On this Day:
On June 24, 1441 Eton College was founded in England by Henry VI.
Eton College is a public school in Eton, Berkshire, England. It was founded in 1440 by Henry VI under the name Kynge’s College of Our Ladye of Eton besyde Windesore, intended as a sister institution to King’s College, Cambridge, making it the 18th-oldest Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) school. Eton is particularly well-known for its history, wealth, and notable alumni, called Old Etonians.
Eton is one of only three public schools, along with Harrow (1572) and Radley (1847), to retain the boys-only, boarding-only tradition, which means that its boys live at the school seven days a week. The remainder (such as Rugby in 1976, Charterhouse in 1971, Westminster in 1973, and Shrewsbury in 2015) have since become co-educational or, in the case of Winchester, as of 2021 are undergoing the transition to that status. Eton has educated prime ministers, world leaders, Nobel laureates, Academy Award and BAFTA award-winning actors, and generations of the aristocracy, having been referred to as “the nurse of England’s statesmen.”
The school is the largest boarding school in England ahead of Millfield and Oundle. Eton charges up to £48,501 per year (£14,698 per term, with three terms per academic year, for 2022). Eton was noted as being the sixth most expensive HMC boarding school in the UK in 2013–14; however, the school admits some boys with modest parental income: in 2011 it was reported that around 250 boys received “significant” financial help from the school, with the figure rising to 263 pupils in 2014, receiving the equivalent of around 60% of school fee assistance, whilst a further 63 received their education free of charge. Eton has also announced plans to increase the figure to around 320 pupils, with 70 educated free of charge, with the intention that the number of pupils receiving financial assistance from the school continues to increase.
Eton College was founded by King Henry VI as a charity school to provide free education to 70 poor boys who would then go on to King’s College, Cambridge, founded by the same King in 1441. Henry took Winchester College as his model, visiting on many occasions, borrowing its statutes and removing its headmaster and some of the scholars to start his new school.
When Henry VI founded the school, he granted it a large number of endowments, including much valuable land. The group of feoffees appointed by the king to receive forfeited lands of the Alien Priories for the endowment of Eton were as follows:
- Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1443)
- Thomas Spofford, Bishop of Hereford (d. 1456)
- John Low, Bishop of Rochester (d. 1467)
- William Ayscough, Bishop of Salisbury (d. 1450)
- William de la Pole, 1st Marquess of Suffolk (1396–1450) (later Duke of Suffolk)
- John Somerset (d. 1454), Chancellor of the Exchequer and the king’s doctor
- Thomas Beckington (c. 1390–1465), Archdeacon of Buckingham, the king’s secretary and later Keeper of the Privy Seal
- Richard Andrew (d. 1477), first Warden of All Souls College, Oxford, later the king’s secretary
- Adam Moleyns (d. 1450), Clerk of the Council
- John Hampton (d. 1472) of Kinver, Staffordshire, an Esquire of the Body
- James Fiennes, another member of the Royal Household
- William Tresham, another member of the Royal Household
It was intended to have formidable buildings (Henry intended the nave of the College Chapel to be the longest in Europe) and several religious relics, supposedly including a part of the True Cross and the Crown of Thorns. He persuaded the then Pope, Eugene IV, to grant him a privilege unparalleled anywhere in England: the right to grant indulgences to penitents on the Feast of the Assumption. The college also came into possession of one of England’s Apocalypse manuscripts.
However, when Henry was deposed by King Edward IV in 1461, the new King annulled all grants to the school and removed most of its assets and treasures to St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on the other side of the River Thames. Legend has it that Edward’s mistress, Jane Shore, intervened on the school’s behalf. She was able to save a good part of the school, although the royal bequest and the number of staff were much reduced.
Construction of the chapel, originally intended to be slightly over twice as long, with 18, or possibly 17, bays (there are eight today) was stopped when Henry VI was deposed. Only the Quire of the intended building was completed. Eton’s first Headmaster, William Waynflete, founder of Magdalen College, Oxford and previously Head Master of Winchester College, built the ante-chapel that completed the chapel. The important wall paintings in the chapel and the brick north range of the present School Yard also date from the 1480s; the lower storeys of the cloister, including College Hall, were built between 1441 and 1460.
As the school suffered reduced income while still under construction, the completion and further development of the school has since depended to some extent on wealthy benefactors. Building resumed when Roger Lupton was Provost, around 1517. His name is borne by the big gatehouse in the west range of the cloisters, fronting School Yard, perhaps the most famous image of the school. This range includes the important interiors of the Parlour, Election Hall, and Election Chamber, where most of the 18th century “leaving portraits” are kept.
“After Lupton’s time, nothing important was built until about 1670, when Provost Allestree gave a range to close the west side of School Yard between Lower School and Chapel”. This was remodelled later and completed in 1694 by Matthew Bankes, Master Carpenter of the Royal Works. The last important addition to the central college buildings was the College Library, in the south range of the cloister, 1725–29, by Thomas Rowland. It has a very important collection of books and manuscripts.
Eton has been described as the most famous public school in the world, and has been referred to as “the chief nurse of England’s statesmen”.
Eton has educated generations of British and foreign aristocracy, and for the first time, members of the British royal family in direct line of succession: Prince William and his brother Prince Harry, in contrast to the royal tradition of male education at either naval college or Gordonstoun, or by tutors.
The Good Schools Guide called the school “the number one boys’ public school”, adding that “The teaching and facilities are second to none.” The school is a member of the G30 Schools Group.
Eton today is a larger school than it has been for much of its history. In 1678, there were 207 boys. In the late 18th century, there were about 300, while today, the total has risen to over 1,300 (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
A Wykehamist, a Harrovian and an Etonian are at a party when a woman enters the room. The Wykehamist offers her a chair, the Harrovian fetches one, and the Etonian sits in it.
Second, a Song:
Courtesy of SmallFilms and YouTube.com, here is a promotional marketing video of Eton College.
They state: “Eton College wanted to use video to show their school in the best possible light and shed on the standard of education, the Orwell Award and it’s range of extra-curricula activities. We used a drone to show off the fantastic grounds and sports facilities from the sky. With a mixture of interviews, carefully directing scenes, and observational footage- we were able to capture a deeper understanding of what makes Eton College so special.” We hope you enjoy this.
Thought for the Day:
“It is essential to rear a generation at the very top of society that has all the qualities needed to lead and give the people the inspiration and the drive to make it succeed. In short, the elite.. Every society tries to produce this type. The British have special schools for them: the gifted and talented are sent to Eton and Harrow.” – Lee Kuan Yew
Enjoy the smile? Tweet, post on Facebook or email to a friend. Much appreciated!
Enjoy the Smile? Subscribe: https://bit.ly/3JniFkq.
Follow the Smile on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SmileoftheDay.ca/
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky