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Princess Anne pays poignant visit to Gordonstoun – the birthplace of her father’s Duke of Edinburgh Awards legacy

Princess Anne meets a line of flag-waving students at Gordonstoun
Princess Anne meeting students at Gordonstoun. Photo: Jason Hedges/DCT Media

Princess Anne paid an emotional visit to her late father’s school in Moray to unveil a plaque symbolising the birthplace of his most enduring legacy – the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

Gordonstoun, near Elgin, has educated three generations of British royalty and Prince Philip was one of its first pupils.

It was there he developed his love for sailing and set him on the path to creating the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

Today, Her Royal Highness visited the school and unveiled a plaque dedicated to his father and the awards.

The plaque was positioned on a large stone at the back of the main school building.

Gordonstoun birthplace of Duke of Edinburgh Awards

Prince Philip was one of the first students to achieve a Moray Badge as it was then known.

In 1956, Prince Philip put his name to the scheme and it was changed into the Duke of Edinburgh Award and expanded worldwide.

As part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the Moray Badge has been revived for 2021/22 with more than 5,500 students across Moray signing up for the programme.

Gordonstoun currently has around 165 students participating in the DofE and over 600 involved in the Moray Badge this year.

The plaque unveiled by Princess Anne at Gordonstoun. Photo: DCT Media

The scheme aims to encourage schoolchildren in Moray to rebuild their confidence by undertaking challenges.

Principal Lisa Kerr led the Princess Royal around on her visit and hosted a very private memorial for her father.

She said: “The Princess Royal was able to see some of the memorials that Gordonstoun had put in place for her father, who was the school’s tenth pupil.

“Her Royal Highness spent time speaking to two pupils who played an important role in the memorial service at Hopeman Harbour including the piper who had played and the student who had laid the wreath at sea.”

Prince Philip doing boat maintenance at Hopeman Harbour while a Gordonstoun pupil.
Prince Philip doing boat maintenance at Hopeman Harbour while a Gordonstoun pupil.

Piper John Prendergast said: “While Prince Anne was walking around looking at memorial I handed her the book of condolences and a photo of the wreath laying ceremony last year.

“Prince Philip visited a few years ago and I spoke to him. He was always joking and telling stories of his time at the school and its amazing to think that he grew up here like we have.”

Poignant visit for HRH

Princess Anne, now the warden of Gordonstoun, was also shown archive footage of her father from when he was a student along with pictures from when he was on the school cricket team.

Ms Kerr commented that this was a particularly “private and reflective part of her visit”.

Being the ceremonial warden of Gordonstoun, Princess Anne knew her way around the campus as she visited several areas including the new eco-friendly classrooms being built.

Excited students who were making their way to lessons lined the pathways as she made her way around and many of them were able to speak to her as she made time for everyone.

Ms Kerr described the visit as “very relaxed and natural” with the princess speaking to hundreds of people throughout her visit including students, the cleaners and the gardeners.

HRH showed a real interest in speaking to the students about their experiences during the pandemic and how lockdown had affected them with the move to online learning.

Around a third of the student body at Gordonstoun are international and so the school helped to install broadband in a student’s village in Rwanda so they could participate in online learning.

Ben Shaw, Duke of Edinburgh manager at Gordonstoun, said: “It’s the first visit by Princess Anne since her father’s death and it was her opportunity meet some of our current award students and to unveil the plaque in the grounds.

“This is the first year where the award has felt normal experience. For a couple of years, it has been frustrating for the students to carry out things like expeditions and volunteering and Princess Anne was genuinely interested in what we were doing.”

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