The Royal College of Curepipe is one of the oldest institutions of the Republic of Mauritius, but although the actual building was completed in 1914, the history of the Royal College of Curepipe stretches back to to 1791. In that particular year, the ancestor of the Royal College of Curepipe, the 'College National' also known as the 'College Colonial' was founded in Port Louis. It was reserved for the children of the privileged classes of that area and the college bore the name of 'Ecole Centrale' in 1800, before taking that of 'Lycee Coloniale' from 1803 to 1810 during the final years of the French rule in Mauritius. The 'Lycee Coloniale' was a boarding school and military training was introduced.
For six months after the British conquest in 1810, the 'Lycee Coloniale' was used as a military hospital. Finally in 1813, the name of the college was changed by a decree of Governor Sir Robert Farquhar, dated the 27th January of that year and the 'Lycee' became the Royal College, with the status of a public institution under the protection of the Sovereign of Great Britain. The name has remained till this day despite the accession of Mauritius to the status of Republic. 1871 was the year during which a branch of the Royal College was first established in Curepipe, the reason being to provide students with an alternative to the long and tiring trips from Curepipe to Port Louis. By 1883, the Curepipe branch had a very good reputation and the then Rector, Mr. A. Messervy, declared during a prize-giving ceremony; "It is not improbable that the Curepipe Establishment may ultimately become the headquarters of the Royal College." Little did he know how true his words were! In 1899, during a plague epidemic, a large number of people fled from Port Louis to settle in Curepipe where in 1888, an official building of the Royal College had been built on a part of area known as 'Mare aux Joncs'.
This mass immigration turned out to be of great significance in the history of the Royal College. Around that time arose the question of a permanent site for the Royal College.In 1907, a Royal College Site Committee with Mr. Georges Guibert at its head presented a report that indicated Quatre Bornes as the best location. However, the cost was estimated at around R360 000 and the project did not advance from there. In 1912, it was decided that the college would remain in Curepipe and on the 1st October 1912, the Governor Sir Robert Chancellor and the Director of Public Works, Mr. Paul Le Juge de Segrais laid down the foundation stone of the present building. Two years later, on the 12th January 1914, the construction came to an end. The college built of blue basalt, resembled the Buckingham Palace of London with its characteristic symmetrical rectangular form.
The Royal College of Curepipe in 1914
Later to satisfy the needs of students, a hall, toilets, science laboratories and six classrooms were added to the original building. The extension work that was carried out was mainly of concrete, thus contrasting with the stone building. At the beginning of this century, the college was preparing pupils for the Matriculation and University degree examinations in the United Kingdom, as well as for the Junior and Senior Cambridge local examinations. The college was teaching Classical Subjects, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Modern Languages. English, French, English History and French History were compulsory throughout the course of studies.
The college was divided in two departments; the upper college with a classical and a modern side comprising four classes each, and a lower college comprising four classes. The studies were stretched over nine years. Latin was introduced in the third year and Greek and Science in the fifth year. There were twenty five hours of tuition per week. Fifteen scholarships were annually awarded through competition. Two scholarships were for studies in Great Britain and had been awarded every year since the Education Ordinance was passes in 1857. These scholarships were solely reserved for the Royal College. At the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century, the college had two of the most prestigious pupils ever: Dr. Maurice Cure, one of the most brilliant Mauritians of all times and founder of the Mauritian Labour Party; and Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam who later succeeded Dr. Cure as leader of that party, and led the country to independence.
Several other famous Mauritians like Sir Raman Osman and Sir Gaetan Duval studied at the Royal College. Until 1944, the Rector of the Royal College was one of the most powerful administrators in Mauritius. The department was, in fact, divided into two sections; one wholly dedicated to the administration of the Royal College and the other to the supervision of other educational institutions. At one time, the Rector was even the chairman of the first section of Institution and directly responsible, in 1934, to the Governor. However, in 1944, the powers of the Royal College of Curepipe within the administration of the department of Education was transferred to the Director of Education. The reason for this change was simple; the Royal College of Curepipe had eventually become a college among other colleges, despite the fact of remaining the most prestigious and most successful of them all.