American Harry Hunters- Newsweek ’s moniker for Yanks hoping to snag Prince William’s younger brother -have been out in droves, scavenging London’s purported royal hangouts like the nightclub Mahiki in the hopes of becoming Kate Middleton Version 2.0. But one, at most, can succeed. Should the rest pack away their bandage dresses and head back to the States? No. Instead, they should try for an earl, viscount, or even a nouveau riche trading scion (if they are really desperate). And where would you find such a gentleman? At William and Harry’s alma mater, Eton College.
Founded in 1440 by Henry VI, Eton is the glinting jewel in the crown of English boarding schools. It has educated 19 British prime ministers, earning it the sobriquet “chief nurse of England’s statesman.” Other famous Old Boys include Percy Shelley, John Maynard Keynes, and House hottie Hugh Laurie. These elite Brits were shipped off to Eton at the tender age of 13 where they mingled with a smattering of princes from African kingdoms and Arab caliphates. For the rest of their lives, they’re known as Old Etonians.
Sign me up, you might say. I’ll settle for a viscount. But beware, fair reader. It may not be mere coincidence that the term OLD ETONIAN is an anagram for “NO, NOT IDEAL.” Here are the difficulties one might encounter when hunting for your Will replacement:
1. You’ll have trouble finding an Old Etonian.
After leaving school, Etonians do not generally mingle with the hoi polloi . In fact, they tend to mix mostly with each other. (Just this year, Kate and Wills attended the wedding of his old Eton bud Harry Aubrey-Fletcher.) And if you are not a rich aristo, your chances of meeting one, let alone marrying one, are slim.
2. If you manage to find one, he’ll be prettier than you.
A casual observer might conclude that Eton recruits for beauty alongside brains. A typical specimen is Constantine Louloudis, a 19-year-old grandson of a viscount who now studies classics at Oxford. This British-Greek OE appears to have descended from Olympus itself to row for England in the 2012 Olympics . Despite their youthful pulchritude, however, many rosy-cheeked young Etonians become ruddy and portly in middle age.
3. Eton is like a cult.
Eton is steeped in arcane terminology and thrives on eccentric games, uniforms, and popularity contests. You might, for example, see two Etonians, an Oppidan and a Tug, heading to divs during Michaelmas Half. (Translation: a standard Etonian and an academic scholarship student, or King’s Scholar, going to class during the fall semester.) For those on the inside, these traditions are an endless font for knowing banter. When the old boys gather, you-as wife-will have to endure quite a lot of it.
4. First against the wall when the revolution comes.
Imagine the stigma of Harvard elitism stripped of all semblance of meritocracy. Yes, Eton offers a few scholarships to less-well-off students. But on the whole, the school still reeks of the ancien régime . You can imagine what the, er, plebeians make of this. When current Prime Minister David Cameron ran for office, the fact that he had attended Eton (a “four-letter word”) was a major political issue. The lefty British tabloid The Mirror delighted in branding “Eton-educated” Cameron a “Tory Bastard” and “Little Lord Fauntledave.”
5. Emotional baggage.
Some who attend Eton never quite get over it. On a personal level, it may be that your knight in shining armour never takes his armour off. What do you expect from a man raised in an institution designed to swap motherly love for love of the motherland. This served Britain well when it came to building the Empire. It may serve you less well when you’re trying to build a relationship.
If you’re still keen, it’s not all bad news. The British boarding schools have at least shed their reputation for beatings and buggery. In fact, when it comes to OEs, some positive stereotypes do prevail. They can charm anyone, are certain to succeed, and remain unflappable under fire. If you manage to find an alpha Etonian-one who hasn’t been cowed into submission, bullied, or mercilessly mocked for some minor physical impediment-you may find yourself falling in love with a dashing, brilliant world conqueror. The real challenge then, of course, is eating British food for the rest of your life.
Photograph of boys playing the “wall game” at Eton by Christopher Furlong for Getty Images.