June 23, 2008

Our Correspondent on Royal Ascot

My friend David, Esq. graciously acted as my correspondent at Royal Ascot last week, and I wanted to give you his report and photos in a timely manner. I will finish up with Part II: The Inside, tomorrow. Here's David:

Royal Ascot is one of the most important race meetings of the year. But it’s much more than that. It’s also a highlight of the “Season”, that whirl of horse racing, tennis, opera, regattas, strawberries and Pimm’s that makes up the English summer.
Ascot week takes place in mid-June every year, with five races each day from Tuesday to Saturday. I was fortunate to attend this year on Thursday, Ladies’ Day, which traditionally brings out the most splendid costumes and hats.
Each day’s racing begins with The Queen and other senior royals arriving in a carriage procession. It’s the first chance to see The Queen, and there is always plenty of betting on what colour hat she will wear that day. A couple of years ago, there was a scandal when it turned out that someone with inside information from the Palace was placing large bets.

There’s a rigid hierarchy of different types of admission, entitling the holders to access different areas within the racecourse grounds and requiring different levels of dress code. The Silver Ring is the least formal, with no official dress code, although the Ascot website helpfully advises “bare chests are not permitted at any time”.
A General Admission ticket gets the holder into parts of the grandstand and trackside lawns. Ladies are required to dress “in a manner appropriate for a smart occasion”. Many wear hats, but they are not required. Men must wear a jacket and tie. Anyone can buy tickets for General Admission or the Silver Ring.
The Royal Enclosure is the most exclusive area. The application process for the Enclosure is a bit like joining a private club. You cannot simply buy tickets, but instead must apply in advance to Her Majesty’s Representative (the Duke of Devonshire, owner of Chatsworth). As part of this application, you must be sponsored by an existing member of the Royal Enclosure who has attended for at least four years. The dress code for the Enclosure is daytime formal dress, with a hat or “substantial fascinator” (whatever that might be). Men must wear a black or grey morning coat with waistcoat, and a top hat. After a few years with some racegoers pushing the dress code to its limits, Ascot has been cracking down this season. No strapless or off-the-shoulder dresses, no spaghetti straps, and definitely no miniskirts.

Even with the strict rules, there’s plenty of scope for creativity.

This gentleman is a London milliner, and is wearing a top hat that he made himself from a length of antique silk that he bought at auction.
Here are a few more pictures from around the Royal Enclosure.
Some girls getting racing tips from a particularly well-dressed bookie.
Sometimes it all gets a bit too much.

All of this excitement, and by the way, there’s lots of first class racing too.
Thanks for sharing your fun afternoon, David!


  1. As always, I love looking at all the wacky hats oh and the horses too!

  2. Check this out...


  3. Loooooove it! Any event that requires a "substantial fascinator" is fabulous in my book!

  4. What beautiful pictures -it is funny seeing people so dressed up outside though I always think. Talk about pushing the dresscode -the guy in the red top hat is outrageous -i love it! haha

  5. Having been tagged recently with the question, what would I do if I were a billionaire....this definitely would be on my list! I may have to start a formal list so I don't forget! Thanks for the look-see! :)

  6. It's an event on my list of things to do before I call it a day. Though I love a good chilly day of steeplechase in the Virginia countryside. And the clothes there can be a bit over the top, which makes it all the more fun.

  7. Meg I am a little worried! We've been friends for a year now, right? I have to confess - I lived my first year in Galena Park, Texas - the armpit of Houston, right off the ship channel. Actually, it was behind the "store" literally that my family owned, but even that sounds too pompous. Here you are talking about the Royal Enclosure and estates in Maryland = I'm afraid if you really knew me, you wouldn't want to know me, you know?

    ???? hehe

    I think I've enjoyed this week with your blog more than any week ever - truly fascinating!!! Was the Beatrice with the Princess Royal ??? Hard to tell. Loved the pink hat on that lady.

  8. I think that it is Beatrice. Do you see HRH and Phillip in the photo above Anne & Bea? David had a really good view of the carriages!

  9. The Royal Ascot has the queen and the Preakness has...I don't know...the mayor of Baltimore? The governor of Maryland? Somehow this all looks so much more elegant than the Preakness.

  10. What COOL Photos!! I love seeing all the ladies and gentlemen dressing up and especially the hats!!

  11. The gentleman in the yellow weskit lounging under the tree has to be one of my all time favourite shots. One should wear formal clothing as if it were pyjamas. He seems to have that down...

  12. Great pictures.


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