The original Royal Naval School was founded as one of the earliest academic girls’ schools in England in 1840. The co-ancestor of The Royal School, The Grove School, was founded in the 1850s and was, equally, a pioneer in girls’ education. From the outset the founders’ ambition was for the girls to become independent. There are specific reasons for this.
The Royal Naval School
In 1815 The Battle of Waterloo finally put an end to the Napoleonic Wars. In the following peace, the Navy was put on half or even quarter pay. Peace also brought an end to the long established tradition of sharing the prize money of any captured ships. As the Navy had been at war pretty well non-stop since the 1770s, the potential for Senior Officers to become wealthy and to set themselves up as country gentlemen had become established. The peace brought significant change in their way of life.
After Waterloo many Naval Officers found themselves in financial difficulty. They were able to send their young sons from age 9 upwards to sea as mid-shipmen where they would gain an education and valuable experience. Their daughters, however, were in a more difficult position. They were too high up the social scale to engage in any menial work in order to earn their own living but too poor to attract the attention of eligible husbands.
Admiral Jahleel Brenton, Admiral Sir Thomas Williams and Captain Hon. Francis Maude established The Royal Naval Female School as it was then known, specifically to provide a sound education which would enable the girls to go out into employment almost certainly as teachers and governesses. The school was founded for the daughters and sisters of Naval and Marine Officers.
Queen Victoria and the Queen Dowager were among the first subscribers and from the outset the School has enjoyed the great privilege of the patronage of The Queen. Our Patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, opened the QEII Sixth Form building in 1989 and our Royal Presidents in recent years have been loyal supporters. In 1975 Princess Anne inherited the Presidency from her uncle, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, after whom one of our teaching buildings is now named. Princess Anne has visited the School regularly, with her most recent visit for Prize Day in 2017. The Princess Anne Sports Hall was opened by her in 1986.
The Royal School’s motto Per Aspera Ad Astra – Through Challenge to the Stars – is another legacy from the Royal Naval School.
The Grove School
Our inheritance from The Grove School is interesting in terms of its intellectual adventurousness; right from the start a thorough education was offered. Certainly, it is clear that the founder Mrs Lacey was devoted to the cause of women’s education at a time when it was generally considered of minor importance. The Laceys were, indeed, deeply committed both to education and to the Christian faith; the name frequently appears through succeeding generations within The Grove records and beyond, in educational and missionary service abroad. Apart from lessons in their own establishment, extension classes at the University College of Nottingham - opened in 1881 – were well attended by both teachers and pupils.
From the outset the school combined a significant commitment to charity work among disadvantaged girls in London with academic ambition. A number of its pupils were amongst the earliest female students at Oxford and Cambridge. The second Headmistress, Miss Lacey, who took over from her mother, Mrs Lacey, achieved a first class degree in Modern History in the 1890s. It was not until the 1920s, when Oxford formally decided to confer degrees on female pupils, that Miss Lacey was among the number of middle aged people whose academic achievements were finally recognised.
The Royal School
The Royal Naval School and The Grove School joined together in 1995 to create an exceptional school in this area. The evolution from the Diamond model to fully co-educational began in September 2019 and we are delighted to be moving forward within the United Learning group.
We believe that the principles of our founders, intellectual vigour, care for others and independence remain the core values of The Royal School. Our founder schools were among the very first to take the education of girls seriously. We are grateful for their courage, ambition and prescience. They give strength to our present and inspiration to our own innovations, which will take us confidently into the future.