Esse quam videri – “To be, rather than to seem”

The motto of Hemel Hempstead Grammar School, Esse Quam Videri, is attributed to Marcus Tullius Cicero (January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) who was a Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul, and constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order, and was one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists. This motto has also been adopted by the following bodies:

The State of North Carolina, USA

In 1893 the North Carolina General Assembly adopted the Latin words "Esse Quam Videri" (To be, rather than to seem) as the state motto and directed that these words be placed with the state's Coat of Arms and the date "20 May, 1775" upon the great seal. Until the act of 1893 North Carolina had no motto; one of the few states without one (and the only one of the original thirteen). The motto is a literal translation of a phrase from a sentence in Cicero's "On Friendship" (De Amicitia, chapter 26). The complete sentence in Latin is: "Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt." Translations for this phrase (from NCpedia):

    "Fewer possess virtue, than those who wish us to believe that they possess it."

    "The fact is that fewer people are endowed with virtue than wish to be thought to be so."

    "Not nearly so many people want actually to be possessed of virtue as want to appear to be possessed of it."

    "The Numbers of the really virtuous are not so great, as they appear to be."

The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland, USA

Esse Quam Videri, the motto of The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland, sets a standard of authenticity and humility to which all members of our community aspire.  It requires character, courage, and compassion, and drives a school that focuses on the individual and celebrates the opportunity to make a difference in the life of each student. Boys’ Latin is a program, a curriculum of academics, athletics, and activities designed to prepare our students, not just for college, but for life. From kindergarten through twelfth grade, we nurture our young men, teaching them how to think for themselves, to be accountable for their actions, and to be responsible for their learning. The concepts of self-reliance, responsibility, and accountability are reinforced in the classroom, on the playing fields, and in the arts. The small class sizes foster strong relationships between faculty and students, and enable thoughtful discourse and intellectual rigor.

Villa Devoto School, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Esse Quam Videri, the motto in our badge, is part of our tradition and means “Being, rather than seeming to be”. Esse Quam Videri is found on Cicero´s essay “On Friendship”: “Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt” which means “Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so”.


Mr. Churchill was a Sports Master at the school in the 1950s. What is generally not known is that prior to coming to the school he was a professional footballer playing in goal. His career spanned several years during which time he played for Loughborough Colleges, Sheffield United, Reading, Leicester City, Rochdale and Swindon Town.


When the school opened in 1931 it provided accommodation for 330 pupils but only 75 attended the first term. By June 1932 that number had increased to 101. In 1960 there were approximately 620 pupils. In 1970, at the end of the Grammar School era, there were approximately 780 pupils. Now, in 2012, there are over 1100 pupils. The building comprised an Assembly Hall; eleven Classrooms, two Laboratories for Chemistry and one for Physics; a Lecture room; rooms for Domestic Science and Handicraft; a Library; a Gymnasium; Staff Common-rooms; Cloakrooms and Changing Rooms. Lessons began at 9.10 a.m. and finished at 3.50 p.m. One of the first talks given to the Club was on November 24th 1934, when the headmaster of the three-year-old Hemel Hempstead Grammar School spoke on the topic of Coeducation. His views on the benefits of mixed schooling were considered important enough for the whole text of his talk to be published in the Gazette of that week. Item submitted by Tony Ford who compiled the above history and taught at the school from 1967 to 2000.

There is an interesting snippet about the School on the Woodland Trust website under Jubilee Woods – The Royal Record – which is a record of the tree-planting carried out in 1936-37 in honour of the Coronation of His Majesty King George VI under Hertfordshire:

  1. In the playing fields of Hemel Hempstead Grammar School: 40 Lombardy Poplar to form an avenue, 24 Silver Birch, 9 Copper Beech, 8 Mountain Ash, 20 Wild Cherry, 6 Lime, 2 Red Horse-chestnut, 8 Oak, 5 Sycamore, 2 Plane, 7 Ash, 5 Beech, 1 Cedar; planted and presented by the scholars and staff of the School.


It is probably not commonly-known that the school was originally fee-paying on a termly basis. Below there are three scans of original documentation regarding Yvonne Denchfield’s education, ranging from 1938 to 1944. Originals courtesy of Nigel Denchfield. Note how the fees increased from Autumn 1938 to Spring 1944. A total of 110% in six years! To put things in perspective in 1944 the average working wage was around £5 per week.


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