Peter Beck - Master at King's Mead School before World War II

(obituary from the Times, 4th June 2002)

(click here for the original and photograph of Beck with the Royal Family)

PETER BECK was Headmaster of Cheam Preparatory School when it was attended by Prince Charles - but the school never quite won Charles's heart.The eight-year-old Prince, the Duke of Cornwall, arrived at the school on September 23, 1957, the first heir apparent in British history to be sent to preparatory school. He raised his blue school cap to Mr Beck, and then watched his parents drive away. According to Beck, Prince Charles quickly became a good mixer. Mary Beck, the headmaster's daughter and the only girl in the school, was his special friend.

Beck, the joint headmaster with Mark Wheeler, had already met the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Anne. The Queen told him that her son should be known as "Charles" by fellow pupils, and "Prince Charles" by members of staff, whom he, in turn, would address normally as "Sir".

In an attempt to head off intrusions, Beck and Wheeler arranged a press visit to the school before Charles arrived, and made a plea to be left in peace. However, in his biography of the Prince of Wales, Anthony Holden says that of the 88 days of Charles's first term, 68 saw stories in one newspaper or another, and rumours abounded of boys accepting bribes from journalists. It was in Beck's study that Charles listened to the broadcast of the Queen's announcement that she had decided to create him Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester. While at school he broke his ankle, contracted measles (causing urgent telegrams to the Queen in Pakistan), chickenpox and appendicitis.

Beck was appointed CVO in the year that Charles moved on to Gordonstoun. Years later, Charles met Beck's son, Philip. "I remember your father well," he said. "He caned me once - no, twice - for ragging."

Francis Peter Beck was educated at Gresham's School, Holt, and Magdalene College, Cambridge. During the Second World War he served with the Norfolk Regiment as adjutant of the 1st Battalion in 1941, and brigade major of the 35th and 1st Tank Brigades, 1942-44.

In 1946 he married Anne Frances, by whom he had a son and a daughter.

Peter Beck, Headmaster of Cheam Preparatory School, 1947-63, was born on June 27, 1909. He died on May 17, 2002, aged 92.

Return to King's Mead home page