Royal Ascot, the highlight of Ascot's year and one of the world's most famous race meetings will soon be upon us. Three hundred years have passed since Queen Anne founded the first Royal meeting back in 1711 and ever since it has been one of the most exciting major events in the English social calendar, for the keenest of all race-goers.
The Romans, surprise surprise were one of the first people recorded to have bred and to have raced horses on the flat, followed by King James 1 in the 16th century who developed the sport in areas such as Newmarket, offering a silver bell as the prize. On James I's death in the 17th century Charles I continued to develop it further. His son Charles II was even more passionate about the sport and taking the Royal Patronage to a new height became a jockey in the races and set up a number of Royal Plates.
The Jockey Club was formed in the 18th century to regulate the sport and in that same century Royal Ascot was born, with the emphasis shifting towards shorter races run by younger horses. The first four day Royal Meeting was introduced in 1768, but the Royal Ascot as we know, took shape with the introduction of the Gold Cup in 1807, which to this day is Ascot's oldest surviving race.
In 1825 the Prince Regent introduced the Royal Procession and interestingly a friend of his, a young dandy, by the name of Beau Brummell insisted that men of elegance should wear waisted black coats and white cravats with pantaloons. It was from this fashion the frock coat was developed, which was extremely popular in the 1850's, for formal wear. It was then followed by an adaptation of the riding coat in the 1880's which was originally called a Newmarket coat, to which many have known throughout the 20th and 21st century as the morning coat.
In the 18th century and early 19th century well-heeled race-goers would arrive with carriages full of champagne, wine and cigars and portable ice houses to transport them in. The arrival of the motor car eventually replaced the carriages and the tradition of the lavish lunch parties continued up until the first World War and then gradually fizzled out with the sign of the times.
Royal Ascot, June 1921
Picnicing in number one car park, 1921
Santoi winning the Gold Cup of 1901
Black Ascot: in mourning for King Edward VII, 1910
Elegant backs to the ladies' dresses 1900
A last glimpse of carefree pre-war Ascot, June 1914
Persimmon in the winners' enclosure after his popular win in the Ascot Gold Cup for Edward, Prince of Wales, 1897.
The nobs on their carriages 1907
Crossing the course 1907
Discussing the form
The well-heeled and the great unwashed of 1907
The Royal Drive passes the old stands
Omnibus from Windsor Station
Number one car park 1907
The Royal Enclosure stand and lawn, 1905
Paddock scene, 1908
In the Royal Enclosure
The Royal Enclosure