King Charles was a stargazer at least 50 years before he was crowned monarch of the United Kingdom, an Indian eye witness has confirmed.

Long before embracing the ermine robes and crown of his coronation, he spent hours peering through the telescope installed at Gordonstoun School in Scotland where he was a student between 1962 and 1967. His lifelong support of the arts and classical music was matched by a passion for astronomy that has now been revealed by those who were close to him.

At Gordonstoun, where he played lead roles in school drama productions of Macbeth and King Lear, additionally starring as the Duke of Exeter in Shakespeare’s Henry V and the Pirate King in the Pirates of Penzance, Charles was a devotee of the telescope that had pride of place in the school’s science lab.

It allowed him to scan the skies at leisure and probe the far-flung secrets of the universe.

Now the story of Charles and the Gordonstoun telescope has been recounted exclusively by the king’s former Indian teacher, personal tutor and ex physics teacher who remembers how it was acquired for the school.

Shamir Das at the Charminar in Hyderabad

“I was in the physics lab one day and sensed someone peering over my shoulder”, says 87 year old Shomie Das who taught at Gordonstoun between 1958 and 1968. “When I looked around, it was Prince Philip.

“I said, I’m sorry I didn’t see you, and he responded, ‘Is there anything you need ?’. So I told him we needed a telescope and within two weeks a telescope arrived and was duly installed.”

Das, a graduate of Emmanuel College Cambridge, is now one of India’s most celebrated retired headmasters. He tells with his distinctive laugh what happened a couple of days later when Prince Charles entered the class and saw the telescope before declaring, “That’s exactly like the one I have in Buckingham Palace.”

Das, fondly remembered by British colleagues as a “much loved” member of staff, does not recall the precise name of the telescope, but says it was of high quality and had a plaque on one side, as if it had been previously given as a present to the royal family.

For the boys at Gordonstoun Das was pronounced ‘Daz’, a play on the name of the washing powder, since discontinued, that was widely used at the time.

It was also the sobriquet used by Charles when he performed an after-dinner skit. “He mimicked my Indian accent, that kind of thing”, Das recalls without any trace of resentment.

Talking about the then future king, he says, “He was a gentle soul, very good in ceramics. He had the lead roles in school plays of Macbeth and King Lear. But Das also confirms how Charles “had a bit of a rough time” on the rugby field and later with his housemaster, Robert Whitby, repeatedly instructing him to scrub out the bins.

A school contemporary of Charles, John Stonborough, has been quoted remembering Whitby as “a truly nasty piece of work”, adding, ““He was vicious, a classic bully, a weak man. If he didn’t like you, he took it out on you. He was wrong for Charles.”

Das remained in contact with the royal family long after he left Gordonstoun and took up jobs at some of India’s most prestigious boy’s boarding schools, including Doon, that took their cue from Eton and Harrow. He was principal of Mayo College in Rajasthan when he was invited to participate in a duck shoot organised by the Maharaja of Jaipur.

The visiting guest of honour at the shoot was Prince Philip. “I got my duck, but Prince Philip failed to get any”, Das recalls. “He was a bit put out. Afterwards we all had dinner before taking part in an improvised form of billiards devised by Philip.

“Philip liked taking charge of a party and we played on top of the billiards table as we hit the balls at each other. We even had an argument about VAT (value added tax). I was against it and he gave me quite a mouthful.”

In 1986 Das was headmaster of another Indian school, Sanawar, when he contacted Prince Charles asking if he could meet him during a planned visit to the UK.

“Prince Charles wrote back, inviting him to his Scottish retreat, saying, ‘Come and have breakfast with me in Loch Muick.’

The royal response proved invaluable both at Heathrow airport border control and afterwards in Scotland. Das had a UK visa but at Heathrow border control he was pulled over and asked why he was visiting the UK. “When I produced Prince Charles’ letter, they said, ‘please come in.’” A similar experience awaited when he arrived in Scotland the following day.

“I still remember the day, arriving in Elgin and renting a car from a Mr Jake. He had only one car for hire and I rented it to drive to the other side of the Grampians. Loch Muick borders the Balmoral estate and I think Glen Muick is where the King had a house which he shared with his grandmother.

“Just before I got to Loch Muick, a huge car got behind me. I pulled into a layby and two people looked very curiously at me. I drove on and realised another car was following.

“The two men in this car stopped me and asked where I was going. So l brought out Prince Charles’ letter. They rang their HQ and there was a rocket from the other end. Prince Charles laughed his head off when I told him, telling me, “What can I do?”

Das, who is now retired and living in the city of Hyderabad, describes the British King as a “much maligned man”, before adding, “He has a real sense of compassion and wanting to know.”

Although he left Gordonstoun more than 50 years ago, Das retains a wonderful nostalgia for the school imbued with great affection for staff and students alike. He still has flashbacks of how he used to load up his treasured Jaguar car with students and take them on hikes to the nearby Cairngorms mountains.

He also recalls the school’s retired founder, Kurt Hahn, “dropping in for a game of tennis, or sometimes arriving impromptu in the morning and grilling you over breakfast.” The evenings had other attractions, Das explains. “The local pub was popular with a lot of teachers and I was in great demand as a babysitter with all the young teachers’ families.”

Cover Photograph of the Coronation provided to the writer by Buckingham Palace.