Gordonstoun mourns former pupil HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

It is with great sadness that Gordonstoun learned of the death on 9 April 2021 of one of its first pupils, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

His Royal Highness joined Gordonstoun in September 1934 at the age of 13 and attended the school for five years. He was the school’s oldest alumnus, having joined Gordonstoun in the year it was founded.

His Royal Highness was very happy at Gordonstoun and was deeply influenced by his time at the school. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which has been earned by millions of schoolchildren around the world, was inspired by the challenges and unique education His Royal Highness experienced at Gordonstoun.

Prince Philip was a member of the ‘Watchers’, one of the school’s community services (and a precursor to the Gordonstoun’s Coastguard Service). He also developed his love of sailing at Gordonstoun, inspiring his life-long love of the sea. He was an excellent all-round athlete, becoming Captain of Cricket and Hockey. In his final year he became ‘Guardian’ (Head Boy) and took part in the ‘Moray Badge’: the inspiration for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. The Moray Badge encouraged local children to experience elements of a Gordonstoun education and to achieve success in physical activities, outdoor pursuits and service to the community. Prince Philip gave his name to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award when it was made a national award in 1956 and it has now spread across the world to over 140 countries. Prince Philip took great pleasure in presenting Gold awards to its proud recipients throughout his life.

His Royal Highness regularly visited the school, most recently for a private visit in 2014 to mark the school’s 80th anniversary, when he insisted on joining students in the queue for lunch, rather than taking a seat and having it brought to him.

Three of His Royal Highness’ children followed him to Gordonstoun along with two of his grand-children. His daughter, HRH The Princess Royal, is the school’s ‘Warden’.

More recently, His Royal Highness gave his name to The Prince Philip Gordonstoun Foundation, an endowment fund which enables children from all backgrounds to access Gordonstoun’s life-changing education.

Lisa Kerr, Principal of Gordonstoun said;

“The Gordonstoun community joins together in conveying our sincerest condolences to Her Majesty The Queen and all the Royal Family at this very sad time. Students and staff at Gordonstoun remember HRH The Duke of Edinburgh as someone who made students feel at ease in his presence and who shared their love of Gordonstoun. He had an immensely strong character, combined with a unique sense of fun, infectious optimism and strong sense of duty.

“More than anything, he understood and was hugely supportive of Gordonstoun’s educational ethos, of not only fulfilling academic potential but also of developing life skills through experiences outside the classroom, including sailing and community service. We are immensely grateful for his support over the years and his presence and support in the school’s life will be sorely missed.”

A tribute page is being set up set up in honour of His Royal Highness on the Gordonstoun website. Pupils, staff and parents, both past and present, are invited to leave a message of condolence or share a picture.

Buckingham Palace has asked that donations are given to one of the charities or organisations that The Duke of Edinburgh supported in his public duties. Just two years ago Prince Philip gave his name to the Prince Philip Gordonstoun Foundation, a charity which enables more children from a wide variety of backgrounds to benefit from the same life-changing education as he did. To read more about the Prince Philip Gordonstoun Foundation and make a donation click here.

For further details about HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’s time at Gordonstoun, please read Gordonstoun’s obituary here.

For press enquiries, please contact:

Eleanor Bradford

  • Email: bradforde@gordonstoun.org.uk
  • Tel: 01343 837763
  • Mobile: 07860 557682



“To the north were the sheltered waters of the Moray Firth, to the south lay the Scottish mountains. Hahn saw these as invaluable additional classrooms. He was not about re-inventing the wheel; academic education remained the main purpose of the school. The sea and the mountains were there to broaden experience, to develop skills and enterprise, to open the eyes of young people to the wider world beyond school and home….Hahn’s legacy goes further, however, and it includes Outward Bound, the short-stay schools that introduce young people from the cities to his ‘classrooms’ on the sea and in the mountains; the United World Colleges that bring young people together; and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which aims to introduce young people to all those ‘extra-curricular’ challenges and activities that are so essential for a rewarding and fulfilling life. Hahn’s vision was that school needs to go beyond the classroom.”

(Gordonstoun, An Enduring Vision, 2011, Third Millenium Publishing)


Gordonstoun is an independent boarding school which was established in Moray in 1934 by Dr Kurt Hahn, a Jewish exile who fled Nazi Germany. He founded the school with the ideal of developing better world citizens equipped to contribute to society. Gordonstoun has been a pioneer of character education which, as well as academic subjects, includes outdoor activities, sailing, athletics and service to the community. Three generations of British royalty have been educated at Gordonstoun, including the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales. Approximately one third of the pupils at the co-educational boarding school receive financial help in order to attend. The school was described as ‘outstanding’ and ‘sector-leading’ in its most recent inspection.