The King's College of Our Lady of Eton beside Windsor, commonly known as Eton College or just Eton, is a public school (that is, an independent, fee-paying secondary school) for boys in Eton, Berkshire near Windsor in England, located about a mile north of Windsor Castle.
Eton College boards approximately 1,200 boys between the ages of 13 and 18 who enjoy some outstanding facilities at a cost of over £23,000 (GBP) a year. A small minority of the pupils are there on (usually partial) scholarships provided for by the original bequest; hence, they are known as 'King's Scholars' and live in the college itself. The fully fee-paying majority belong to various 'Houses', and are known as 'Oppidans'. As at most 'public schools', its pupils achieve very good exam results.
It is famous for its alumni (known as Old Etonians) and the archaic traditions it maintains, including a uniform of black tailcoat and waistcoat, false-collar and pin-striped trousers. The uniform was first worn as mourning for the death of George III, and the uniform is still worn today for classes (known as "divisions" or "divs".) Other idiosyncrasies include the Eton Field Game, the Eton Wall Game, and the remnants of a peculiar slang.
The school is popular with the Royal Family and has produced nineteen Prime Ministers. There are many old Etonians in the Special Air Service (SAS). See the list at the foot of this page for more well-known Old Etonians.
Eton was founded in 1440 by Henry VI as a charity school to provide free education to seventy poor students who would then go on to King's College, Cambridge, which he also founded, in 1441. Henry VI took half the scholars and the headmaster from William of Wykeham's Winchester College (founded 1382). Eton is modelled on Winchester College, and became popular in the 17th century.
It is often suggested that the Duke of Wellington claimed "The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton". The credibility for this is believed by some to be dubious: Wellington briefly attended Eton, for which he had no great love, in the late 18th century, when the school had no playing fields or organised team sports, and the phrase was first recorded three years after the Duke's death. The Duke was, however, wildly popular at Eton, visiting many times later in his life.
Terminology and slang
Much of Eton slang is the same as other public school slang (for example calling the elder brother 'Major' and the younger brother 'Minor'). However, there are a few Eton-specific phrases, including:
- popper: Prefect (member of Pop).
- beak: Teacher
- stick-ups: The winged collars worn by certain members of the upper sixth form (B Block)
- absence: Roll call
- to cap: to raise a finger as a sign of respect, derived from tipping of a hat. All boys had to cap beaks when passing them in the street.
- a rip: when work is torn as a mark that it is substandard and has to be submitted for inspection of the house master and the boy's tutor
- a show up: the opposite of a rip - the paper is not ripped
- Tap: School bar
- Mespots: "Mesopotamia", one of many playing fields. Others include Upper Sixpenny, Lower Sixpenny, Agar's Plough, Upper Club.
Selected Old Etonians
The following are more complete lists of well-known Old Etonians: