From June 20th - 24th, racegoers, thrill-seekers and fashionistas alike are set to celebrate summer whilst quaffing champagne and, of course, watching the races as Royal Ascot gets underway. By far the UK’s most famous racing meet, it welcomes around 30,000 visitors each and every year, in an event as famous for its extravagant hats and elegant gowns as its dedication to sporting excellence.
It was all the way back in 1711 that Queen Anne was out riding and saw the potential for a racecourse at East Cote, declaring it was the perfect place for horses ‘to gallop at full stretch’. The first-ever race was called the ‘Royal Plate’, with the winner receiving 100 guineas, which, for the day, was a truly remarkable sum. It then officially became a Royal week in 1911 and has since become the centrepiece of the summer social calendar.
Each day of Royal Ascot begins with the Royal Procession at 2 pm, and this year won’t be any different, with King Charles replacing the late Queen, who, along with the Queen Mother, was a huge fan of the event and attended every year after her coronation right up until 2021. In keeping with this grand tradition, The King and other members of the Royal Family will arrive down the straight mile in the Royal Landaus, accompanied by the playing of the National Anthem and the raising of the Royal Standard, a tradition started by King George IV in 1825.
Now, in honour of the late Queen’s legacy, the prodigious £1 million race, The Platinum Jubilee Stakes has been renamed the Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes. Passionate about horses and a lifelong breeder and owner, Queen Elizabeth had 24 winning horses at Royal Ascot, her last victory in the Windsor Castle Stakes just three years ago. This year, of course, her absence will be felt, and guests are expected to flock to the Royal Enclosure to pay their respects to our beloved former monarch.
For all its rich history and patronage, you can’t talk about Royal Ascot without talking about the dress code, and it’s safe to say that 2023 is about to usher in a new era. Always a uniquely glamorous occasion, this time around women are being encouraged to swap the more traditional hats and dresses for sharply-tailored suits, something unthinkable back in Queen Anne’s day! But in many ways fashion at Royal Ascot has always moved with the times, from the overt excesses of the Victorian era to the sleek stylings of the swinging sixties. Now, here in the 21st century, it seems intent on doing it again...