As recent politics illustrates, Eton has a reputation for producing pupils who achieve high office, but who are not sufficiently competent to hold high office. One thing that is rarely mentioned, however, is all the murder.
Take, for example, the Liberal party leader and old Etonian Jeremy Thorpe. Thorpe tried to have his lover Norman Scott murdered, a story told brilliantly in Russell T Davies’ A Very English Scandal. Thorpe was charming and likeable, which made his cold, premeditated decision to have a man murdered so shocking. Fortunately, thanks to Etonian incompetence, Scott survived the murder attempt. Although they did shoot his dog.
Perhaps the most famous example of Etonian incompetence and murder is Lord Lucan. Lucan intended to murder his wife but murdered the nanny by mistake. He beat the nanny, Sandra Rivett, to death with a lead pipe.
Then there is the case of the Old Etonian golfer Christopher Francis, who murdered his grandmother and aunt with a house brick and a kitchen knife, in a seemingly motiveless attack.
The most extreme Etonian murderer was probably the late Crown Prince Dipendra of Nepal, who had been sent to Eton by his father, King Birendra, who was another Old Etonian. On his return in 2001 Prince Diprenda got a gun and shot his mother, father, two siblings and five other members of the royal family, thus ending the royal line. He turned the gun on himself but took three days to die, during which time he automatically became king himself.
It’s a lot of murder, that’s my point. It’s more murder than there should be. To the best of my knowledge the school I went to, a comprehensive in North Wales, produced zero murderers. That is, I think, the normal amount. Of course, in some schools you will get the odd one, but you shouldn’t get loads. Something is very wrong if you get loads.
All this is before you get to things like the Eton Fainting Game, which involved the students strangling each other for kicks. Eton, it should be remembered, is a school that asked pupils applying for a scholarship the question, “How will you defend the murder of civilians when you’re Prime Minister?”
Eton has long had a reputation for producing people who were cruel and damaged. In fiction, Captain Hook and James Bond are Old Etonians. As the Old Etonian, serial adulterer and political diarist Alan Clark described it, Eton was “an early introduction to human cruelty, treachery and extreme physical hardship”. As well as murderers, it produces traitors, such as the spy Guy Burgess, and an awful lot of crooks. Etonians seem strangely proud of these. In Etonian terms, they are regarded as “bounders” who got themselves “into a spot of trouble.”
When the Old Etonian crook Darius Guppy wanted to get a journalist beaten up, before he was arrested and jailed, he phoned his old chum Boris Johnson and asked him to get the journalist’s address. Johnson, famously, agreed to do so. This struck many as shocking, but it is entirely in keeping with a culture of people who were taught from an early age that they were special and above the law. We happen to have a recording of this conversation but, given how much Etonian crime and murder we know about, you have to wonder about how much they got away with. They can’t all be that incompetent, can they?
It’s hard to imagine a school which produced so many murderers and villains being allowed to stay open if it served any other part of society. You can only imagine how we’d react if there was a school like that in a foreign country.
Of course, you can’t blame the children in all this. They are not born as sociopaths, and they have no say in where they are sent. The shame lies with the parents who choose to send their children there, knowing full well how they will turn out. We can only hope that those parents – unlike King Birendra – live to regret it.