On Wednesday morning, Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, visited Oxford for a set of engagements comprising the ceremonial opening of Magdalen College’s renovated Longwall Library, in addition to visits to the University’s two latest showpieces, the Weston Library on Broad Street and the Blavatnik School of Government in Jericho.
It was, however, the Prince’s visit to Magdalen, which garnered the most attention, as a sizeable crowd of students greeted William, who chatted to several College members, in particular to a group of students who had raised nearly £400,000 towards the cost of the new library as part of a Telethon fundraising campaign.
The Prince was ‘more charming than I expected’, according to one student, as he talked amiably with Magdalen members about his own student days, describing himself as ‘allergic to chemistry’, and reminiscing about his avoidance of the library. He also took time to talk to a group of college scouts, asking them about the general tidiness of student rooms, declaring ‘I know students!’ as he speculated that the scouts’ task might be quite an exigent one.
The Magdalen president gave a short speech recalling the College’s extensive links to the Royal Family in the past; the Queen visited 8 years ago for the 350th Anniversary event, though the most notorious royal alumnus of the College, Edward VIII, was conspicuously absent from the speech. He briefly outlined the improvements made to Magdalen’s library facilities, citing a balance struck between tradition and a contemporary and airy feel by the architects, eliciting a groan from the watching students as he declared that the new library should lead to even better exam results for the already table-topping college.
A number of students were present to greet the Prince, with reactions ranging from muted – ‘he’s a bit taller than I expected’ – to enthusiastic, notably from Rupert Stonehill, a 1st year English student, who said it was ‘a pleasure to have him in college’, also expressing sympathy for the royal, on the basis that the constant media and popular attention restricted his ability to interact normally with the students.
Following the visit to Magdalen, the Prince popped his head through the door of both the Weston Library, completed last year for the purpose of housing rare and antiquarian collections as well as manuscripts of historical interest, before moving on to the Blavatnik School of Government, a newly-completed and controversial faculty of public policy and international governance.
William himself is an alumnus of St. Andrews University.
Image: Magdalen College