The prince and the pauper: a gap that cannot close

It is doubtless that Prince William’s entry into Cambridge to study agricultural management is evidence of the fact that application to our most ancient institutions of learning still remains weighted in favour of the privileged. But it is also evidence of our unhealthy relationship with the monarchy

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.


  1. Obviously the gap between pleb and the nobles isn’t much smaller than it was 200 years ago, and to believe that could change any time soon is naivety pure and simple.

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  2. Surely he should be receiving the highest quality education as the future King of England? Besides that, he already has a degree and therefore A-Level grades aren’t as important, for anyone they are a very small part of life (2 years out of 80+??) Universities are free to decide who they admit and who they don’t, and believe it or not as much as educational achievement is important, it isn’t the sole factor when deciding who to admit. Also, this isn’t a typical University course it’s ten weeks long and probably highly vocational!

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  3. What a badly researched, pointless article. Besides the fact that the man already has a 2:1 degree from St Andrews rendering A-Level qualifications nearly irrelevant, the author claims that William believes himself to be superior to others with no evidence to back up such a statement besides a speech made 120 years ago.

    Furthermore, attaching any value to the honours system is pointless nowadays as they are handed out so frequently to people who don’t fully deserve them that they are almost worthless, so an honour going to the royal doctor is a complete non-event.

    Not to mention that a divorce and the payment of some tax will barely change some people’s opinions of the monarchy at all, let alone prevent a ‘tsunami of unpopularity’. There are far more (and better) reasons to like or dislike the monarchy besides these.

    Finally, the idea that his entrance to Cambridge reinforces the social gap between the royals and those they rule over is laughable considering the nearly 1000-year history of England being ruled by a monarchy which has lost a significant amount of its ruling power and become more of a diplomatic asset and tourist attraction over the previous few centuries.

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  4. It’s a a postgraduate degree.
    He has a 2.1. Is this an inadequate qualification?
    It’s not part of the university of Cambridge, rather a different arm of the institution.
    Fml I’m not even pro-monarchy but such blatent misrepresentation of the facts would get you severe criticism in an essay

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  5. The 2:1 that he has is in a different subject, and the elite universities such as Oxford and Cambridge always scrutinise A-level grades even if the candidate has already taken a degree because they want people who are capable in a variety of subjects as opposed to just one. Furthermore, the article never says that William feels superior, it claims that it is something which shows superiority of the monarchy which is unfair, and has the potential to give them a feeling of superiority.

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  6. 7 Jan ’14 at 3:55 pm

    Sofia's Car Park Friend

    OMG who cares

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  7. He has a 2:1 from St. Andrews. What a poorly written and researched article.

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  8. People are admitted into Oxbridge if it is believed they will benefit from what the University has to offer! This is just obvious jelousy from someone who could not get a place themselves. Yes, babies are delivered every day but Sir Marcus Setchell had been doing that job with succss for decades and surely the added pressure of being responsible for the health of the royal family should warrant recognition? I believe this is an article written by someone who simply does not like the royal family and felt it would be an opportunity to vent their jelousy. It isn’t even well written, let’s just hope you don’t study English!

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