Royal College

Royal College (Sinhala: රාජකීය විද්‍යාලය Rajakiya Vidyalaya) (Tamil: றோயல் கல்லூரி Royal Kalloori) (also referred to as Royal College Colombo, Royal College, Colombo 7, Colombo Royal College, or simply as Royal) is a selective entryboys’ school located in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Started as a private school by Rev Joseph Marsh in 1835, it was established as the Colombo Academy by Sir Robert Wilmot-Horton in January 1836, the first government-run secondary school for boys in the island.

Royal College is considered to be the leading public school in Sri Lanka and is often referred to as the “Eton of Sri Lanka”. The school was founded in the British public school tradition, having been named the Royal College Colombo in 1881 with royal consent from Queen Victoria, and it was one of the first schools to be designated as a national school by the Sri Lankan government in the 1980s. As a national school it is funded by the government as opposed to the provincial council providing both primary and secondary education. The school was selected as “one of best innovative colleges” in the world by Microsoft in 2009.

Students of Royal College are known as Royalists whilst past pupils are known as Old Royalists. The school has produced many distinguished alumni, among whom are presidents of two countries, a sultan, and three prime ministers.


Situated in a quiet residential suburb of Colombo known as the Cinnamon Gardens, it occupies an area of 37 acres (150,000 m2) (with the Sports Complex) along the Rajakeeya Mawatha, bordered by Reid Avenue to the east; Kumarathunga Munidasa Mawatha (formally Thurstan Road) to the west and to the south its former premises, which now houses the Department of Mathematics of the University of Colombo.

he school is located on 37 acres (150,000 m2) where the primary school, the middle school and the upper school are located. It is equipped with lecture halls, science and computer laboratories, and auditoriums. This includes the College Hall and the Navarangahala, a national theatre. The school hostel is located within the school grounds and it accommodates students from outside Colombo, with around 230 hostelers.

Sport plays a major part in Royal College’s activities. The school’s facilities include a swimming pool, cricket and athletics grounds, tennis courts, basketball courts, and indoor cricket nets within the school premises. The Royal College Sports Complex and the rugby grounds are located a short distance from the college. The international standard sports complex, built in 2000, hosts national and school sporting events all year round.

College song

The college song is “School of Our Fathers”, which is sung at the start of the school day and on important occasions. The words of the song were written by Major H.L. Reed, a principal of the school in 1927. The music was later revised by S. Schmid.

In 1968, a shorter version of the college song in Sinhala was composed on the instructions of the principal by the same people who composed the first song (Messrs W.A. Wickramasena and S.J.F. Dissanayake). It is sung at the end of the school day.

Prefectorial system

In addition to the teachers, four categories of senior boys are entitled to maintain school discipline. Boys who belong to the most senior category of student leaders prefects wear a silver college crest on their all-white uniform.

  • Senior Prefect: A senior prefect is a member of the most senior prefectorial group of Royal College: The Prefects’ Council. Selected based on the criteria of academics, co-curricular and extra-curricular, senior prefects are appointed on a probationary basis after completing the final exams at school (GCE Advanced Level). Of these only a handful are appointed as Senior Prefects. Since they have completed their final examinations, they are senior than any other student of the college. Hence their disciplinary powers extend to all students of Royal College. And they effectively stay another year at school, monitoring and supporting all its academic, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities in general. From amongst the Senior Prefects are chosen the Head Prefect to lead all prefects of the college, and the Prefects’ Top Board, which consists of the Head Prefect (HP), the Senior Deputy Head Prefect (SDHP) and five Deputy Head Prefects (DHPs). Notable head prefects include: J. R. Jayewardene, Sepala Attygalle, Ranjan Madugalle and Neville Kanakeratne.
  • Steward: selected from students in grade 12, they assist the senior prefects to exercise discipline in Upper School (grades 10, 11).
  • Junior Prefect: selected from students in grade 9 (grade 8, until 1998), their disciplinary powers are limited to the students of the Middle School (grades 6–9).
  • Primary Prefect: selected from students in grade 5, their disciplinary powers are limited to the students of the Primary School (grades 1–5).


The students are divided into five houses. Formally four houses were established in 1918 by Principal Hartley with the names Cinnamon Gardens, Bambalapitiya North and South, and Colpetty. They were renamed in 1921 by Principal Major H. L Reed with names derived from past headmasters and principals of the college. In 1970 the fifth house was established in memory of Principal Reed. The houses are led by House Captains, and compete to win the inter-house games and house colours are awarded winners. The houses are:

Hartley House
  • Colours: pink and blue
  • Established: 1918
Harward House
  • Colours: pink and grey
  • Established: 1918
Marsh House
  • Colours: pink and brown
  • Established: 1918
Boake House
  • Colours: red and black
  • Established: 1918
Reed House
  • Colours: red and white
  • Established: 1970
Interior of the Royal College Main Hall, listing the Panel Prizes on its walls.

There are 165 endowed prizes and awards. The College Main Hall carries the names of those students who have won the Panel Prizes. The most coveted prize at Royal is the Dornhorst Memorial Prize, awarded (since 1930) to the most popular student each year on the basis of votes, in memory of Frederick Dornhorst, KC, followed by the Lalith Athulathmudali Memorial Prize for the most outstanding Royalist of the year. The celebrated Turnour Prize, in memory of George Turnour, is the oldest of the panel prizes. First awarded in 1846 to C. A. Lorensz, it is given annually to the best student in performance in academics. In 1876 another panel prize, the Lorensz Scholarship, was established. It is awarded annually to the best all rounder with best in performance in academics and sports.

These prizes are awarded at the prize-giving under the patronage of the President of Sri Lanka (earlier under the patronage of the Governor of Ceylon).

The Royal Crown, the most prestigious award a sportsman can achieve at Royal, is awarded each year at Colours Night to a sportsman who has made outstanding achievements in his field of sports. Colours are awarded to other players who have made significant contributions in the sporting arena.

Scholarship and prizes

Prize Year of Institution
Turnour Prize 1846–
Senior Mathematical Prize 1846–1934
Shakespeare Prize 1870–1932
English University Scholarship 1870–1926
Lorensz Scholarship 1876
Director’s Prize 1883–1921
De Soysa Science Prize 1893
Sir James Peiris Memorial Prize 1905
Donald Obeyesekere Prize 1912
F Dadabhoy Memorial Prize 1922
The Governor’s Prize 1922–1947
C M Fernando Memorial Prize 1925
Harward Memorial Prize 1926–1963
Steward’s Prize 1929
Dornhorst Memorial Prize 1930
Gate Mudaliar R E Gooneratne Memorial Prize 1933
G L Rupasinghe Memorial Prize 1934
Dr F E Weerasooriya Memorial Prize 1934
Canon Lucien Jansz Memorial Prize 1934
Adigar A Sellamuttu Prize 1935
Ruby Andries Memorial Prize 1935
Stubbs Prize 1935–1970
Sir Edward Denham Memorial Prize 1939
Dr C A Hewavitarane Memorial Prize 1942
Cecil Perera Memorial Scholarship 1944
The Governor General’s Prize 1947–1972
Peter De Abrew Memorial Scholarship 1948
Dr H L H De Mel Memorial Prize 1948
Earle De Zoysa Memorial Prize 1952
P U Ratnaunga Prize 1952
J N Jinendradasa Memorial Prize 1954
E W Perera Memorial Memorial Scholarship 1954
Dudley K G De Silva Prize 1957
R H Wickramasinghe Memorial Prize 1957
Tissa Wickramasinghe Memorial Prize 1963
Amal De Mel Memorial Prize 1966
Harsha Panditha Gunawardena Memorial Scholarship 1967
T D Jayasooriaya Memorial Prize 1970
Mudaliyar L C Wijesinghe Prize 1970
The President’s Prize 1973
Omeon Mendis Memorial Scholarship 1973
1927 Group Scholarship 1978
George Rajapakse Memorial Scholarship 1973
Ajantha Wijesena Scholarship 1978
Sir Henry De Mel Memorial Prize 1983
Lalith Athulathmudali Memorial Prize 1994
J R Jayawardene Memorial Prize 1997

Trophies and sports scholarships

  • Col. T.G. Jayawardena Memorial Shield
  • Maalin Dias Sports Scholarship
  • E L Bradby — J C A Corea Prize
  • Grp. Capt. D.S. Wickremasinghe Memorial Prize

Sports and Extra Curricular Activities

Sport is a major part of Royal College, with over 21 different sports played. Taking center stage of the annual sporting calendar are the Royal-Thomian (Big Match), the Bradby and the Regatta.

Other sports played at Royal include;

A Royal flag at the 128th Royal Thomian

Cricket has been played at the school since 1838 and the Royal College Cricket Club was formed in 1878 by Ashley Walker. The annual cricket match, The Big Match, played against the school’s traditional rival, S. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia is the longest uninterrupted cricket match series in the world. The original match was played between Colombo Academy and S. Thomas’ College, Mutwal Modara in 1879, with schoolmasters participating as well as schoolboys. From 1880 onwards, only schoolboys were allowed to play in the match.

Until 2006 the tally stood with both schools winning 33 each and 61 drawn. This is preceded by the Cycle Parade which usually happens on the day before the big match, with the official objective of visiting the captain’s house to encourage him.

Royal-Trinity Bradby Shield Encounter

The annual rugby encounter against friendly rival Trinity College, Kandy is the Blue Riband of schools’ rugby in Sri Lanka. Rugby was introduced at Royal in 1916, and the first historic match against Trinity was played in 1920. The Bradby Shield was first presented in 1945 by the departing Principal of Royal College, E. L. Bradby. Since 1945, two matches have taken place each year, one in Kandy and the other in Colombo. The Shield is awarded to the school that gets the highest aggregate of points in the two match series.

The Centenary match between the two schools was the second leg encounter played in 1983 – the Chief Guest was Mr E.L Bradby himself. The 2008 second leg match was the 150th match between the two schools.

The 2002 Bradby encounter was the highest scoring encounter for Royal, led by Zulki Hamid, winning a record (39–00) in the first leg held in Colombo and winning the second leg (44–00) in Kandy, thus winning the Bradby Shield with a record aggregate of 83–00.

The 2009 Bradby first leg was won by Royal (23–12) in Kandy. The second leg was also won by Royal (31–15) in Colombo. Thus Royal won the Bradby for 2009 with an aggregate of 53–27.

Royal-Thomian Regatta

Royal (nearside) winning the Junior Pairs 2007 in a record time.

Royal was the first school to start its own rowing program in 1953. The Regatta is the annual regatta between Royal College and S. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia. The Boat Race which is a coxed fours event began in 1962. By 1966, it broadened out to give rise to the regatta having a card of six events, made up of 2 Single Sculls, 2 Coxless Pairs and 2 Coxed Fours. The events take place at the Beira lake (alongside the Colombo Rowing Club) in Colombo around October each year with the T. N. Fernando Trophy awarded to the overall winner.

In 2007, under the captaincy of Maalik Aziz, Royal won the regatta with a record 40 points to nil, for the first time in its history. The Royal College Crew created records in all six events including a record for the Boat Race with a timing of 3 mins 11 secs (elapsing the previous record of 3mins 19secs).

Co-Curricular Activities

Clubs and societies

The college magazine and the library started in 1837. Today there are over 60 clubs and societies.

Some of these are;


Organized by the Adventure Club, students have undertaken several expeditions:

  • 1996 Himalayas
  • 2001 Gokio Peak


Entrance to the Navarangahala.

The college has a strong association with the study of music, both western and oriental. The College Choir and the Royal College Orchestra, which is part of the Western Music Society (formally the Royal College Music Society) have a long and rich history. Performances are held at the College Hall, at the Navarangahala (designed specifically for oriental performance), and in recent times at the newly constructed Nelum Pokuna Performing Arts Theatre. There are several marching bands including the Senior Cadet Band Platoon, Middle School Western Band, Junior Western Band and the Oriental Band.

The annual musical festival SAGA organized by the School Development Society with the assistance of alumni has become an important event on Colombo’s cultural calendar.


Many plays are put on every year at Royal, organized by the English Drama Society (formally the Royal College Dramatic Society) and the Sinhala Drama Society. Sinhala and Tamil drama productions are hosted at the college’s main theatre, the Navarangahala, which is specially designed for local drama and music which require open air type auditorium in accordance to Natya Shastra. English language productions are hosted at the Lionel Wendt, which is near the school. The school’s’Little Theatre’ is currently in use by the Royal College Film Society’s screening of classical and contemporary films. Productions are staged regularly by alumni, organized by the Old Royalists Association of Dramatists and the Royal College Union.

Cadet Contingent

The Royal College Cadet Corps is the oldest school cadet contingent in Sri Lanka. It was the first cadet battalion to be formed in a school in Ceylon in 1881, attached to the Ceylon Light Infantry soon after its own formation that year. Later named the Royal College Volunteer Corps, it was attached to the Ceylon Volunteers by the Volunteer Gazette of 1905. In 1979 a Senior Cadet Band Platoon was added. In 2007 Royal was one of two schools to establish the first Air Force Cadet platoons in the country.

Both the Cadet Contingent and Senior Cadet Band Platoon have performed well, gaining claim as two of the finest units in the country. Over the years the Cadet Contingent has won the Hermanloose Trophy in many years, and the Senior Cadet Band Platoon has won the Lt. Gen. T.I. Weerathunga Trophy ten times.

School magazines

The college magazine dates back to 1837 when The Colombo Academy Miscellany and Juvenile Repository was published on a monthly basis during the time of headmaster Rev. Joseph Marsh. The Royal College Magazine, the official school magazine, was first published in 1893 and was printed at the Times of Ceylon Press. Its first editor was E. W. Perera. The magazine was published until the 1970s by the school press, edited by students. Its publication resumed in 1993 and has continued since. Its editors include J. R. Jayawardene, Christopher Weeramantry, Lalith Athulathmudali, M. C. Sansoni, N. E. Weerasooriya, F. C. de Saram, Pieter Keuneman, Lakshman Wickremasinghe, Neville Kanakeratne and B St. E de Bruin.

The Royalist is the school paper, published every quarter.


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