The History of Royal Ascot
Royal Ascot is a horse racing event quite like no other. The prized five day meeting boasts a tremendous 300 years worth of history close to the heart of the Royal Family.
The First Ascot Race
It was in 1711 that Queen Anne first founded Ascot Racecourse. When riding her horse from Windsor Castle to Ascot she said, ‘This would be a fine place for a race.’ Thus, the Queen asked William Lowen to build a racecourse on the site with the help of a carpenter William Erlybrown and painter Benjamin Cluchett. Ascot Racecourse was born.
Once established, the first Ascot race ‘Her Majesty’s Plate’, took place on the 11th August that year and was worth 100 guineas. Queen Anne’s involvement in Ascot Racecourse’s beginnings is preserved with the Royal Ascot tradition of the opening Queen Anne Stakes.
Royal Ascot’s Gold Cup
Although the origins of Royal Ascot can be difficult to clearly pinpoint, in 1807 Royal Ascot began to take shape with the inaugural Gold Cup race. Nevertheless, historians believe that the event as we know it today evolved from the first four day meeting which took place in 1768. Until today The Gold Cup remains the highlight race on the Thursday at Royal Ascot.
Gold Cup Day on the Thursday is also popularly known as Ladies’ Day, a term that dates back well into 1823 when an anonymous poet described it as ‘Ladies’ Day… when the women, like angels, look sweetly divine.’
Royal Ascot’s Special Traditions
One of the most special traditions of Royal Ascot is the Royal Procession that takes place at 2pm on each day of the races. This tradition dates back to 1825 when King George IV led four other coaches with members of the Royal party up the Straight Mile. Since then it’s been firmly established at a highlight of Royal Ascot.
A further trait that makes Royal Ascot unique in its own right is the exclusivity of the Royal Enclosure. Origins of this enclosure can be dated back to 1807 when an area of the racecourse was exclusively reserved for family and specials guests of King George III. This was then firmly established in the mid nineteenth century.
A newer historic tradition at Royal ascot is the singing at the Bandstand started in the 1970’s by the wife of the Clerk of the course. Every evening at Royal Ascot, the Bandstand hosts an unmissable sing-a-long of British classics which is enjoyed by thousands of racegoers.
Memorable Moments at Royal Ascot
In 1910, the meeting was called the year of ‘Black Ascot’ when King Edward VII, a great supporter of racing died shortly before the event. Mourning was conducted at the races with all Royal Ascot racegoers dressed in black.
Since 2012, the Golden Jubilee Stakes was renamed to the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. Indeed, Queen Elizabeth II has been an unwavering patron of Royal Ascot since she has been on the throne, having never missed a Royal Meeting. Additionally, the Queen has also owned 22 winners at Royal Ascot. In 2013, her horse Estimate won the Gold Cup. This was the first time in history that it had been won by a reigning monarch.
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