Last weekend, St. Donat’s castle in South Wales hosted the graduation of Princess Alexia of the Netherlands and Princess Leonor of Asturias, both 17 and daughters of European kings. The ceremony took place at UWC Atlantic College, a high school located in the castle that has become a popular choice for young royals. Other recent alumni include Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant, who is Belgium’s future queen. Despite its updated atmosphere and curriculum, the school maintains discretion and avoids speaking to reporters. Its appeal is rooted in “deliberate diversity” and world peace, attracting students from both royalty and other wealthy families.
Citing the Indian Express, the rolling green lawns of a 12th-century castle perched on a windy stretch of the South Wales coastline hosted not one but two kings of Europe last weekend. The purpose of the visit to St. Donat’s by the royal families of Spain and the Netherlands was the graduation of their daughters from UWC Atlantic College, a high school housed in a remote castle once owned by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst.
Under unusually bright blue skies on Saturday, Princess Alexia of the Netherlands, 17, smiled in a white linen trouser suit flanked by her parents, Queen Maxima and King Willem-Alexander (a former Atlantic College student himself) in a photograph posted on Instagram. Princess Leonor of Asturias, who is also 17 and the heir to the Spanish throne, wore a scarlet red button-down blazer dress with split sleeves as she posed for selfies with her parents and younger sister Princess Sofia, who is set to start there in September.
The scene was a reflection of how Atlantic College, which is part of the United World Colleges group, has become the school of choice for many young royals. It increasingly draws students who may have once gone to better-known places like Eton College in the shadow of Windsor Castle or Institut Le Rosey on the edge of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, considered the most expensive boarding school in the world.
Other recent alumni of the school, which educates students for their final two years of high school, include Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant, who is Belgium’s future queen. She graduated in 2021 and went on to study at Oxford.
Citing the Indian Express, the British press has pondered whether the British royal family may break with tradition and send its own young heirs to a school that has recently educated several future queens of Europe.
Although UWC may have more of an updated atmosphere and curriculum than its more traditional counterparts, it does appear to subscribe to at least one very old — and very royal — convention: the art of being tight-lipped. The school did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article, and seems to mostly avoid speaking to reporters.
Tori Cadogan, the education editor of the British society magazine Tatler, said that the appeal of Atlantic College has largely to do with an optimistic ideology rooted in “deliberate diversity” and world peace. The school enrolls plenty of children of royalty and other wealthy families, but there are also a significant number of students on scholarships, including refugees and orphans.
Citing the Indian Express, the school’s website describes a “mission to make education a force to unite people, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.” The curriculum includes a mandatory “Atlantic Diploma,” which requires students to complete courses in subjects like environmental studies, international relations, and languages.
The Indian Express reports that the school’s emphasis on diversity and community service has been embraced by many of its royal students. “They come here to have a sense of normalcy,” Ms. Cadogan said. “They’re not treated any differently from the other students. They’re not given any special treatment.”
Despite its royal alumni, Atlantic College appears to have no qualms about breaking down traditional hierarchies. “There’s no hierarchy here,” Ms. Cadogan said. “The students call the teachers by their first names. It’s a very flat structure.”
In the end, Atlantic College may be exactly the kind of school that future queens — and kings — need to attend. As Ms. Cadogan put it, “It’s a place where they can be themselves.”