Duke finally cuts his old school ties

It had been the legacy of an exacting childhood in strife-torn Europe, and his passing of the baton yesterday marked the end of perhaps the longest chapter in the Duke of Edinburgh’s life.

The Duke of Edinburgh throwing a javelin while meeting participants in an Outward Bound activity.
The Duke of Edinburgh throwing a javelin while meeting participants in an Outward Bound activity.

In a gesture rich in Royal symbolism, Philip relinquished the patronage of the Outward Bound Trust, the rugged adventure charity that has its roots at his old boarding school in the Scottish Highlands.

He passed it not to his eldest son, Charles – who had described the regime there as “Colditz with kilts” – but to his brother and fellow graduate, the Duke of York.

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Philip had been one of the first pupils at Gordonstoun School, after it was set up in 1934 by Kurt Hahn, his mentor from Germany, who had fled from the Nazis.

The Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen meeting participants in an Outward Bound activity.

Its timetable began with a 6.30am cold shower and a run before breakfast, followed by 45 minutes of athletics during the mid-morning break.

In the 1940s, Hahn created Outward Bound in the same mould, with a mission to instil physical fitness, self-discipline and initiative, and the Duke of Edinburgh Awards grew out of it. The 97-year-old Duke had remained its patron despite having stepped down from public service two years ago.

Prince Andrew said it was “an enormous privilege” to follow his father, adding that he had been interviewed by Philip for an earlier position as a Trustee.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenges and rewards of guiding the Trust these past few years and with the wise counsel and guidance from my father,” Andrew said.

For Philip, who has described Hahn as “eccentric perhaps, innovator certainly, great beyond doubt”, his involvement with the Trust kept alive a link to the most significant period in his formative years.

He was submitted to the rigours of Gordonstoun after attending Hahn’s earlier school in Germany, in a period that saw his mother incarcerated for five years in a secure psychiatric clinic. Its lasting influence on him saw all three of his sons sent to the same school.

Three years ago, the Duke attended the 30th anniversary of the Kurt Hahn Trust, established at Cambridge University, and his continuing support for his work has seen the Outward Bound Trust taken to more than 30 countries worldwide.

It has helped more than 1m young people to participate in experiential outdoor learning programmes designed to develop character.

“You were meant to suffer – it’s good for the soul,” Philip told recipients of gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards in 2013.

Nick Barrett, chief executive of the Outward Bound Trust, said the Duke had stayed “remarkably close” to the charity, challenging its board and engaging directly with young people who benefited from its programmes.

“The Duke of Edinburgh’s involvement has gone far beyond any mere call of duty,” he said.

“We are immensely thankful but also stronger for all his intelligent and thoughtful direction and interventions.”