William the Conqueror

updated 07/03/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/03/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

THEY ARE DEMONS AT POLO AND unsurpassed at waving to occasionally enthralled crowds. But one thing the Windsors are seldom revered for is intellectual prowess. So it was with particular pride that Prince Charles and Princess Diana announced through a spokesman on June 14 that they were "very pleased to learn that Prince William...has been accepted for Eton" in the fall. Well they should be, no matter how unlikely it would have been for Eton to turn away a future king. One of England's most exclusive public—meaning private—schools, the $19,600-a-year institution has been educating British luminaries for the arts, business and politics (20 prime ministers, including Gladstone, Pitt the Elder and Eden) since 1440. William, who turned 13 last week, will be the first heir to the British throne to attend Eton. In the past, most royals have been educated by tutors at home.

Their boys' education is one thing on which the battling Waleses see eye-to-eye. Charles has described his years at austere Gordonstoun in Scotland as "absolute hell" and wants his sons educated elsewhere, and Diana is anxious to carry on a family tradition; both her late father and her brother went to Eton. A few things will set the prince apart from the other 249 F-tits (Etonese for new boys): A detective will be posted outside his room, and there will be no nameplate on his door. But security may still be a problem. Manor House, where William will live, "is the most public house in terms of access," says one old Etonian. "William will be besieged wherever he goes." A bodyguard will accompany him everywhere, and the prince is expected to wear an electronic tracking device. It remains to be seen if that—and enthusiastic offers by some of his schoolmates to report on his doings to the tabloids—will cramp William's style. Although the F-tits follow a rather regimented routine, drinking is a favorite pastime of the older boys. Last November, two were suspended after trying to scramble over the walls of nearby Windsor Castle following a session at the Tap, the school's pub, which is open to students 16 and older. William will do well to avoid such trouble. The castle, after all, is the weekend retreat of his grandparents the Queen and Prince Philip.

Academics should prove less of a hurdle. A bright student, William will study Latin, Greek, French, English, chemistry, physics, biology, history and math. But "to be cool," says one old boy, "you either have an interesting personality or you're good at sport." (William is well-liked and good at soccer.) Position offers no protection. Witness the experience of Nepal's Prince Dipendra, who was at Eton in the 1980s. "He was short, fat and hopeless at sport," recalls a classmate. "Everyone was really nasty to him, and he used to demand that they be beheaded."

Reported by the London bureau

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