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The entrance gate of the Prytanee National Militaire
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The entrance gate of the Prytanee National Militaire

The Prytanée National Militaire is a French school managed by the military, offering regular high-school education as well as special preparatory school classes, equivalent in level to the first years of university, for students who wish to enter French military academies. The school is located in western France in the city of La Flèche.

History

The school was founded in 1604 by king Henry IV as a Jesuit College under the name of "Collège Royal Henry-Le-Grand", in order "to select and train the best minds of the time".

René Descartes was one of the first and most illustrious students of the school from 1607 to 1615, and introduced the school in his Discourse on Method under the phrase "I was in one of the most famous schools of Europe".

In 1764, following the expulsion of the Jesuits, the school was transformed into a military institution designed to train young cadets for admission to the Paris Military School.

In 1808, Napoléon renamed the school "Prytanée Militaire", in a classic reference to the Greek prytaneis (literally "Presidents"), an executive body acting as the religious and political heart of ancient Greek cities.

Today

Today the Prytanée starts from the high school level, and has "Classes préparatoires", that is, preparatory classes to the entrance examinations of the French elite Grandes Écoles, such as École polytechnique, the Navy École Navale, the Army École de Saint-Cyr, the École de l'Air and various civilian engineering or commercial graduate schools.

Besides René Descartes, the Prytanée has trained various military and non-military celebrities, including Claude Chappe, inventor of the optical telegraph, Marshalls of France such as Bertrand and Gallieni or Pélissier, actors such as Jean-Claude Brialy, and recently spationautes such as Patrick Baudry and Jean-Francois Clervoy.

The school's students are nicknamed "Brutions", as a classic reference to the inhabitants of the Bruttium region of Roman Italy, who had a reputation for their roughness and fighting spirit.


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