On this day in 1886, Queen Victoria opened Royal Holloway College, a women-only institute of learning which was bankrolled by the pills and powders magnate, Thomas Holloway. Holloway and his wife Jane lacked children. The entrepreneur was thinking about his legacy and it was Mrs Holloway who came up with the idea.
Royal Holloway eventually merged with another London women’s college, Bedford, becoming Royal Holloway and Bedford New College. A right mouthful, it is now more commonly known as Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL). Slightly better.
The reason I’m making a bit of a fuss is that Royal Holloway is my alma mater. Pray indulge me. I had been turned down by King’s and UCL chiefly on account of my awful A Level grades. Fair enough. RHBNC (as was) took me under their wing. I must thank those other London-based colleges for their chilly shoulder, because the teaching staff at Royal Holloway at that time included the likes of Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith, Professor Amanda Vickery, Professor Caroline Barron, Professor Nigel Saul, Professor Alison Brown, Professor Boris Rankov, Professor Julian Crysostomides, Professor Rosalind Thomas, Professor Jonathan Phillips, Professor Justin Champion. (names in bold were my tutors). Not all were professors at the time, I should just say. I’m sure you must recognise some of those great names.
So I was, and am, a very lucky historian. I am showing off, I admit, but I’m very proud of Royal Holloway’s History faculty.
Right now, thousands of young people are pondering which uni to sign up to. If you – or your son or daughter – are planning to do History, Royal Holloway is well worth a look.
Happy 130th birthday, Royal Holloway, and thanks.