Goodbye, Mum! Prince William, 8, Forsakes Home, Hearth and Harry for the Manly Rigors of Boarding School

updated 09/24/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/24/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

He traded in his short pants for trousers more than a year ago. Now, with his arrival at boarding school last week, Prince William, 8, has taken the second critical step down the well-trod road to royal manhood.

Sandwiched between his parents in the back of a Bentley, Wills got out at the entrance to Ludgrove Preparatory School in Berkshire and shook the hands of the headmasters, Gerald Barber and Nichol Marston. Charles, walking with a cane after his recent bone-graft surgery, accompanied Diana and their son to the dorm room Wills will share with five other boys, but they didn't linger. In less than half an hour, Diana returned to London in her Jaguar, and Charles limped to the Bentley to go back to Highgrove, the Waleses' weekend home, where he's recuperating.

By all accounts it will be school business almost as usual at the 186-student Ludgrove. "We shall treat Prince William in exactly the same way as the other pupils," says Barber. He will rise and shine at 7:15 A.M., visit the communal bathroom and begin classes after prayers and breakfast in the oak-paneled dining room. Bedtime for first-year students is 6:30 P.M. with a compulsory quiet period until lights out at 8 P.M.. Not so normal will be William's moniker—while all the other boys are known by their surnames, he will be called William—and the retinue of bodyguards who will watch over him day and night.

In addition to learning the three Rs at the $4,000-per-term school, Wills will study art, French and carpentry. On study breaks he can go to the pool, the sports complex or the nine-hole golf course.

Although the Waleses chose not to send Wills to Cheam, Charles's old school, by enrolling him in Ludgrove they have immersed him in the fledgling stages of the aristocratic Old Boy Network. The 97-year-old school's alumni include the Duke of Kent and the Duchess of York's father, Maj. Ronald Ferguson. What Wills will learn is catalogued in the irreverent yet style-setting Shane Ranger Handbook: "Knowledge of who's above you and who's below, who's equal and how to behave towards them.... The fellowship is truly lyrical."

Lyrical enough, one hopes, to keep Wills from getting homesick. Phone calls home are forbidden, and he is allowed to leave the secluded 130-acre campus only three weekends a term. As for Diana, she'll have to fill her time by mothering Harry, 6, who returned to the days-only Wetherby School earlier this month, and tending her 40-odd charities.

With Wills away and Harry to follow suit in two years, the rumor mill has again started Wales tales of a pregnant pause. But Diana, who turns 30 next year, may not be ready for more maternity suits. On a recent outing for the child-care charity Birthright, the Princess gave mothers-to-be a quick course in nutrition and revealed her secrets. When pregnant with Wills, she said, she had a yen for kippers, and while expecting Harry, she did a lot of swimming. Royal observers note that while Diana still takes a daily swim, there's no evidence that she's eating more kippers.

Mary H.J. Farrell, Terry Smith in London

From Our Partners