Start of term for the Cambridges: How the royal family fared on their first days

·7-min read

From a young Prince Harry, decked out in a cap and blazer, gazing up at big brother William, to Princess Charlotte beaming with excitement, the royal family’s milestone first days at school have long been captured for the history books.

Prince George, Charlotte and new starter Prince Louis joined a settling in afternoon at their new prep school, Lambrook in Berkshire, on Wednesday – with all the Cambridge siblings now at the same educational establishment for the first time.

Royals first day at new school
The Cambridge family arrive at Lambrook School (Jonathan Brady/PA)

In 2017, George, then four, looked smart but nervous on his first day at Thomas’s Battersea in London.

The Duchess of Cambridge, pregnant with Louis, missed her eldest son’s big day because she was suffering from severe morning sickness.

Prince George first day at school
Prince George holds hands with the Duke of Cambridge as he arrives at Thomas’s Battersea (Richard Pohle/The Times/PA)

A wary-looking George held the Duke of Cambridge’s hand as he was met by the head of the lower school, Helen Haslem.

William later said it went well and joked: “There was one other parent who had more of an issue with their children – so I was quite pleased I wasn’t the one.”

Prince George first day at school
Prince George with his father and Thomas’s Battersea lower school head Helen Haslem (Richard Pohle/The Times/PA)

The prince went on to play a sheep in his first Christmas nativity and was reportedly given the nickname PG by his friends.

A very excited Charlotte joined George at Thomas’s Battersea in September 2019.

A photo released by Kensington Palace showed the young princess beaming with her older sibling at home as she prepared to set off.

Charlotte held Kate’s hand as she arrived with William and George, and looked a little hesitant at first, flicking her ponytail, but then waved to the cameras, before heading inside.

Her school bag was adorned with a sparkling pink unicorn key ring.

Princess Charlotte to begin school
Helen Haslem, head of the lower school at Thomas’s Battersea, greets Princess Charlotte on her first day (Aaron Chown/PA)

George, Charlotte and Louis were all pictured on their first day at nursery, with keen photographer Kate capturing the moments.

George went to Westacre Montessori School near the Cambridges’ Norfolk home, Anmer Hall.

He was shown near a large, colourful mural, wearing a winter coat with a small rucksack on his back.

Kate also photographed two-year-old Charlotte when she started at Willcocks Nursery School, near Kensington Palace, in January 2018.

The princess was dressed in a red coat and matching Mary Jane shoes, with a bow in her hair, ready for winter in a scarf and for her day with a rucksack on her back.

And a grinning Louis was pictured on his balance bike with a rucksack in the grounds of Kensington Palace on his first day at Willcocks in April 2021, in images released on his third birthday.

William’s first experience of learning away from home was at Mrs Mynor’s Nursery School in west London, which he joined at the age of three.

At four, he went to Wetherby School, also in west London.

He arrived on his first day in 1987 in a smart grey school cap, double-breasted coat, grey shirt and red tie, and waved to onlookers, while accompanied by his mother, the Princess of Wales.

Prince William’s First day at School – Wetherby School, London
Four-year-old Prince William with his mother, the Princess of Wales, waves at onlookers before his first day at Wetherby School in Notting Hill Gate (PA)

In 1989, William was there to guide Harry when he started at Wetherby, but the smiling five-year-old strode along, leading the way and clutching his bag, in a line with his brother and mother Diana.

The young prince was also pictured gazing up at seven-year-old William as they posed on the steps in their matching uniform of caps, blazers, shorts and burgundy T-bar shoes.

Royalty – Prince Harry at Wetherby School – Notting Hill, London
The Princess of Wales follows her sons, Princes Harry and William, on Harry’s first day at Wetherby School (Ron Bell/PA)

William went on to spend five years at Ludgrove School in Berkshire.

The royal youngster became a boarder there in 1990 when he was eight, and shook hands as he was greeted by his headmasters at the photocall marking his arrival.

Royal move to Windsor
William starting at Ludgrove School in 1990 (Martin Keene/PA)

It was while he was at Ludgrove that was rushed to hospital suffering from a depressed fracture after being hit on the side of the head with a golf club by a friend in 1991, resulting in 24 stitches and his “Harry Potter scar”.

William then boarded at Eton College, as did Harry, for five years.

His first day began with a photocall with the separated Prince and Princess of Wales joining him in a show of solidarity, with Harry also taking part.

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The Prince and Princess of Wales and their sons on William’s first day at Eton (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Thirteen-year-old William smiled broadly as he was greeted by scores of photographers.

A three-tier scaffolding stage was erected opposite Manor House where William was to live as a boarder, to allow the press a one-off view of the new Etonian.

William at Eton 6
The media captures William’s first day at Eton (Rebecca Naden/PA)

Harry was pictured in the traditional black tailcoat, waistcoat and white shirt on his first day at Eton in 1998.

As he signed the public school’s Entrance Book, his father Charles, remembering that William had signed on the wrong line, joked: “Make sure you sign it in the right place.”

But a cheeky Harry retorted: “Shut up!”

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Harry on first day at Eton in 1998 (Tim Ockenden/PA)

Future king Charles started as a day boy at Hill House School in Knightsbridge in 1956.

The following year, at the age of eight, he went as a boarder to Cheam School at Headley, near Newbury, Berkshire.

He had a difficult time at school as a teenager.

Royalty – Prince Charles – Cheam School, Newbury
Prince Charles, with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, meets his headmaster on his first day at Cheam School (PA)

He was sent to Gordonstoun School in Moray, Scotland, following in the footsteps of the Duke of Edinburgh, but was picked on and described his days there as “a prison sentence”.

However, he did admit that the school instilled in him self-discipline and a sense of responsibility.

Royalty – The Prince of Wales starts at Gordonstoun School – Elgin
Charles with his father Philip on his first day at Gordonstoun in 1962 (PA)

There was no first day photo for the Queen. Princess Elizabeth was educated at home with her sister, Princess Margaret.

When her father unexpectedly became King, she was taught constitutional history and law.

She was also instructed in religion by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Royalty – Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret – Windsor
Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were educated at home (PA)

She studied art and music, and is fluent in French after learning the language from a number of French and Belgian governesses.