Why King Charles III supported Prince Harry’s decision to leave education and how other parents can learn from his approach

"That was why he didn’t press me to go to university. He knew it wasn't in my DNA”

King Charles III and Prince Harry
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Prince Harry has revealed that his father King Charles III thoroughly supported his decision not to go to university and other parents have a lot to learn from his relaxed and supportive approach.

Sending kids off to university is a massive milestone in the life of both a child and a parent. It's both exciting and terrifying, but when it's the right decision you can feel it in your stomach that all will be ok. 

That trust your gut instinct is one every parent has and King Charles III was forced to put it to use when his son Prince Harry was trying to plan out his future. 

After leaving Eton College, the school Prince George is expected to soon be attending, with a B in Art and D in Geography, the teenage Prince Harry began wondering about what to do at university; What institution to study at, what degree to sign up for, where to live - all the usual queries. But, as his dad watched on, he was keen to set him 'straight' and had a tough chat with the child about the best opportunities lying in his future. 

That's because, while Prince William had gone off to study at St Andrews at met his future wife Kate Middleton there, King Charles didn't feel that university life was something Prince Harry would enjoy or thrive in.

Prince William, Prince Harry and the Queen Mother

(Image credit: Sion Touhig/Getty Images)

Writing in his memoir Spare, Harry revealed, "That was why he didn’t press me to go to university. He knew it wasn't in my DNA. Not that I was anti-university, per se. In fact, the University of Bristol looked interesting.

"I’d poured over its literature, even considered a course in art history. (Lots of pretty girls took that subject.) But I just couldn't picture myself spending years bent over a book. My Eton housemaster couldn't either. He'd told me straight-out: You’re not the university type, Harry. Now Pa added his assent. It was no secret, he said gently, that I wasn’t the 'family scholar'."

The remark may have been particularly cutting, but the way Harry describes Charles' voice as saying it 'gently' perhaps hints that the father simply wanted to reassure his son and didn't intend the comment to be a negative one. 

With his Dad on board, the teenage Prince Harry never went to university and instead decided to join the Army. Speaking about this decision elsewhere in Spare he shared, "I never once regretted my decision to skip university." 

However, the Prince has since spoken out about how he took his education for granted when studying at institutions like Eton College. The Express reports he said, "I'm hugely grateful for the education I was lucky enough to have, at the time I certainly probably wasn't as grateful, but looking back at it now, I'm very, very blessed with having such amazing options."

King Charles and Prince Harry

(Image credit: Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage)

King Charles' approach is one that many parents can learn from. When Harry decided what was right for him, the father could see that he needed to be supportive. However, many parents, according to reports in Very Well Child, often push their educational values and hopes onto a child, forcing them to take paths that they don't actually want to go down.  

Suniya Luthar, PhD, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University told Very Well Child, “The rest of the world is giving children the message that they need to hurry up and do better; there’s no getting away from that.” The publication reports that, given this pressure, parents need to focus on supporting their child and creating a safe space where they can speak freely and calmly. 

While Charles approached the situation passively, agreeing with Harry outright that university wasn't for him, Dr Luthar does believe that a little push can still be a 'good thing' for kids, though she warns not to take it too far. 

"Encouraging your child to be their best is a good thing, as long as you give them some perspective and do it in moderation. A certain amount of anxiety is good (and can help kids do well on a test, for instance), but too much can be crippling," says Dr. Luthar. "Telling kids that only winning counts is too much of a good thing, with frightening consequences." 

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.