Felixstowe: Head who rejected Princess Diana dies

A FORMER Suffolk headmistress who famously hit the national headlines for her views on discipline, and also refused Princess Diana entry to her school, has died at the age of 94.

Elizabeth Manners was head of the exclusive girls’ school Felixstowe College for 12 years and also served as a Felixstowe town and Suffolk county councillor.

She was best known for her forthright views – and was not afraid to air them.

Private education had not been part of her ambitions, but she left her headship in Manchester in 1969 on a point of principle – the adoption of comprehensive education by the city council – and was soon appointed at Felixstowe College.

Miss Manners, of Hamilton Gardens, Felixstowe, found herself at the centre of controversy after making an after-dinner speech in 1970 to Felixstowe Rotarians in which she defended traditional standards and spoke of her concern for modern youth.

“This is the generation that has not been disciplined, that has never met the challenge of adult authority, and is therefore being driven to one extreme after another, almost as though they were daring adults to stand up to them,” she said.

She advised her listeners not to “expect logic or sweet reason” from an adolescent.

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Her book, The Vulnerable Generation, was published the following year.

Only revealed after retirement was her rejection of Lady Diana Spencer.

Miss Manners said she was advised by the head of Riddlesworth Preparatory School, which fed into Felixstowe College, not to accept the future Princess of Wales on account of her lack of academic ability, but chose to interview her anyway. She found an incredibly shy girl who would not speak.

“She just sat there with her head dropping. I said to her if she was to attend Felixstowe College she would have to speak to me, and I would have to see her face, but her head just dropped further down and there was nothing I could do,” she recalled.

“I was told there was only one thing she could do: she was very good at looking after the rabbits.”

Royalty did have connections with the college – Miss Manners secured Princess Anne’s patronage as its official visitor.

Miss Manners, an only child, was born in Newcastle, and taught at many schools, including at Middlesbrough, on the Isle of Man, Consett, Yarm, and as deputy head of a grammar school at Mexborough, and head of Manchester Central Grammar School for Girls.

She also served as an aircraft plotter in the Royal Observer Corps, later spending 14 years in the Territorial Army from 1948, eventually promoted to captain.