Bets are being placed. The champagne is flowing. Hats and suits are being fitted. The Queen’s carriage is being prepared. This can only mean one thing, Royal Ascot is upon us.

Taking place Thursday through Saturday, this is the event to see, or more precisely, where to be seen. The world will be watching, not necessarily the race itself, but the elite Royal Enclosure and the stunning array of hats.

How it all started

Royal Ascot is one of Europe’s most famous race meetings, and Ascot’s oldest race that still takes place today. Founded by Queen Anne, the race dates back to 1711. Queen Anne was out horseback riding when she saw the current home of Ascot. The place seemed perfect for horses to be able to gallop at full speed. The first race took place soon after, though it was just a small race of seven English Hunters that hardly resembles today’s extravagance.

Today, the event remains important amongst the Royal Family, and the Queen and other family members arrive by a Royal procession each day in a horse-drawn carriage.

The Royal Enclosure

The Royal Enclosure is the most exclusive enclosure of the race with a viewing area near the Winning Post and access to the Royal Enclosure Garden. Only members can obtain badges to access the enclosure. Without membership, you may be invited by a current member to attend the race as their guest. To gain your own access, you must be sponsored by a current member who has attended Royal Ascot in the Royal Enclosure for at least four years.

Dress code is strict. Men must wear black or grey morning dress consisting of a waistcoat, tie, top hat, and black shoes. Women must wear formal daywear that respects certain conditions. Dresses and skirts must fall just above the knee or longer. Straps on dresses or tops must be at least an inch thick. Women may wear trouser suits, but they must be full length and of matching colour and material. Hats or headpieces of at least four inches in diameter are required. Even children are expected to adhere to a similar dress code.

Royal Ascot does offer other enclosures – the Grandstand Admission (which also has a dress code, though less strict) for £62 and the more affordable Silver Ring at £20 and Heath Enclosure at £10.

What about you?

Have you ever attended Royal Ascot? Do you partake in the festivities at home by watching the event or the fashion parade? We’re curious to find out in the comments!

Photo credit: Tim Daoust (CC BY-NC 2.0)