Living history

The Eton shield. Floreat Etona - may Eton flourish.
The Eton shield. Floreat Etona - may Eton flourish.

Our Sunday outing took us a little bit further away than usual, namely to the most famous school/college on the planet, Eton. It is a thoroughly astonishing place – even if I’d recently read a very interesting article about Eton in Vanity Fair and thus knew how subsumed in tradition the whole place is, it’s still completely amazing to see it with your own eyes, even on a Sunday where the boys are out of uniform. Wikipedia has an excellent article about Eton. It’s very long and thorough, I’ve only read down to where it starts going through the various houses and societies.

The college church.
The college church.
The oldest classroom still in use!
The oldest classroom still in use!
Eton college centre court yard
Eton college centre courtyard.
They wear this outfit to school EVERY DAY!
They wear this outfit to school EVERY DAY!
This is where their parents buy it.

Of the fourhundredsomething boys (no no no, no girls!!!) only 70 of them are there by merit. Meaning that the original idea – the school was founded in 1440 by Henry VI as a charity school for poor boys – has long been abandoned. Even among the 70 “King’s Scholars” (boys who are there because of outstanding exam results at 12 years) most parents are paying up to 90% of the school fees. On top of that comes uniform, books and all sorts of things that boys who live away from their parents might need. Yearly fee: £ 26.490. Many families don’t even make that much money before tax!

So egalitarian? No.

Super elitist? Yes.

Do I like it? No.

Am I fascinated by it? Yes.

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