Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: Our speakers today always work as a team. Her Grace the Duchess of Trikassi, Liz Wilner and Lady Oriella Charik have spoken here before, and today they join us to present on the English horse race and social event, Royal Ascot. Duchess, if you might.
Liz Wilner: thank you 🙂
Welcome and thank you all for coming. Today, Lady Charik and I will present a history of Royal Ascot. Lady Charik will start us off on the beginnings of Ascot.
Oriella Charik: Hello everyone! In the year 1711, Queen Anne was out riding near Windsor Castle when she came across an area of open heath that looked, in her words, “ideal for horses to gallop at full stretch”. Her Majesty’s wish was quickly acted upon and the first race over a four-mile course took place on Saturday 11 August 1711. The prize for the winning horse was worth 100 guineas but the name of the winner is lost to us. The opening race of Royal Ascot is named in her honour the Queen Anne Stakes.
Oriella Charik: Following the Queen’s death in 1714 racing at Ascot seems to have been discontinued until it was revived by George II’s son the Duke of Cumberland in 1749 with a four-day fixture. In 1785 the ‘Straight Mile’ was built, marking the appearance of thoroughbred breeds that emphasized speed rather than stamina. The first permanent stand was erected in 1794, and in 1813 Parliament passed an Act of Enclosure granting the heath to the Crown provided it “shall be kept and continued as a Racecourse for the Public Use at all times”. The Duke’s nephew, who became Prince Regent in 1811, was an important patron of Royal Ascot. The future George IV is best remembered for his profligacy and hedonism, living his life in a whirl of banqueting, gambling and womanising – three activities which came together in his passion for racing.
A famous satirical print of the time depicted ‘His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, with a Lady of Quality, going to Ascot Races’ – his companion being plainly neither a Lady or of Quality.
When crowned King in 1820 he ordered architect John Nash to design a new stand, which included a lawn for the exclusive use of guests of the royal family – the origin of the Royal Enclosure. But the greatest legacy George IV left to Ascot is the Royal Procession. There had been grand entrances before but it was in 1825 that the royal party first made a formal procession up the Straight Mile. To this day the ruling monarch and their family arrive at the racecourse at the beginning of each race day during Royal Ascot and follow the path of the racecourse in a horse-drawn carriage as the Royal Standard is raised.
Oriella Charik: The Monarch has always appointed a representative to administer the racecourse on their behalf. This role was taken by the Master of the Royal Buckhounds until 1901 when Lord Churchill was selected as King Edward VII’s representative at Ascot and became responsible for running the course. Such was the popularity of the course that in 1913, the Ascot Authority Act was passed by Parliament to create the Ascot Authority, a trust whose responsibility it was to: “hold and manage the Ascot Racecourse and Races”.
While Ascot holds a number of high-profile race events throughout the year, the most enduring and well-attended event of the season is Royal Ascot. This five-day event in mid-June (extended from the original four days in 2002 in celebration of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee) attracts around 300,000 visitors every year. The event comprises eighteen group races, of which seven appear in the prestigious Group One category for racing, and offers nearly £4,000,000 in prize money.
Oriella Charik: There are three enclosures available to guests during Royal Ascot. These include the Grandstand Admission – which stipulates a smart but informal dress code where hats are not mandatory – and the most casual of the three enclosures, the Silver Ring, to which no dress code applies other than the exclusion of bare chests (presumably both male and female!) at any time. The third area, the Royal Enclosure, is the most prestigious. Ascot has had a Royal Stand since the 1790s, however, the Royal Enclosure that we are familiar with today was commissioned by King George IV in 1845 and access was restricted to those with a personal invitation from the King. Attendance to the Royal Enclosure was later opened up on an application basis, which was presided over by His Majesty’s representative. During his tenure as representative Lord Churchill was said to have vetted applications personally, with three separate trays for applications marked ‘Certainly’ ‘Perhaps’ and ‘Certainly Not.’ Lord Churchill took his job very seriously and was said to roam the Royal Enclosure challenging any visitors he did not recognise and was even granted permission to view the Divorce Registry since those who appeared on the Registry in the early nineteenth century were refused admittance to the Royal Enclosure.
So much for history, now the Duchess will tell us about hats.
Liz Wilner: It was the Prince Regent and his friend Beau Brummell in the early 19th century who cemented Ascot’s place in high fashion culture, insisting that respectable and elegant men must wear waisted black coats and white cravats with pantaloons when attending the races. As the years passed, this stylish look developed into the popular frock coat. As the fashions at the horse race began to gain in importance, some men began to adapt the look of the riding coat, known as a Newmarket coat, to make it suitable for formal attire. Eventually, this led to the appearance of what we now refer to as a morning coat.
Ladies, of course, were never seen in public, particularly anywhere in the presence of royalty, without their best gowns. As the years went on, attending the Royal races became part of a lady’s social calendar, including the ordering of new dresses and hats specifically for attending The week of Royal Ascot, beginning with the Queen Anne Stakes, and ending with the Gold Cup, was filled with various events and parties surrounding the race days, each requiring another opportunity to out-fashion other attendees.
You may notice the image of the finely dressed ladies looking over their race cards to my left as well as the image of those inside the Royal Enclosure.
Liz Wilner: During the early days of the races, hats, of course, were obligatory for both men and women, particularly for formal occasions. By the early 20th century Ascot had become a confirmed fashion fixture and much of the focus was on headwear. For both men and women, the races became a chance to flaunt fabulous hats. As the fashion for hat wearing began to fade throughout most of society, Ascot’s dress code continued to maintain high and exacting standards. The prestigious, invitation only Royal Enclosure on any race day set the tone for the entire event with strict codes of conduct and dress. Proper headwear has always been an essential part of the formal attire required to gain entry. The millinery shop of Christys’ & Co Ltd have been manufacturing fine hats in England since 1773 and have supplied thousands of pieces to Ascot attendees, including Sir Winston Churchill. Over the last 250 years, they have seen a range of fashions and trends. “Through the late 18th and 19th Centuries, the requirement was to conform,” says the Managing Director.That meant wearing conventional styles and shapes of headwear. As fashion developed, there were a few unexpected changes to the traditional race attire. In 1797 John Heatherington was put in jail for wearing one of the first top hats in public – and scaring women and children!
Oriella Charik: And now we would like to mention our own Second Life Ascot.
Liz Wilner: Four years ago, Lady Charik and I were thinking of a unique event we could put together to benefit our Team ACTS and RFL. We decided on recreating Royal Ascot as close as possible, the last race day of the rl Ascot Week specifically. Our goal was, and still is, to provide people an event in which all can participate and have fun on a variety of levels. Horse riding and breeding enthusiasts can enter races, horse avatars can race; there is a bit of betting in the form of prizes from sponsors on “betting” via donation kiosks 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places winners of each of the main races, dancing, food, and of course fashion.
Oriella Charik: and hats. We have been so thrilled Ascot is a “must-do” event on the RFL calendar for so many, with increasing attendance every year. Countess Cassie Eldemar painstakingly recreates each year the Royal Enclosure and the Grandstand Enclosure, as well at the center Heath area, also known as the Silver Ring, where the main stage and dancing area are. Lord Olde Eldemar tirelessly organizes the promotions, sponsor, and donation kiosks, as well as being an all-around “rock” for this huge event. Sir Gerrard Winstanley has since the beginning been our Master Of Ceremony for the day, providing the race calling as well as all the music for the after party, ..all live in voice. It’s wonderful to hear him…it really adds to the entire event. Last year, and this year coming in June, Lady Zinda Blake has graciously allowed Ascot to be held on her horse racing sim, Blackhawk Downs. We were thrilled to have an extra race…a steeplechase!…last year; and we know this year will have many more surprises. And each year, everyone loves when the tinies race…yes, they have their very own race! Lol…last year they just kept going!
Liz Wilner: We do start the event with the Royal Procession, complete with a fine driving carriage, uniformed driver, and well- appointed parade horses. Myself, Lady Charik, Countess and Lord Eldemar, and Lady Blake are taken around for the ceremonial lap, while Sir Winstanley plays “Rule Brittania” or the UK National Anthem, and comments on all the fabulous fashions as the carriage makes its way around. Arriving back at the Enclosures, we all alight the carriage and take our places within the Royal Enclosure. Then with a many thanks to all who attend and a wave of my hand…Chip Cheerio! May the races begin!
So please, everyone, do make note on your calendars June 24th, 1-3pm SLT. Please click on the poster for the LM and dress code notecard. We do ask that the dress code be abided by…it’s actually quite fun to see all the fabulous outfits and hats 😊 If anyone with a shop or a service would like to be a sponsor, please IM either me or Lord Eldemar, and we will gladly accommodate. All sponsors are announced live, as well as shop logos with LM’s displayed in the sponsors area. Gift prizes must be transfer, and have ranged from actual merchandise to sailing lessons, and gift certificates. I am very pleased to have returning sponsors—they have all noticed an uptick in visits to their shops after the event. So consider becoming a sponsor if you can! All benefits the most worthy cause of RFL.
Please click on Her Majesty’s portrait for further information about the history of Ascot. See you at the races!
For more information regarding Royal Ascot, please visit these sites:
Royal Ascot 2017 Second Life
24 June 2017, 1-3PM SLT at Blackhawk Downs
Royal Ascot is a very special occasion for those lucky enough to be there. It has always been a traditional British event and that is reflected in the dress code throughout the week of races. Below are the three areas for viewing. We hope you enjoy your day at the races!
Ladies are required to wear formal day clothing whilst within the Royal Enclosure as described:
• Dresses and skirts of a length just below the knee or longer
• Dresses and tops with straps of one inch or more
• If a jacket is worn, the dress or top must still comply with the above standard
• Trouser suits of full length and same colour are welcome
• Hats should be worn; alternatively, a headpiece with a 4-inch base or more is acceptable
Please note the following:
• Strapless, off the shoulder, halter neck, spaghetti straps are not permitted in the Enclosure
• Midriffs must be covered
Gentlemen are required to wear either a black or grey morning suit which must include:
• A waistcoat
• A tie or cravat
• A black or grey top hat
• Black shoes
A gentlemen’s top hat may be removed within the refreshment tent, private box or private club.
Ladies with admission to the grandstand are encouraged to dress as if attending a formal occasion. Please take note of the following:
• A hat, headpiece or fascinator should be worn at all times
• Strapless or sheer strap dresses and tops are not permitted
• Trousers must be full length and worn with a top that follows the above guideline.
• Jackets may be worn, however, the dress or top it covers should adhere to the above guideline.
• Midriffs must be covered
• Shorts are not permitted
Gentlemen are required to wear a suit with a shirt and tie.
Silver Ring and Heath Enclosure:
Although no formal dress code applies in the Silver Ring Enclosure and Heath Enclosure, race-goers are encouraged to wear smart clothes.
PLEASE NOTE THAT BARE CHESTS ARE NOT PERMITTED AT ANY TIME