The Season refers to the The London Social Season which evolved in the 17th and 18th centuries. In was at its height in the 19th century. The aristocratic families in the United Kingdom who owned a country home as their main residence, would then spend parts of the year in London in order to socialize and to engage in politics. The high profile exclusive events were held in the city mansions of leading members of the aristocracy.
The Season coincided with the sitting of Parliament which began some time after Christmas and would run until midsummer, so round about late June. These days the Season now runs from March/April until August which is when the shooting season begins, also known as the Glorious Twelfth of August. The Society would return to the country to shoot birds and deer during the autumn and then hunt foxes during the winter, before coming back to London again in the spring.
The social season would be an important role in the political life of the country as the members of both Houses of Parliament would all be involved in the season. The other main factor of the Season was that it would provide an opportunity for young adults of marriageable age of the nobility and gentry to be launched into society. Ladies were formally introduced into society by presentation to the monarch at court.
The traditional Season sadly declined after the First World War, as many aristocratic families had to give up their London mansions due to the war and high death duties. This was a turning point, as from this time a huge number of society events took place at public venues.
Many events that take place outside of London have very much become part of the social season. This includes Royal Ascot and The Henley Royal Regatta. In 1958, Queen Elizabeth II abolished the presentation of débutantes at court, and now we have the world famous Royal Garden Parties, with three at Buckingham Palace and one at Hollyrood house in Scotland. A lot of these events now constitute the London social Season hosted or sponsored by large companies. Thankfully, dress codes still apply to certain events in the season, especially where the Queen plays an official role. At some events, if you fail to wear the correct dress code then you will be refused entry.
Hats are a must and to be admitted to the Royal Enclosure at Ascot for the first time you must either be a guest of a member or be sponsored for membership by a member who has attended at least four times. If permitted to enter the Royal Enclosure, gentlemen are required to wear either black or grey morning dress including a top hat. A gentleman should remove his top hat within a restaurant, a private box, a private club or that facility's terrace, balcony or garden. Ladies, please remember you must not show bare midriffs or shoulders and must wear hats.
The Henley Royal Regatta, which began in 1839, enforces one of the strictest dress codes in the world - Trousers only for men and for ladies, hemlines must be below the knee, culottes and going tieless are all forbidden. High hemlines, trousers and shorts for women and denim jeans are just some of the banned garments, while anyone who attempts to circumvent the dress code with a thigh-high split in their skirt will find themselves being handed safety pins by stewards. Ladies are also encouraged to wear hats.
Men, meanwhile, are required to wear lounge suits or blazers and flannels and must finish their look with a tie or cravat. Unlike Ascot, where the strictest rules apply only to the Royal Enclosure, at Henley, the dress code is enforced throughout - albeit with more vigour in the Stewards' Enclosure and on Temple Island. On this point it is important to mention that only the rowers can wear their famous club blazers which must never be washed!
When attending polo matches, it is usual for gentlemen to wear a blazer and always white trousers. Ladies should wear flat shoes, as the tradition of "treading in the divots" precludes wearing heels. The famous Club House at Windsor Great Park is for the use of Club members only, who wear individually made gold and enamel badges. Members' guests are given
special gold-embossed tags.
If you are planning on attending the seasons top events of the year them my top ten are:
1. The Cheltenham Gold Cup (March)
2. The Oxford and Cambridge The Boat Race (March)
3. Chelsea Flower Show - (May)
4. Trooping the Colour - (June) - Further details
5. The Garter Service - (June)
6. Royal Ascot - (June) Further details
7. Wimbledon - (July) - Further details
8. Henley Royal Regatta - (July) - Further details
9. Cowes Week - (July/August)
10. The Proms (August/September)