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Marshall Scholar meets Prince Charles

Over the past two years as a Marshall Scholar studying at Oxford University, I have had some incredible opportunities, from singing evensong in a 17th century chapel to studying rare manuscripts in the storied Bodleian Library. But celebrating the Marshall Scholarship’s 60th Anniversary with the Prince of Wales was truly once-in-a-lifetime.

Prince Charles’s presence at the reception was owing to the Marshall Scholarship’s 60th Anniversary celebrations. Along with fellow Marshall Scholars, I met the Prince of Wales at a reception in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Before he arrived, we worried over how to address him (first “Your Royal Highness” and afterward “Sir”, I learned) and whether to bow (I opted for a plain old handshake). I had spent the better part of an afternoon picking out a tie. And then there was the issue of what to talk about with the heir to the British throne!

It turns out our worries were misplaced. Prince Charles was personable and greeted us all warmly. When my turn came, he asked after my studies in English at Oxford and reminisced about his own time at a different, but still venerable English university—he attended what Oxonians know as the “Other Place”, Cambridge. Our conversation was brief, and it was only after he moved on that I realized I had just discussed my research with royalty—an interaction I would never have dreamed of when I entered UGA as a freshman in fall 2008.

Since the first class of Scholars in 1954, the Marshall Scholarship has funded American students to study a wide range of subjects at Britain’s most prestigious academic institutions—Wolfson College, Oxford in my case. While in Oxford, the “city of dreaming spires,” I have delved into my interest in the British Empire and its literature. I have completed a master’s degree, writing a thesis that focused on Joseph Conrad and late-nineteenth century print culture. This year, conducting research through the Oxford Centre for Life-writing, I have used archives at the British Library to explore the perhaps surprising relationships between British and Indian intellectuals in the nineteenth century. Those interactions led to interesting exchanges of ideas and texts, but they also speak poignantly to a human dimension of complex colonial relations.

The Marshall is more than an academic award, though, and the scholarship aims to strengthen cultural and diplomatic ties between Britain and the United States. In the 1950s, it was the legacy of the Second World War that prompted the scholarship’s namesake, General George Marshall, to write to the first Marshall Scholars, “a close accord between our two countries is essential to the good of mankind in this turbulent world of today.” It is this dimension, I think, which makes the scholarship special - the Marshall Scholarship immerses scholars in British culture by, for example, organizing annual trips to Britain’s devolved governments: Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

This August, I will leave Oxford to enroll at Stanford Law School, but I’ve learned a great deal in my two years here: how to “take the mickey” and cycle on the left-hand side of the road—even how to address royalty. Meeting Prince Charles was an exciting opportunity, of course, but only one example of an incredibly rewarding two years. With the Marshall’s support, I’ve broadened my cultural horizons, pursued my intellectual ambitions, grown as a person, and made lasting friendships. I may be moving back stateside soon, but thanks to the Marshall I will always have an abiding connection to Britain. 

Matthew Sellers (AB '12)
2012 Marshall Scholars

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