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Royal Ascot Etiquette

Without question, Royal Ascot is one of the most famous gatherings for horse racing enthusiasts in the world. Without question it has some of the best horse racing mixed with the grandeur of the great, good and of course the Royal family. So why is Royal Ascot called Royal?

The Royal Ascot is the centrepiece of Ascot's year and dates back to 1711 when it was founded by Queen Anne.

Every year, Royal Ascot is attended by Elizabeth II and other members of the British Royal Family, arriving each day in a horse-drawn carriage with the Royal procession taking place at the start of each race day and the raising of the Queen's Royal Standard. 

Starting at Windsor Castle, Her Majesty and guests depart in a motorcade after lunch. Proceeding up the Long Walk, the motorcade then meets up with the waiting carriages which are pulled by the Windsor greys, in the centre of The Windsor Great Park. Here, a final decision will be made as to whether the carriage covers stay down or not.  Lap rugs are thoughtfully provided for any of The Queen’s Guests.

Once The Queen and her guests have climbed into the Landaus, the Royal Procession departs, with the remainder of the guests and Her Majesty’s Ladies in Waiting going ahead by car. The carriages exit the Park at Ascot Gate, it winds its way through the lanes until arriving at the entrance to Ascot Racecourse at the start of the Straight Mile. They are then taken through crowds of well wishers to the Royal Enclosure. Once they reach the Parade Ring, the Queen and her guests exit the Landaus.

It is a major event in the British social calendar, and press coverage of the attendees and what they are wearing often exceeds coverage of the actual racing. There are four enclosures attended by guests on Royal Ascot week, one being the Royal enclosure then you have the Queen Anne enclosure, the Windsor enclosure and finally the Village enclosure. 

Here is my top ten for those of you attending Royal Ascot. 

1. Racing Days: Tuesday is the first racing day and is the favourite day to attend. Wednesday is the bookmakers’ favourite and it is said that more betting than any other day takes place. Thursday is of course Ladies’ Day, and finally, Friday and Saturday are less busy and quite popular with the young as they are permitted on these days. 

2. Car Parking: When parking, bear in mind Number 1 Car Park is the best, and a very smart area to enjoy a picnic. Number 7 Car Park is also reserved for Royal Enclosure members only. However, most car parks are suitable; just remember where you leave the car! 

3. Dress codes: Now, there are indeed strict etiquette rules to be observed at Ascot and most notably is the dress codes! Thankfully in recent times, items such as fascinators have been banned from the Royal enclosure; why on earth you would wish to put something on your head that resembles a badly assembled nest on your head is beyond me. Now if you are lucky enough to be in the Royal enclosure, the dress codes are the following. The Rules of etiquette are the same for all but dress codes vary, however for Gentlemen in the Royal enclosure, the dress code is black or grey morning dress with matching top hats for the men. For Ladies, lets go for something a little more special, fascinators are not permitted and formal daywear is required,  Ladies are also not permitted to wear spaghetti straps, halter necks, off-the-shoulder outfits or expose midriffs. 

All dresses and skirts should be of modest length, which is defined as falling just above the knee or longer and dresses and tops should have straps of one inch or greater. 

Pashminas and jackets may be worn but dresses and tops underneath should still comply with the Royal enclosure Dress code. For the Queen Anne enclosure, ladies are asked to wear something that befits a formal occasion which is similar to the above. For gentlemen, it is a matching suit with shirt and tie, and finally the Windsor enclosure, it is smart clothes as no formal dress applies but sport shirts will not be permitted. 

4. The Royal Enclosure: The Royal enclosure is the invitation-only area of the racecourse.  To be admitted, you have to be proposed by someone who is already a member and has been a member for up to four years but bear in mind that not everyone is allowed in, and memberships are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Anyone with a criminal record or anyone who has been declared bankrupt are not permitted. It should also be mentioned that until 1955, divorcees were not permitted.

5. Betting: Remember, you don’t place a bet yourself, you inform a functionary which horse you ‘fancy’ and tell them to find the best odds for you and place your bet which they will happily assist with.

6. Language: When attending such racing events you talk about ‘The Going’, which is a description of ground conditions experienced by the horse. Always remember the Going scale is the following: heavy, soft, good to soft, good, good to firm, firm and hard. The Going is always announced seven days before the meeting.

7. Dining: Fine Dining at Royal Ascot provides an opportunity to make an exciting occasion unforgettable. There is indeed an array of dishes created by Michelin-Starred chefs and à la carte menus designed by Ascot’s award-winning team, are presented harmoniously on each plate and carefully paired with finest Champagnes and wines in beautifully dressed exclusive surroundings. Trained through the Raymond Blanc Service Academy programme, all their staff will ensure you are impeccably looked after. Private vantage points offer unsurpassed views of both the Royal Procession, Parade Ring and six world-class races each day.  From the refined formality of the Parade Restaurant to the vibrant atmosphere of Villiers which is within the newest enclosure, the restaurant in the village and the Villiers offers an informal mix of hospitality, music, food and drink throughout the day. The Queen Anne Enclosure is close to the runners, parade ring and bandstand. Here we have the award winning firth floor restaurant plus a further five restaurants; then finally we have the Royal Enclosure  in the heart of Royal Ascot with its beautiful historic  gardens and five restaurant packages to choose from but remember the dress code is Morning suit for gentlemen.  

8. Hats: Remember Ladies when sitting down, if your hat is rather large, you may opt to remove this in case it blocks the view of others behind you, and the same can certainly be said for gentlemen wearing Top hats or any other hats.

9. Please and Thank you’s:  Always remember to use the magic words please and thank you as sadly while at these wonderful events, most people forget to show their appreciation. If the Royals can do it, so can you. 

10 Queuing: While waiting to gain entry at a restaurant or waiting to make your bet and as with all great British traditions, queuing is one of them. During which you don't complain or queue jump and wait your turn to be served.

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Feb 08, 2023

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