Thursday, August 6, 2009

Eton College

About Eton College

Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent boarding school for boys aged approx. 13 to 19. It was founded in 1441 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor".

It is located in Eton, near Windsor in England, north of Windsor Castle, and is one of the original nine English public schools as defined by the Public Schools Act 1868.

It has a very long list of distinguished former pupils, including eighteen former British Prime Ministers. Traditionally, Eton has been referred to as "the chief nurse of England's statesmen", and has been described as the most famous public school in the world. Early in the 20th century, an historian of Eton wrote "No other school can claim to have sent forth such a cohort of distinguished figures to make their mark on the world".

The Good Schools Guide called the school "the number one boys' public school," adding, "The teaching and facilities are second to none."


Eton College was founded by Henry VI as a charity school to provide free education to seventy poor boys who would then go on to King's College, Cambridge, a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, which he also founded in 1441.

When Henry VI founded the school, he granted it a large number of endowments, including much valuable land, a plan for formidable buildings (Henry intended the nave of the College Chapel to be the longest in Europe) and several religious relics, supposedly including a part of the True Cross and the Crown of Thorns. He even persuaded the then Pope, Eugene IV, to grant a privilege unparalleled anywhere in England: the right to grant Indulgences to penitents on the Feast of the Assumption.

Eton College Chapel

However, when Henry was deposed by Edward IV in 1461, the new king annulled all grants to the school and removed most of its assets and treasures to St George's Chapel, Windsor, on the other side of the River Thames. Legend has it that Edward's mistress, Jane Shore, intervened on the school's behalf and was able to save much of the school, although the royal bequest and the number of staff were much reduced. Construction of the Chapel, originally intended to be slightly over twice as long, with eighteen - or possibly seventeen - bays (there are eight today) was stopped when Henry VI was deposed, with only the Quire of the intended building ever completed. Eton's first Provost, William Waynflete, previously Head Master of Winchester College, built the ante-chapel that finishes the Chapel today.

As the school suffered reduced income at a stage when much of it was still under construction, the completion and further development of the school has ever since depended on wealthy benefactors. Many of these are honored with school buildings in their name. They include Bishop William Waynflete and Roger Lupton, whose name is borne by the central tower which is perhaps the most famous image of the school.

In the 19th century, the architect John Shaw Jr. (1803-1870) became surveyor to Eton and designed new parts of the college which helped provide better pupil accommodation.
The Duke of Wellington is often quoted as saying that "The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton", but this has been challenged. Wellington briefly attended Eton – for which he had no great love – in the late 18th century, when the school had no playing fields and no organized team sports, and the statement was first recorded three years after his death. The Duke was, however, wildly popular at Eton, visiting many times in his later life.

A nuclear bunker was constructed under the college in 1959 to house the College's Provost and Fellows, and is now used for storage.

In 2005 the school was one of fifty of the country's leading private schools found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel, which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents. Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 and all agreed to make ex-gratia payments totaling £3,000,000 into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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