Summer is upon us, and so is one of the most anticipated events for horse race enthusiasts, fashion lovers and fans of royalty. We’re talking about the annual Royal Ascot, a glamorous horse race tradition that comes with lots of hats, money, and, of course, horses.
What to expect from Royal Ascot? A quintessential summer day, perhaps resembling an afternoon in the 18th century, filled with prestige and supreme elegance in the presence of some members of the Royal Family.
A highlight in the British social calendar, steeped in tradition, with an important fashion angle.
From the dress code to the history to the itinerary, here’s what you need to know about this amazing and fancy affair in Berkshire.
The history of Royal Ascot
Turf racing is one of the most ancient sports in history, and its origins began in the United Kingdom. At Royal Ascot, the world’s finest racehorses compete for millions of pounds in prize money.
The event was established in 1711 by Queen Anne – that’s right, the same one as in the movie “The Favorite”. According to People, Her Majesty took a long look from Windsor Castle at the field where the race now takes place and said, “this would be a fine place for a race”.
As Britain’s most famous horse racing meeting, and the only “Royal” one, Royal Ascot has remained an annual event ever since its first occurrence, being cancelled only in a very few years because of weather, war and disease.
The first Gold Cup was held in 1807. It’s a flat race over a distance of about 2 ½ miles (4 km). The first winner was Master Jockey and the original prize money was 100 guineas – this year it’s £500,000. The Gold Cup is held on the third day of Royal Ascot, also known as Ladies’ Day. The Diamond Jubilee Stakes, the Duke of Cambridge Stakes and the Commonwealth Cup are the other major long distance races held during Royal Ascot.
The history is impressive, but the real attraction of this magnificent gathering is the people, where fashion and style rule. Almost 300,000 people attend over the 5 day event to engage and create an unforgettable experience.
How do the Royal Family participate?
Having an opportunity to see the Royal Family up close is one of the delights of Royal Ascot. Since 1825, the royals have made a spectacular entrance inaugurating the race every day. This is called “The Royal Procession”, a ceremony attended by at least one British monarch every year since its inception.
Established in 1807 by King George III, the Royal Enclosure is an invitation-only section of the Ascot racecourse. Besides all the glamour and splendor of this area, name-tags are indispensable, even for royalty.
The dress code
And speaking of fashion, the Royal Ascot dress code is an event in itself.
There are four different enclosures within Ascot Racecourse, each one with its own look and feel, making it a real occasion for fashion, with creations based on classical and colourful inspirations. The Royal Enclosure is the most lavish of all.
There is a very strict dress code. Whilst high fashion is the norm – and people go to see and be seen – women are required to dress relatively modestly, and hats are obligatory and often spectacular (whilst fascinators are not permitted). Men have to wear traditional black or grey morning dress, of course including top hat.
The reason hats play such a big part of the clothing scene at the Royal Ascot is tradition established by the royal family. You would never see the Queen at a formal event without a proper hat.
At the Village Enclosure, more casual, yet refined attire is requested. With lots of food stands, bars, and concerts, this space is perfect to enjoy a contemporary British summer afternoon.
Soft makeup and a demure hairdo are essential to ensure a remarkable look, at once humble yet sophisticated. That’s why women find it imperative to have a team of professionals on hand to create the perfect balance.
What to expect at the 2019 event
This year, Royal Ascot is set to happen from 18 to 22 June, at Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire. Tickets are already on sale at www.ascot.co.uk, with prices starting at £26.
To participate in this grand event is a chance to see the royal family personally, be entertained by great horse races, have a delicious picnic, and, with luck, make some money as well.
Are you ready for the most glamourous event of the season?