The rolling green lawns of a 12th century castle perched on a windy stretch of the South Wales coast welcomed not one but two kings of Europe this past weekend.
The reason for the visit to St. Donat’s by the royal families of Spain and the Netherlands was the graduation of their daughters from UWC Atlantic Collegea high school located in a remote castle once owned by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.
Under unusually bright blue skies on Saturday, 17-year-old Princess Alexia of the Netherlands beamed in a white linen pantsuit flanked by her parents Queen Máxima and King Willem-Alexander (an Atlantic College alumnus ) in a photograph. posted on instagram.
Princess Leonor of Asturias, also 17 and heiress to the Spanish throne, wore a scarlet red blazer dress with open sleeves. while posing for selfies with her parents and her younger sister, Princess Sofia, who is ready to start there in september.
The scene was a reflection of how Atlantic College, which is part of the United World Colleges Group, has become the school of choice for many young royals. It increasingly attracts students who once went to better known places like Eton College in the shadow of Windsor Castle or the Institut Le Rosey on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, considered the most expensive boarding school in the world.
Other recent alumni of the school, which educates students for their final two years of high school, include Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant, who is the future queen of Belgium. She graduated in 2021 and went on to study at Oxford.
The British press has reflected if the British royal family can break with tradition and send their own young heirs to a school that has recently educated several future queens of Europe.
An enduring tradition: discretion
Although UWC may have a more up-to-date atmosphere and curriculum than its more traditional counterparts, it seems to subscribe to at least one very old and very real convention: the art of being reserved. The school did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article and appears to avoid speaking with reporters.
Tori Cadogan, education editor at British society magazine Tatler, said Atlantic College’s appeal largely has to do with an optimistic ideology rooted in “deliberate diversity” and world peace. The school enrolls many children of royalty and other wealthy families, but there are also a significant number of less privileged students.
Tuition is expensive: around $82,000 for the two-year international baccalaureate program.
However, many students receive financial aid, including a significant cohort who are victims of war or refugees on full scholarships. Their applications go to UWC’s national committee, which then assigns students to United World College campuses around the world, perhaps in Thailand, Costa Rica, Norway, or the United States.
Last week, the Dutch royal family announced that Princess Ariane of the Netherlands, the third and youngest daughter of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima, would attend United World College Adriatic near Trieste, Italy.
Atlantic College opened in 1962, the height of the Cold War, and the idea of making a diverse student body a priority came from Kurt Hahn (who founded Gordonstoun, King Charles’s alma mater). He decided that a new way of teaching, emphasizing responsibility, internationalism, and democracy, was needed to prevent another world war.
TO statement on the school website says the school’s mission is “to bring together young people from around the world to help create an atmosphere for peaceful coexistence between cultures and nations.”
Leave the Rolex at home
So what does a teenage princess do with her days in Atlantic? According to the “Section A day in the life From the school’s website, classes run from 8 a.m. to just after 1 p.m. even serving on the school’s own lifeboat service. (According to the BBC, the widely used The rigid inflatable lifeboat was invented by the students of the school. in the early 1960s).
Cell phone reception is said to be appalling (probably to the delight of teachers and parents). “EDW” (excessive displays of wealth) is prohibited, which means no expensive watches or designer outfits.
Louise Callaghan, a former student who is Middle Elast Sunday Times correspondent, wrote a column in 2018 about his time at the school. She said she forced many students to “get really used to being around and getting along with people who are nothing like you.”
These included, he wrote, “refugees from West Africa, Brits from across the social spectrum, California hippies, religious Malays.” Learning to interact with such a diverse group, she said, “is a useful life skill, one that I imagine you don’t learn in a regular private school.”
She also had a happier version of her time there. Atlantic College, she wrote, was a bit like “a hippie Hogwarts.”