Under the radiant sun and amidst a vibrant atmosphere, adorned with top hats and creative fascinators, the quintessentially British event of Ladies Day in Ascot unfolded. This year, the celebration was elevated to new heights as Zineb Faress, the esteemed owner of Raphia's Chocolatiers, led an exceptional group of ladies in hosting a captivating experience in one of the prestigious hospitality boxes of the Royal Enclosure at Ascot Races. Surrounded by horse owners, distinguished members of the Qatar Royal Family, and accomplished businesswomen such as Madam Juliet Mayhew, Sama Danesh, Pegah Pourmand, Anastasia Von Sivers, and our esteemed Editor-in-Chief, Rebeca Riofrio, the box was brimming with elegance and excitement.
What is Ascot:
In 1711, Queen Anne envisioned a racecourse at East Cote, recognising its potential as an ideal location for horses to gallop at full stretch. Thus, on August 11th, the inaugural race known as Her Majesty's Plate took place, marking the birth of the Royal racecourse. Over the course of 300 illustrious years, Ascot has become a historic British landmark, with its centrepiece event, Royal Ascot, firmly established as the highlight of the British social season.
From the emergence of the Royal Enclosure to record-breaking triumphs on the track, Ascot has witnessed the creation of countless cherished memories. While the face of the racecourse may have evolved over time, Royal Ascot remains steeped in quintessential British tradition. This year's celebration is no exception, as the spirit of elegance and grandeur continues to captivate attendees.
Ascot's Ascendance in Society:
By 1752, the popularity of attending races at Ascot had spread throughout social circles. The Duke of Bedford famously noted the dearth of dining companions upon his arrival in London, highlighting the allure of the racecourse. The 18th-century racegoers were treated to a plethora of additional entertainment, including cockfighting, prize fighting, gaming tents, jugglers, ballad singers, ladies on stilts, and even freak shows.
The Colours of Victory:
Until 1783, jockeys were free to wear any attire they pleased, leading to confusion in determining race winners. To rectify this, jockeys were mandated to wear the colours of their horse's owners. The British Horse-racing Authority maintains a register of unique colour combinations, ensuring each jockey's colours remain distinct and representative of their respective owners.
Tradition and Fashion:
The Royal Enclosure, initially established in the 1790s, underwent significant development in 1822 when King George IV commissioned the construction of a two-storey stand surrounded by a lawn. Access to this exclusive area was strictly by invitation from the King. Further enhancements were made in the mid-nineteenth century, prompted by the visit of the Emperor of Russia, Nicholas I. In 1845, the enclosure in front of the Royal Stand was enclosed, restricting access exclusively to invitees—a tradition that persists to this day.
Angels and Gold Cup Day:
Colloquially known as "Ladies' Day," Gold Cup Day holds a special place in the hearts of attendees. Coined in 1823 by an anonymous poet, the term "Ladies' Day" captured the enchantment of the event, describing women as "angels" exuding divine beauty. Today, a dress code upholds the sartorial elegance of the occasion, adding an extra touch of grace and sophistication.
A Royal Procession Begins:
At precisely 2 pm, each of the five days of Ascot begins with the Royal Procession. This grand spectacle marks the arrival of The Queen and the Royal party in horse-drawn landaus, parading along the track to the delight of the racegoers. The first Royal Procession took place in 1825, with King George IV leading four coaches filled with members of the Royal party up the Straight Mile. Diarists of the time remarked on the splendid spectacle of the procession.
If you have yet to experience the enchantment of Royal Ascot, it is an event that should not be missed. I personally recommend indulging in a hospitality package to enhance your enjoyment of the festivities. Remember to stay hydrated, bring a pair of comfortable flats, and perhaps a fan to ensure your experience is both elegant and comfortable. As Ascot celebrates 200 years of captivating history, Ladies Day continues to be an exquisite showcase of British tradition, style, and grace.