Prince William gained an A, B and C at A Level, grades which fall far short of the required standards of most students who enter Oxbridge, or indeed, most Russell Group universities. Yet he has been admitted to Cambridge to study agricultural management. The stamp of Oxford and Cambridge has always been regarded as one of the pinnacles of academic achievement, yet when events such as this occur its quality is slowly eroded. William’s admittance also makes the application system appear to be a formality as the true qualifications become, not those of academia, but of connections and social position.
However, this incident demonstrates not only the social elitism of one of Britain’s top universities, but also society’s treatment of the monarchy. Our relationship is long standing, but that does not make it healthy. In 1894 Labour MP Keir Hardie delivered a speech in the House of Commons, attacking the monarchy after the birth of a royal heir (the future Edward VIII). He foretold that the child would be, “surrounded by sycophants and flatterers by the score and will be taught to “believe himself of a superior creation”. Furthermore, he stated that this would cause “a line to be drawn between him and the people whom he is to be called upon some day to reign over”. This is strangely prophetic of William’s admission to Cambridge. He has been singled out and treated differently from a normal candidate, by allowing him a place despite inadequate qualifications. Therefore, it is not hyperbole to say that he is, in the words of Keir Hardie, being made to, “believe himself as of a superior creation”.
Similarly, the fact that the doctor who delivered George is on the Royal honours list further demonstrates this divide. Doctors deliver babies every single day, but this doctor has been singled out just for the status of his patients. This dispels the illusion that William and Kate have reinvigorated and reinvented the monarchy. They may give the impression of being closer to us than their predecessors, but there has still been a clear line drawn between us and them.
It was not so long ago, in the 1990’s that the mysterious veil which hid the royal family had been lifted by the divorce of people’s princess Diana from the Prince of Wales and the publication of Andrew Morton’s biography. At the same time, the Queen and Prince Charles announced that they would volunteer to pay tax on their private incomes. These reforms and changes in the monarchy have saved them from a tsunami of unpopularity, but make no mistake, there is still a divide between the monarchy and those they rule over; this is reinforced in William’s entry into Cambridge.