British Royalty: Edward VII's Children--Education

Figure 1.--Prince Eddy is seen here as a naval cadet about 1879. Whikle Prince George did well. Prince Eddy could not compete with the other boys.

We have only limited information on how the children were taught at Sandringham. They were tutored there rather than attending a school. We know that Prince Eddy was tutored with his youger brother Prince George. Their tutor was John Neale Dalton who was subsequently appointed to be Cannon of St. Georges chapel in Winsor castle. As a tutor he was not a conscpicuous success, but this may have been more the boy's fault than his. The differences between the two were all too apparent at an eraly age. Prince George was a lively boy of average intelligence. His brother was beyond education. We do not know if the girls were tutored separately or if there was one classroom at Sandringham. Both boys were trained as naval cadets which Prince George did well at. After their Midshipman cruise together, Prince Eddy was sent to Cambridge where he demonstrated no interest or ability in his studies. Prince George enthusiastically pursued his naval career.


The two boys were tutored at home together. Their tutor was the Reverend John Neale Dalton. We have not yet acquired much information about him. His duties did not end when the boys began their naval cadet training. We do know that he accompanied the boys on HMS Bacchante for their trip around the world. I do not have details yet, but certainly a schoolroom must have been set up for Prince Eddy and Prince George at Sandringham. I think the princesses were tutored separately in a different schoolroom, but cannot yet confirm this. Prince Eddy apparently was virtually beyond education. Prince George appears to have been a boy of ordinary intelligence. Dalton decided, however, that the two should be kept together. This was because the primary concern was Prince Eddy who was the heir to the throne. Dalton found that he could better get Prince Eddy to focus on an assignment if Prince George was working on it also. Certainly Prince George's education was not assisted by being tutored with his brother. Dalton must have also been worried by being stuck with tutoring Prince Eddy alone which would have been a nightmare assignment. As Prince Eddy was pratically uneducatable, I have no information on subjects that he excelled in. He did learn to read and to do basic math. Prince George was a more reasonable student and displayed some aptitude for mathematics. One concern of Queen Victoria and the boys' parents was that the boys made no progress in foreign languages. This was important at the time for royalty

Naval Cadets

The first time that the family was to be divided came in 1877 when Prince Eddy and Prince George were to report to the Royal Navy training ship HMS Britania to serve as naval cadets. Cadets had to pass an examination to do this. Their mother who was on a 6-month trip with her husband wrote the boys asking them to study hard. Prince George appears to have actually passed the exam. It is unlely that Prince Eddy did. He was taken ill with typhoid fever in early 1877, but recovered in time to go with his brother to Dartmouth to begin their first term aboard HMS Britania. The boys and their mother Queen Alexandra cried on their departure. Prince George was only 12-years old and having been raised in the protective atmpsphere of Sandringham behaved as an even younger boy. The live of a naval cadet mush have been a bit of a shock to both boys. The boys like the other cadets slept on hammocks. The Princess inquired in one of her letters if they had gottennused to them yet.

Midshipman Cruise

After Britania the Prince and Princess of Wales had to decide what to do with the boys. The choice for Prince George was obvious. Naval cadets successfully completing the program on Britania next went on a Midshipman cruise. As a naval career was planned for Prince George, this was the obvious choice. The question was what to do with Prince Eddy. He had not successfully completed the priogram and the only reason he had not been asked to leave was that he was the heir to the throne. As he had not performed well as a cadet, there was no reason to believe that he would be any great success as a misshipman. His parents, however, decided to send with his brther, primarily because one of his few positive traits was his devotion to his brother. [Battiscombe, p. 154.] As a result, the boys joined the crew of HMS Bacchante for more than 2 years. Princess Alexandra was saddened by the thought of seapartion from her boys wfor such an extended time. It should be remembered that the boys were quite young, only about 14-15 years old at the time. The Bacchante left for a 7-month cruise to the West Indies September 1879. The Princess wrote to the boys telling them how much she missed them, referring to them as her "poor little boys". They returned home in the summer of 1880. The parting for the next cruise on Bacchante was a extremly tearful occassion as it was to be a 2-year cruise taking them to Australia, Japan, and China. Dalton accompanied them on these cruises.

Prince George during the cruise in 1881 recorded in his diary, for July 11, "At four a.m., the Flying Dutchman [a ghost ship] crossed our bows." Several members of the crew reported the sighting, including the lookout on the forecastle and the officer of the watch. Prince George states "... a strange red light, as of a phantom ship, all aglow in the midst of which light the mast, spars and sails of a brig two hundred yards distant stood out in strong relief as she came up." The Flying Dutchman was sighted by other ships in the squadron, the Cleopatra and the Tourmaline. There were 13 crewmen, in all, who report sighting it. The Royal Navy squadron was commanded by Prince Louis of Battenberg. It is said that the seaman who first reported the sighting was killed in a fall, only 7 hours later. Prince George's tutor John Neale Dalton helped Prince George publish his account as "The Cruise Of H.M.S. Bacchante". The Admiralty reportedly checked the manuscript before publication to ensure that there were no factual errors. [Dalton]

Princess Alexandra wrote reguarly to her boys during the cruise. The letters to Prnce Eddy are lost, but many to Prince George survived because he saved them. The letters are extremely sentmental. Princess Alexandra was not a well educated woman, but her letters are charming and convey the relatinship with her son. The tne is very dfferent than Queen Victoris's, who never forgot that she was Queen, corresondece with her children. She liked to use diminuatives, usually by using "little" as a term of endearment. Thius she referred to the prince as "my little sprat" and described how she longed to see "your dear little turn-up snout again". [Battiscombe, p. 156.] We know that Princess Alexandra wrote him while the boys were on their Midshipman cruise deploring the boys' "horrid habbit of always squalbling" and hoping that Eddy was becoming less forgetful and George was not "to full of himself". [Battiscombe, p. 157.]

The Prince of Wales for is part hoped that the Navy might still strengthen Eddy's character. It did not. Prince George, however, returned enthusiastic about his naval carreer. [Ibarra]

The Princesses

We have no information at this time as to how the girls were tutored at Sandringham. We do not know if they had any of their classes with their brothers or in fact if there were two different school rooms. Surly there must have been other tutors as we note that Dalton accompanied the boys on their around the world Midshipman cruise on Bacchante, but we can not conform that there were. We note, however, that while attention was given to the education of their brothers, the eduction of the princesses was neglected. There mother did insist ion music instruction, but we know nothing else about their education.

Brothers Parted

Prince Eddy and Prince George were finally parted in June 1883. Prince Eddy was sent to Cambridge. Prince George received a posting on HMS Canada which was assigned to the British West Indies and North American Squadron. The parting between Princess Alexandra and Prince George was very tearful. The Princess as was their paractice heard his prayers before bed and kissed him goodnight. [Battiscombe, p. 164.]


Battiscombe, Georgina. Queen Alexandra (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1969).

Dalton, John Neale, comp. The Cruise of the Her Majesty's Ship "Bacchante" 1879-1882 (London: Macmillan and Co., 1886).

Ibarra, Jesus. "Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (1864-1892)," internet page accessed June 24, 2002.


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Created: June 24, 2002
Last updated: 4:46 AM 1/28/2005