Skip Navigation Links

Eton and King George III

There has always been a close association between the College and the monarchy. This may be partly because the office of Provost is a royal appointment but no doubt also because Eton is so close to Windsor Castle, which has so often been a favoured royal residence.

No monarch other than the Founder showed more interest in the school, nor became more Etonian at heart, than George III, who spent most of his long reign (1760-1820) at Windsor. School functions were frequently enhanced by his presence and he seldom passed through Eton without stopping to talk to masters and boys, many of whom he knew by name. On numerous occasions boys were entertained at the Castle. In return, the college deeply respected and loved the King, whose birthday, the Fourth of June, was made a holiday. To this day it is celebrated as a holiday with ‘Speeches’, cricket, and a procession of boats on the river (although by virtue of being now celebrated always on the Wednesday following the May bank holiday, it never falls on June 4th).

Speeches are held several times a year. Senior boys wearing tailcoats, knee-breeches, and black silk stockings recite by heart passages from literature before dignitaries of the College, visitors, and a large audience, usually consisting of an entire specialist block.

One of the ceremonies most often attended by George III was ‘Montem’. It was customary for the school to process to a small hill (‘ad montem’ in Latin means ‘to the hill’) on what is now the south side of Slough. (The approximate site is commemorated in the naming of the 'Montem' sports centre.) The origins of this festival are obscure but in any event it was ‘customary’ by 1561 and underwent various changes before it became, under George III, a major royal occasion held triennially. This colourful pageant was brought to an end after the 1844 Montem, with the reluctant consent of Queen Victoria, mainly because of the unmanageable crowds of sightseers brought to Slough by the new railway.