan for formidable buildings and several religious relics, supposedly including a part of the Holy Cross and the Crown of Thorns. He even persuaded the then Pope to grant a privilege unparalleled anywhere in England: the right to grant Indulgences to penitents on the Feast of the Assumption.

However, when Henry was deposed by Edward IV in 1461 the successor annulled all grants to the school and removed most of its assets and treasures to St Georges, Windsor on the other side of the river Thames. Tradition has it that Edward's mistress, Jane Shore, intervened on the school's behalf and was able to save much of the school, although the royal bequest and the number of staff were much reduced.

As a result of the reduced income suffered at a stage when much of the school was still under construction, much of the completion and further development of the school ever since has depended on the generosity of wealthy benefactors. Many of these are honoured with school buildings in their name, such as the Bishop William Waynflete or Roger Lupton, whose name is borne by the central tower which is perhaps the most famous image of the school.

It is often suggested that the Duke of Wellington claimed "The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton". The credibility for this is believed by some to be dubious: Wellington briefly attended Eton, for which he had no great love, in the late 18th century, when the school had no playing fields or organised team sports, and the phrase was first recorded three years after the Duke's death. The Duke was, however, wildly popular at Eton, visiting many times later in his life.

Terminology and slang

Much of Eton slang is the same as other public school slang (for example calling the elder brother 'Major' and the younger brother 'Minor'). However, there are a few Eton-specific phrases, including:

  • popper: Prefect (member of Pop). 'Pop' is run by the 'President of Pop'.
  • stick-ups: The winged collars worn by certain members of the upper sixth form (B Block)
  • absence: Roll call
  • to cap: to raise a finger as a sign of respect, derived from tipping of a hat. All boys had to cap beaks when passing them in the street.
  • a rip: when work is torn as a mark that it is substandard and has to be submitted for inspection of the house master and the boy's tutor
  • a show up: the opposite of a rip - work that is commended and to be shown to the student's tutors as evidence of progress
  • Tap: the school's bar, open to students in their final two years
  • Mespots: "Mesopotamia", one of many school playing fields. Others include Upper Sixpenny, Lower Sixpenny, Dutchman's, Agar's Plough, Upper Club and The Field.
  • Sixth Form Select: an academically-selected group of boys who asist the headmaster and also act as prefects

Selected Old Etonians

The following are more complete lists of well-known Old Etonians:

See also

External links

nl:Eton ja:イートン・カレッジ no:Eton pl:Eton zh-cn:伊顿公学


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