Elizabeth College was founded in 1563 under the orders of Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth referred to it as her “Grammar School”. It was the fourth school to be established on the island, the others being the (loose) equivalent of primaries in St Peter Port, St Peters and St Martins. The first schoolmaster was Belgian scholar Adrian Saravia, who went on to become one of the translators of the King James Version of the Bible.
Until the 19th century, the school was poorly administered, and there was frequently only a very small number of students. The number of pupils had fallen to just one in 1799, when Jerseyman George Le Boutillier, who had established a business in St Peter Port and entered local politics, decided that something should be done about it.
He received little support until the arrival of Sir John Colborne as a new Lieut-Governor in 1921. He asked the Dean to investigate, but after two further years of inaction, in 1823 he established a committee to perform a full review of the school, and by 1826 there was a new staff and a more complete curriculum, and the school was in a position to attract fee-paying students from England.
Le Boutillier went on to develop the Le Boutillier Arcade, later the Commercial Arcade, before going bankrupt and then emigrating to the USA and making a further fortune.
In 1826 the foundation stone of a new building was laid, and the school was renamed as the Royal College of Elizabeth. The building, which remains a prominent feature of the St Peter Port skyline, was designed by John Wilson, who was also the architect of the French Halles, Castle Carey, and the former Church of St James the Less.
The entire school was evacuated during World War II to Great Hucklow in Derbyshire as a result of the occupation of the Channel Islands by Nazi Germany, and tradition says that a ghost of one of the Nazi soldiers walks the corridors at night.
Another once popular ghost story was that of a young boy that walks the corridors near the Le Marchant Library. He was said to have been locked in detention, but then forgotten about during the summer holidays, and subsequently starved to death.
The College also keeps records of every single student that has been taught there since 1824, in several volumes, with their name, birthdate and college number. The prestigious number "1" belongs to James Colborne (born 08 - 09- 1815), later Baron Seaton.
The school is split into three main sections, the main school, a pre-prep school and a pre-school. The upper school is situated overlooking the town and harbour of St Peter Port. On separate sites, it has playing fields totalling roughly 20 acres - the Memorial Field at Foote's Lane and College Field in King's Road, St Peter Port.
Underneath the school site is an extensive World War II German bunker which occupies a large space hidden from the surface, it is known to extend from the main building, under the tennis court and down to the street level of St Julians Avenue.
Elizabeth College has traditionally been a boys-only College. In the early 1990s, the college briefly admitted female students in the sixth form in order to cover the relocation of Blanchlande school. In 1999, a Sixth Form partnership arrangement was established with Ladies' College with shared teaching of AS and A2 lessons, split across the two Colleges.
As an independent school, the majority of pupils are fee-paying; however the States of Guernsey awards scholarships annually on the basis of Eleven Plus results. Students of Beechwood, the junior school section of Elizabeth College, are not permitted to take the eleven plus, and therefore must be fee-paying students if they are to attend the college.
Elizabeth College is a selective school, all prospective pupils (from states schools or the Junior School) must pass the entrance exam in order to be offered a place.
The school has traditionally focused on three major sports (football, hockey and cricket) one in each of the three terms. It has also been particularly successful in rifle shooting, regularly supplying members of the Athelings (GB Cadet) rifle team as well as combining with Victoria College to form the Channel Islands rifle team, that has won the Cadet National match in several recent years. The sport of Fencing has recently grown in the College with the school now regularly sending a team to the annual public schools fencing championships and other domestic competitions.
Since the 1820s, all pupils have been allocated a unique (sequential) school number. These are quoted below where known.
Victoria Cross recipients
The College has four Victoria Cross holders amongst its former pupils:
- Duncan Charles Home (665)
- John Frederick McCrea (1545)
- Lewis Stratford Tollemache Halliday (2237)
- Herbert Wallace Le Patourel (3811)
Bailiffs of Guernsey
The following Bailiffs of Guernsey were educated at Elizabeth College:
- John de Havilland Utermarck
- Thomas Godfrey Carey
- Henry Alexander Giffard
- William Carey
- Edward Chepmell Ozanne
- Havilland Walter de Sausmarez
- Arthur William Bell
- Victor Gosselin Carey
- Ambrose Sherwill
- John Loveridge
- Charles Frossard
- Geoffrey Rowland
Members of British Parliament
- Barry Jones, actor
- Robert Morley, actor
- Hugh Pembroke Vowles, engineer, socialist, & author
- PG Wodehouse, author
- Bruce Parker, BBC Television presenter, first presenter of "Antiques Roadshow"
- Murray Dron, Television presenter
- Ashley Highfield
- Elizabeth College Register, volumes I–IV
- Elizabeth College website
- Old Elizabethan Association website
- History of Elizabeth College, Guernsey Museums website
- Elizabeth College Register, 1824-1873 a digital copy of a book complied by Charles James Durand , Edward Charles Ozanne , Kentish Brock to celebrate the inauguration of the Old Elizabethan Association