60 year old, Charles Spencer; 9th Earl of Spencer, the younger brother of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Uncle of Prince William and Royal-Renegade Harry tells the all too familiar story of condoned, institutionalized abuse in his memoir ” A Very Private School.” The 270 paged book is a maddening, saddening account of parental and custodial abandonment.

Palpable is the agony of the little boy entrapped at Maidwell, a boarding school marketed to aristocratic families. The bill of goods sold the impression Maidwell’s atmosphere provided rigorous training to the right people and transformed soft little boys into strong young men.

Spencer recounts emotional torment, corporal punishment and sexual traumas as routine. He explains there was a systemic, stylized pattern to the ritual of scaring the innocent.  Forced at eight years old to leave his happy home for Maidwell, he was transformed from a happy-little-bee of a boy into a homesick child. He thought of the elite school as an inescapable prison, a variation on “The Lord of the Flies”. 

Because abuse was the cultural norm at Maidwell, Spencer’s recollections of hopelessness saturate every paragraph of the well-paced book. Within the confines of the school it was tradition to keep vulnerabilities to one’s self, fears, tears and weaknesses were exploited by the hierarchy of the duplicitous headmaster, his entourage of enabling teachers and henchmen-like upper class-men. To complain within the system was futile. To complain to a parent would have broken an implied commandment,  that a parent’s happy adulthood was dependent on freedom from the responsibilities of childhood development.

Charles Spencer realizes the cruelties of Maidwell laid the foundation for ongoing psychological traumas in adulthood. He blames his failed marriages on his inability to be open and develop trust in bonded relationships.

The redemptive value of this book underscores how institutions of sterling reputations have and continue to trade on pretense and silence. Pedigrees of polished professionals are an albatross to those manipulated by their unquestionable air of being above reproach.

This book is the story of Charles Spencer and classmates who also attended Maidwell. That enclave cloaked in tweed jackets has transformed since Spencer’s graduation. He believes however,  the greater lesson to be leaned remains relevant to many; patterns of institutionalized, criminal corruption continues to be protected by those who wear business suits, clerical robes, and monogrammed hospital lab coats. Spencer’s admonition is to avoid group think, question authority and remain vigilantly engaged as parents.





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