From CULTURE & MUSIC Royal Ascot
20 June - 24 June Berkshire, Ascot stages 26 days of racing throughout the year, but the five-day Royal Meeting, held annually in June, is the most famous - a key date in the social calendar which combines venerable tradition with fashionable panache. Hordes of well-dressed racegoers descend on the Berkshire town, and many enjoy the traditional Car Park Picnic.

The first race meeting ever held at Ascot took place on 11 August 1711 and was instigated by Queen Anne, but it was with the accession of George II that the race became the second most popular in England.

Originally established to ensure privacy for members of the royal family, the Royal Enclosure dates back to the 1790s, when a separate Royal Stand was erected. The exclusive Royal Box, commissioned by George IV in 1822, was only accessible to guests brandishing a royal invitation.

Each day during the five-day Royal Meeting the Queen and her party drive in open-topped carriages across Windsor Park, entering the racecourse by the Golden Gates.

The prestigious Gold Cup event is held on Ladies' Day (Thursday), when women entering the Royal Enclosure must wear a hat that covers the 'crown of their head'. Ladies' Day at Royal Ascot can trace its roots back to 1823, when an anonymous poet described the Thursday of the Royal meeting as 'Ladies' Day... when the women, like angels, look sweetly divine.'

Royal Ascot's much loved tradition of 'singing round the bandstand' dates to the 1970s under the stewardship of Lady Beaumont, wife of the then Clerk of the Course. The after-racing medley of British favourites and flag waving was an immediate hit, and thousands of racegoers stayed on and joined in. Now, traditional singing is listed as part of the day's formal proceedings and songbooks and flags are handed round.

Royal Ascot etiquette:

Dress Codes
The Royal Enclosure: To gain entry, race-goers must be recommended by someone who is already on the list. Convicted criminals and undischarged bankrupts are barred from the Royal Enclosure. Divorcées have been allowed in since 1955.

Ladies: Only formal day dresses and skirts should be of modest length defined as falling just above the knee. Off the shoulder, halter neck, spaghetti straps and dresses with a strap of less than one inch and miniskirts are considered unsuitable. Jackets and pashminas may be worn but dresses and tops underneath should still comply with the Royal Enclosure dress code. Midriffs must be covered and trouser suits must be full length and of matching material and colour.

Hats should be worn - See:; a headpiece which has a base of 4 inches (10cm) or more in diameter is acceptable as an alternative to a hat. Fascinators are no longer permitted in the Royal Enclosure; neither are headpieces which do not have a base covering a sufficient area of the head (4 inches / 10cm)

Gentlemen - black or grey morning dress, including a waistcoat, with a top hat. A gentleman may remove his top hat within a restaurant, a private box, a private club or that facility's terrace, balcony or garden. Hats may also be removed within any enclosed external seating area within the Royal Enclosure Garden.

Overseas visitors are welcome to wear the formal national dress of their country or Service dress.

Grandstand Enclosure: Visitors dress smartly for this occasion. A hat, headpiece or fascinator should be worn at all times - See: Strapless or sheer strap dresses and tops are not permitted. Trousers must be full length and worn with a top that adheres to the guidelines above (i.e. strapless or sheer strap tops are not permitted). Jackets and pashminas may be worn but dresses and tops underneath should still comply with the Grandstand Admission dress code. Midriffs must be covered. Shorts are not permitted

Gentlemen are required to wear a suit or jacket, in both cases with a tie.

Eating in public requires all private habits to be closeted. Pace yourself, so neither hoover like a wolf nor pick like a sparrow. Bring food to your mouth rather than drop your head.

A man should stand up to greet a woman when she first arrives. There is no need, however, to jump up and down like a jack in the box everytime she enters or leaves the room.

Hangovers are generally self-inflicted, so you should approach the day after an evening's overindulgence with stoicism, and keep your misery to yourself.

Everyone enjoys a flutter, but ensure that you don't become overly competitive or, if you're lucky enough to back a winner, never gloat over less fortunate companions.

Being punctual always scores bonus points. You will come across as someone who cares about other people, and is efficient, organised and reliable.

Basic courtesies are easily forgotten on public transport, particularly if delays are lengthy and space is tight. Do not perpetuate this. Always offer your seat to those who need it more than you do.

Men holding doors open for woman is still a chivalrous gesture, even in our less-gallant times.

A genuine compliment will suffuse the recipient with positive feelings, and oils the wheels of social intercourse.

If you're somebody's guest, remember your manners and don't forget that all-important thank you letter afterwards.

Note: To obtain Royal Ascot tickets, book as early as possible. Tickets for Royal Ascot are available from March, and can be booked online or by phone.
Search for Specialists in CULTURE & MUSIC by: