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St. John's College, Cambridge

St. John’s College, Cambridge

Prince William went back to school this week. Cambridge University, to be precise, where he will undertake a tailor-made, ten-week course in agricultural management.  Upon completing the course he won’t have earned a degree; he won’t walk out with a doctorate or a masters; he won’t receive any formal qualifications, but he will have gained a beginner’s knowledge toward managing the Duchy of Cornwall Estate – a vast £760 million entity established in 1337 to provide a private income for use by the reigning monarch’s eldest son, which William will inherit when Charles becomes King.

As with most matters relating to the monarchy his enrollment has had a polarizing effect.  Met with staunch criticism amidst a smattering of praise, some university students declared he’d been given a “free pass” due to his royal status.  Others went so far as to describe his admittance as an “insult” to those already studying at the university.  Not surprisingly, people have been quick to jump on the critical band wagon without taking a moment to actually understand exactly what it is he’s doing.  Moreover, since when has receiving further education of any description been a negative?

The type of course William is undertaking is open to pretty much anyone who has the money to pay for it – land owners, company executives, the posh set.  An elitist course?  Perhaps.  But who could argue that William holds an elite position?  Entry for this particular program is not reliant on past grades or previous academic records.  Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University’s Computer Laboratory stated to the Cambridge News, “Whether they have any A-levels at all is no more relevant than the price of tea in China.”

William’s course was organized by the Cambridge Program for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL), whose patron is the Prince of Wales, himself a former Cambridge graduate.  Charles has been clear regarding his concerns for the welfare of Britain’s countryside, and it would appear William is keen to educate himself and continue his father’s mission.  Better that he learn how to do it properly of his own initiative than screw it up down the line because his A-level results didn’t live up to the Cambridge ideal.

It’s no secret that William would like to delay leading a full royal life for as long as possible.  Hard to comprehend for those slogging to make ends meet on minimum wage, but understandable given that there is no retirement age for a job that calls for a lifetime of service to crown and country.  As opposed to attending lectures and seminars and writing essays on economics and land economy, I expect William would rather bolt to Mustique with the Middleton family in the coming weeks for what has become something of a traditional winter break.  Given the option, many of the hoi polloi would have plumped for Mustique in a nanosecond, but having completed service in all three branches of the British military, performed his first investiture on behalf of the Queen, and represented the Queen for the first time at a State visit, he is now preparing more extensively for the role he will one day fulfill.  Royal engagements have been stepped up, and along with his wife he will undertake a tour to Australia and New Zealand in April.  Furthering his education is the natural next step.

Personally I’d rather see William fork over private funds in preparation for his future role than squander said funds on Treasure Chest cocktails at Mahiki, the royals’ perennial favorite nightclub.  Wherever there are fortunes and family firms, there are heirs to fortunes and family firms.  The children of both Branson and Trump joined their respective family businesses and have done exceptionally well.  Why?  Because they learned their trade beforehand.  Others have enjoyed all the benefits of wealth and a globally recognized family name only to stumble out of nightclubs and make sex tapes.

Surely it can only be a good thing that William has gone back to school.  His course is being paid for privately, not through the public purse.  He’s putting in the work, and ultimately the British countryside stands to benefit from what he learns.  I imagine Oxford would have been mighty chuffed to have a second heir to the throne walking its hallowed halls.  The city of Cambridge is certain to enjoy a rise in tourism due to its famous pupil.  Interest in the university itself will increase, and perhaps inquiries about higher education in general will spike.  To me, it seems perfectly apropos that the Duke of Cambridge actually attend Cambridge.   He could have hightailed it to Cambridge, Massachusetts, but then people really would be up in arms.