Why the future King had to put out the bins at Gordonstoun

Why the future King had to put out the bins at Gordonstoun

June 3, 2023

Why the future King had to put out the bins during his schooldays at Gordonstoun, which he called ‘Colditz in kilts’ and a ‘prison sentence’

  • EXCLUSIVE: Mail on Sunday reveals details of the King’s life at Gordonstoun 
  • The future monarch spent five years of his teens at the Scottish boarding school 

Even the most casual Royal observer has heard a tale or two about how much King Charles hated his gruelling schooldays at Gordonstoun.

But previously unknown details have now emerged about the future monarch’s time at the Scottish boarding school where he spent five years of his teens.

Following an exclusive interview with one of his former teachers, The Mail on Sunday can reveal:

  • Charles was left furious after discovering his telescope had been donated to the school by his father;
  • He was forced to put out the bins twice a week;
  • Bullies targeted him on the rugby pitch;
  • He distinguished himself on the stage in one of the most demanding of all Shakespearean roles.

Charles has previously likened his years at Gordonstoun to a ‘prison sentence’ and is said to have called it ‘Colditz in kilts’.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Shomie Das – a former personal tutor and physics teacher to Charles – described a timid 13-year-old arriving at the school in 1962.

Undated handout photo issued by Gordonstoun of Queen Elizabeth II visiting Gordonstoun during Prince Charles’ final year.

New image of Prince Charles (centre) while Head Boy at Gordonstoun in summer 1966/67

Now living back in his native India, he elaborated on previous remarks made by Charles about being bullied over his large ears and punched on the sporting field.

Mr Das, 87, said: ‘Well, it was a tough school and kids are kids.

‘They would take it upon themselves to stand on top of him in a rugby match and rub his nose in the ground. It was things like that. He was extremely gentle, not a toughened, rough-and-ready character, and so he found it difficult.’

Nor, it seems, were other boys the only source of Charles’s discomfort. According to Mr Das, the King-in-waiting was singled out by his housemaster, the late Robert Whitby – but this may have been at the insistence of the Prince’s father.

The retired teacher said: ‘I think his housemaster was a little harsh, but that was what I think [Prince] Philip wanted. [Charles] was in charge of dustbins – he had to put out the dustbins twice a week.’

Philip also features in perhaps Mr Das’s most cherished memory from Charles’s time at the school. The then Duke of Edinburgh – who was also educated at Gordonstoun – arrived unexpectedly soon after a new science laboratory had opened. After he had been shown around, he asked: ‘What do you want for the lab? Do you want something?’

An exclusive picture of the Prince of Wales acting in the dagger scene as Macbeth in the Gordonstoun School production of the Shakespeare play

The teacher replied that they needed a telescope and, three weeks later, one duly arrived from Buckingham Palace. Upon seeing it, Charles remarked: ‘Good God, I’ve got one just like it.’

Mr Das recalled how he had to break the bad news, explaining: ‘I said “That’s been given by your father”. He was furious, he said “You win – he has taken that from my bedroom and given it to you”.’

Yet, according to Mr Das’s account, Charles also enjoyed more joyous times at the school.

He said: ‘I think in the beginning he wasn’t happy.

‘But he became the head boy and that only happened by election [by other pupils]. So I don’t know how unhappy he was towards the end.’

The teacher, who was pictured sitting next to Charles in an official school photo in 1966, said Charles developed his lifelong love of Shakespeare at Gordonstoun, recalling: ‘He was one of the best schoolboy Macbeths I’ve ever seen, he was so good at acting. I think he also took part in King Lear.’

Mr Das returned to India shortly after Charles left Gordonstoun – which now charges boarders more than £33,000 a year – in 1967.

He maintained a lasting friendship with Prince Philip and was invited to meet him in India during a Royal visit in 1983, and also stayed in touch with Charles.

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