The Oakham School community is deeply saddened by the death of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh on 9 April 2021.
In this commemorative blog, published on the day of Prince Philip's funeral, we take a fond look back at the visits paid to Oakham School by the Duke of Edinburgh over the years. Every occasion was memorable and the School was delighted that Prince Philip took time to speak to staff and pupils.
The School is extremely proud to have encouraged so many pupils to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and it is through this scheme that a special relationship was forged between Oakham and Prince Philip. The Duke commonly enquired after the scheme and its participants on his visits, and the School was delighted that he made a special visit to Oakham to present our 1,000th Gold Award in November 2000.
On 9 November 1957, the Duke of Edinburgh made his first visit to Oakham in the capacity of the royal consort. Prince Philip was met in the Market Place by the then Headmaster, Talbot Griffith, and Sir Eric Gore Browne (the Chairman of Trustees), who led the Duke to the Chapel where he inspected the guard of honour mounted by the School CCF. His Royal Highness then paid tribute to the School's two war memorials - the Chapel and the War Memorial Library.
On 12 May 1967, the Duke visited Oakham for the second time, on this occasion accompanying the Queen. They arrived by train and were greeted with “enthusiastic cheers and frantic waving of flags” by over 3,000 children from schools across Rutland on Doncaster Close. Prince Philip took time out of the day to speak to some of those in the School who were participating in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award.
In 1973 the Duke visited Rutland again and met with Oakham School pupils who were taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award - this time at Rutland Sixth Form College. OO Charles Howes (who won the tent race with Michael Holyoake) described the Duke as a "good bloke, really cheerful and friendly". Prince Philip also shared a joke with OOs Chris Clough, James Hunt, Charles East, Nick Chown and Rigby Field as they participated in an open air survival display.
As part of the Quatercentenary celebrations in 1984, the Queen and Duke visited Oakham School once again on 16 November, spending over 3 hours with staff and pupils. The Queen and the Duke were shown into the Old Hall where they signed a scroll. This scroll is framed and hangs on the wall of Old Hall today. The Duke was shown to the Biology block where an exhibition about an expedition to Papua New Guinea and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme awaited him. The Duke and the Queen planted two trees (a maple and a metasequoia) to commemorate their visit on the lawn directly outside the Biology block. The royal party were treated to a special performance of To Set Before the Queen in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre which was officially opened by the Queen during this visit. The School hosted the Queen and the Duke for a luncheon where the Queen was entertained by the Head Boy, Miles Linney, and the Duke was seated next to Head Girl Vanessa Bailey. As the Oakhamian supplement commented, “Vanessa clearly made a hit with the Duke, who jested with her as she got up to make her speech.”
On 28 November 2000, to celebrate the School’s 1,000th Gold Award, the Duke of Edinburgh himself attended a special event at the School. Oakham School was the first ever institution to achieve this milestone. The official 1,000th Gold Award was presented to Head Girl, Selina Conboy, in front of an audience in the Smallbone Library.
If you would like to see more photographs and items from our School Archives regarding the Duke of Edinburgh, please visit the Archive's special exhibition on libguides.
Please do share with us if you have any memories of meeting or seeing the Duke during one of his visits to Oakham School in the comments.