They agreed that a charitable educational institution should be set up both as a monument to the Iron Duke and also as a living institution to educate the orphan sons of army officers – the original ‘Foundationers’.
Wellington College was granted its Royal Charter in December 1853 as the ‘Royal and Religious Foundation of The Wellington College’. The College was designed by John Shaw Jr (1803-1870) with Queen Victoria laying the foundation stone in 1856.
The first 76 boys, aged between eleven and fifteen, arrived on 20th January 1859: 49 were Foundationers paying fees of between £10 and £20 a year; the remaining 27 were sons of serving officers and civilians paying fees of between £70 and £100 a year. A week after the boys arrived, Queen Victoria performed the official opening ceremony.
In 1952 a Supplementary Royal Charter extended the privilege of eligibility to the orphan children of deceased officers of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force. In 2006 a further change extended the privilege to the orphan children of deceased servicemen or servicewomen of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces irrespective of rank, and to the orphan children of persons who, in the sole opinion of Governors, died in acts of selfless bravery.
The original Charter itself did not preclude the possibility of Wellington College becoming co-educational and a limited number of girls were allowed to join the Sixth Form from the 1970s onwards. In 2005 the decision was made to move to full co-education, with girls being admitted at 13+ and 14+ for the first time in September 2006. The College is now home to 1045 pupils, 80% of whom board and some of whom are still Foundationers.