In 1831 the Rev. Joseph Marsh, a 28 year old Scotsman, arrived in Colombo to take up the position of Mathematics & Classics tutor at the Church Missionary Society, Kotte. Later in 1835 he was appointed acting Colonial Chaplain of St. Paul’s Church, Wolfendhal, Colombo.
In January 1835 the Rev. Marsh started a private school in the back verandah of the church. It was called the Hill Street Academy and had about 20 pupils, mainly from the upper Burgher community. The resident were very appreciative and wanted more boys to have this English education. They petitioned the Governor Sir Robert Wilmot Horton who converted the school to the Colombo Academy in January 1836. This school was located in an upstair House at Messenger Street for a short time and in July 1836 it shifted to San Sabastian Hill.
When the Rev. Dr. Barcroft Boake took over the school as Principal in 1842, he established a private school called Queens College to which the best senior boys were sent for special attention in order to prepare them for University Education. This lead to the school being renamed Colombo Academy & Queens College in 1859. After much debate mainly between Rev. Dr. Boake and one of his brilliant former – students Richard Morgan, the school was once again renamed Colombo Academy in 1869. Rev. Dr. Boake was succeeded by George Todd and during his time the school motto and school colours were introduced. After Principal Todd, Principal J.B. Cull took over the Colombo Academy and with the approval of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, changed the name of the Colombo Academy to Royal College on the 1st of August 1881.
As time passed on, Royal College felt the need to relocate to better serve its students and on 27th of August 1913 the school moved to its new location at Thurstan Road (now the University of Sri Lanka). With World War 1 and the Ethnic Riots taking their toll on the school and its students, another move was prompted and on the 10th of October 1923, Governor William Manning declared open the present structure of Royal College at Reid Avenue; a permanent abode for the Oldest Public School in the Island.
Since this permanent settlement, Royal College has come a very long way, producing some of Sri Lanka’s finest gentlemen ranging from the most brilliant minds to the best sportsmen. This description is but a brief overview of the rich history and tradition that guides and inspires Royalists present & past to keep on breaking boundaries and moving forward, creating an environment that is better and more beautiful than what they were born into.