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The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award: A Rewarding Journey

The Duke of Edinburgh Award Logo

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards Logo.

On 18 November, The Duke of Edinburgh is to attend a ceremony known as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards which celebrates the youth.

For almost 60 years now, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has been pushing youths to become better people by using a well-rounded model involving volunteering, physical activity, skills, and expeditions.

According to its official website, the award is “all about going the extra mile – gaining new skills, pushing yourself physically, helping others, and exploring new territories. At the same time, you’ll gather friendships, experiences, and memories that will last a lifetime.”

Founded by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1956 in conjunction with two others (Kurt Hahn and Lord Hunt, leader of the first party to successfully climb Mount Everest), 5 million youths have participated in the United Kingdom and 8 million youths have participated worldwide.

In 1956, the scheme was only open to young men. Seven thousand participated that first year, and a thousand awards were handed out. The next year, the scheme was open to young women.

Initially there were different criteria based on gender: boys completed a physical activity component at the Bronze and Silver level while girls completed a “design for living” component. At the Gold level, a participant could choose which component he or she preferred.

There are three levels to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award: Gold, Silver, and Bronze. At the Gold level, another set of criteria is introduced. The levels are determined by the hours devoted to participating in the programme. In the Bronze level, a youth must commit three to six months; at the Silver level, six to nine months; and at the Gold level, 12 to 18 months.

Each level has four mandatory requirements: volunteering, physical, skills, and expedition. At the Gold level, a residential requirement is added.

The volunteering component is fairly straightforward, while the physical component requires focus on a sport, dance, or fitness activity. The skills component requires the development of practical, social, and personal skills, and finally, the expedition component requires an adventurous journey.

The residential requirement involves leaving the house for five days doing a shared activity.


Photograph from 1 January 1974 of Gold Award being presented by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh.

By 1975, there were 1 million youths participating in the programme and it only took just over a decade before an additional million had participated.

The award boasts a roster of impressive past participants, including the Earl of Wessex, Katherine Jenkins, Ben Fogle, Dame Kelly Holmes, and Edwina Currie.

The Earl of Wessex has been an active participant in the awards programme since 1988, when he achieved his Gold Award. He regularly travels around the world to promote the awards in his capacity as a Trustee and Chairman of the International Awards.

Next year, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award celebrates its diamond anniversary and is encouraging participants to push themselves further for this special year.

According to its official website, “[It] is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you, your friends, and family to get out of your comfort zone and leave your excuses at the door.”

Have you received the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments!

Image Credit: The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Logo via Wikipedia [Public Domain], Photograph of the Awards in 1974 via the Girl Guides of Canada on Flickr (CC BY 2.0).


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About author

Jess Ilse is the Assistant Editor at Royal Central. She specialises in the British, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Royal Families and has been following royalty since Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. Jess has provided commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Jess works in communications and her debut novel THE MAJESTIC SISTERS will publish in Fall 2024.