Tracy, John has given you some very good advice and what follows is merely intended to be my own thoughts and contribution based on personal study over the years and the small, associated library that I have built up.
First and foremost I earnestly recommend that you purchase the following two books, as they will be invaluable for your purposes and can be dipped into as and when necessary:
1. Scarlet Into Khaki by Lt Col James Moncrieff Grierson (first printed 1899) ISBN 0-947898-81-6 (if you buy only one book it should be this one)
2. For Queen and Country by Byron Farwell (first printed 1981) ISBN 0 7139 1241 3 (this gives hugely useful social detail)
These two books will add immeasurably to your understanding of the period and make your characters far more credible in terms of historical accuracy. My comments upon your queries, as shown below, are largely (but not wholly) based upon the information that they contain. You should be able to get them from somewhere like abebooks.com
a. Graduation Ceremony. Yes the Royal Military Colledge Sandhurst (RMC - as it was then called) had a graduation ceremony in the 1890s. Then, as now, it took the form of a military parade. Over the years the length of curriculum has varied between a year, eighteen months and, for a short time, two years. In 1899 it was eighteen months. In all cases the course, of whatever length, was divided into three equal terms and there was a graduation (in military parlance "passing out or Commissioning") parade, when the "senior term" (i.e. those completing the last term of training) would depart and the other terms celebrate the respective 'milestones' that they had reached. The terms were arranged as per the scholastic year (Spring, Autumn etc), just as they have been since the initial Education Acts, which in turn followed earlier, public school schedules.
Today the parade is referred to as the Sovereigns Parade, but other than in the style of drill and the modernity of rifles carried, the parade has changed very little at all and, like all "dismounted parades", is based upon the format known as "The Battalion Parade". In simple terms the parade takes the following sequence, just as it has for over 300 years:
1. The unit on parade is formed up by the (College) Sergeant Major "in Line" formation (most commmonly) by companies, usually four, stretching from left to right across the frontage of the parade ground, facing a saluting dias and with the units band in the rear. Each company was formed in three ranks from cadets at the same stage of training. The men will have been 'sized' beforehand so that (most commonly) the tallest men are on the right of each company and the shortest on the left. Cadets were between 17 and 19 years old and their were 360 of them in total.
2. The Adjutant (the units senior staff officer) takes over the parade from the Sergeant Major, "dresses" (i.e. aligns) the ranks into "open order" (i.e. 2 full paces between each rank so as to create an aisle) and then orders "fix bayonets".
3. The Adjutant hands over the parade to the unit's Second-in-Command, who orders the remainder of the units officers to "Fall in the Officers" and take their assigned positions on the parade (usually in front of each of the companies). The Second-in-Command then orders the unit to "Shoulder (its) Arms" and then hands over the parade (at last) to the commanding officer.
4. The Commanding Officer gives the order to "March on the Colours" (regimental flags - which Sandhurst has had since they were first presented by Queen Victoria) and then orders the whole unit to "Present Arms" in salute. With the whole parade now present the unit "Orders (its) Arms" (i.e. returns them to rest on the ground) and awaits the inspecting officer, who is always a dignitary, either Royal, Civil, or Military.
5. The inspecting officer arrives and the parade carries out a "General Salute" by (again) "Presenting its Arms" and the dignitary is then led forward by an accompanying guide to inspect the parade by walking along its ranks. At the conclusion of this "inspection" he or she returns to the central saluting dias. After an initial musical salute, throughout this stage the band plays various musical airs, not all of them military.
6. The unit now performs a movement so that it is positioned in its companies but now at right angles to, instead of facing, the saluting dias, with the commanding officer and the Colours at the front. It then completes two circum navigations of the parade ground, the first in "Slow Time" (an elegant, flowing but sedate cadence) and then "Quick Time" (a brisk marching pace), with suitable accompanying music. On each occasion that they pass the saluting dias, the companies, by turn, perform a (head and) "Eyes Right", looking the dignitary in the eye. When the colours pass the saluting dias the dignitary will either, solemnly doff his or her hat in salute or, if military, salute formally with hand to cap in the traditional manner. On completion of the two circuits the companies return to their start positions, facing the dias in Line.
7. The whole unit now "Advances, in Review Order" (Line), towards the saluting dias (in a very purposeful (mock threatening) manner), halting after precisely 14 paces and, again "Presents Arms". After ordering "Shoulder Arms" the commanding officer rides forwards and requests formal permission from the dignitary to "March Off".
8. At this stage the companies that are Passing Out (graduating) "Shoulder their Arms" and carry out an "Inwards Turn" towards the centre of the parade. They then step off in slow time inwards, but then outwards in a curve towards the saluting dias, often passing on either side of it, as the remainder "Present Arms" in (a final) salute. It is traditional at this stage for "Ould Acquaintance" to be played by the band.
9. Finally, the whole of the remaining parade is marched off with the band playing at the rear, and thus being the last to leave the parade ground. There is a tradition then that the Adjutant (who like the CO is mounted) rides up the steps of the Old College. Once that stage is reached the parade is over and the cadets are dismissed and may mingle with visitors. This same parade occurs at the end of each and every term. To get a sense of how this looked and sounded in the 1890s I recommend that you watch the last three versions of the film "the Four Feathers", all of which re-enact a Sandhurst parade of the period you are interested in.
Students at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst were known in a formal manner as "gentlemen cadets". Unlike modern Officer Cadets, who are technically private soldiers and are paid and clothed as such by the MOD, gentlemen cadets were not subject to military law. Their parents paid tuition and boarding fees, in the same way as at a public school or university, and also paid for uniforms (of the same pattern as worn by subaltern officers, but without badges of rank), books, and mathematical instruments.
Fees were reduced for the sons of serving or former officers, and there were also a number of cadetships (comparable to scholarships). Admission was by competitive written examination in a variety of academic subjects, and candidates passed in, in order of merit, according to the number of marks they achieved. There were no practical tests of aptitude for leadership. This had the effect of confining entry to public schoolboys, often from families with a military connection.
The RMC was not large enough to train all the subalterns needed by the Army, so an alternative route, favoured by those who failed entry to the College, was to obtain a commission by nomination in the Militia. It was then possible to transfer to the Regular Army after a 15 month period of full-time service and passing the College's final examination.
As mentioned above, the uniform of cadets in the 1890s was as per an infantry subaltern and thus without the extra gold lace on collar and cuffs worn by those above the two Lieutenant grades (who were collectively known as subalterns). I enclose some images to give you an approximate idea of how these uniforms looked. One is from the current Canadian military college, which has endeavoured to retain the Victorian look that coincidentally fits with your period. You can see the pill box forage cap, which was popular at that time. The crimson sash though was worn across the chest (as per the other images) until it was moved to the waist in 1902.
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Last edited by FROGSMILE
on 11 Jul 2012 11:48, edited 45 times in total.