Prince William Threw Himself Into School as a Distraction When Princess Diana Died

Prince William wasn't a great student in school, but he pleasantly surprised his teachers when he passed his GCSEs. Sadly, Will's academic success came when he threw himself into his studies as a distraction after the death of his mother, Princess Diana.

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  • Prince William was apparently not the best student in his high school days. The young royal "pleasantly surprised" his teachers when he passed all twelve of his GCSEs, according to royal expert and biographer Katie Nicholl.
  • Sadly, William's academic success came on the heels of a great loss, the death of his mother, Princess Diana. According to Nicholl, Will threw himself into his studies as a means of distraction after his mother's tragic death.
  • Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997.

Being royal doesn't mean that you're automatically great at everything, even though it can definitely seem like it does from the outside. Case-in-point: Prince William might be second in line to the British throne, but the future King of England was also a lackluster student in high school.

In her book Kate: The Future Queen, royal expert and biographer Katie Nicholl shares some details about Will's time in high school, before his now-famous college meet-cute with his future wife, Kate Middleton. According to Nicholl, Will always knew that he was different from his classmates and chose to lean into any awkwardness about his royal status with jokes:

"Throughout his school life, William was well aware of how different he was. He would joke on the weekends that he was 'off to WC,' which baffled his friends at first until they realized he didn't mean the toilet, but nearby Windsor Castle, 'to see Granny.'"


But, being popular and funny doesn't always mean being the best of students and Will was no exception. In fact, his teachers at Eton College (Will's secondary school—the British equivalent of high school) apparently didn't think Will would even pass his GCSEs—General Certificate of Secondary Education, a set of tests that, if passed, basically give students the equivalent of their high school diploma.

"He had pleasantly surprised his teachers at Eton when he passed each of his twelve GCSEs, excelling in English, history, and languages," Nicholl wrote.

That's great, of course, but one of the reasons that Will appeared to turn things around academically? That's just devastating. The teenaged royal apparently focused on school as a way to cope with the loss of his mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car accident in August 1997.

"The loss to Prince William and Prince Harry was almost unbearable, and when William returned to school, he threw himself into his studies as a distraction," Nicholl explained.

Kayleigh Roberts
Weekend Editor

Kayleigh Roberts is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional experience. Her byline has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Allure, Entertainment Weekly, MTV, Bustle, Refinery29, Girls’ Life Magazine, Just Jared, and Tiger Beat, among other publications. She's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.