Royal Ascot, the highlight of Ascot's year and one of the world's most famous race meetings will soon be upon us. Over three hundred years have passed since Queen Anne founded the first Royal Meeting back in 1711 and ever since then it has been one of the most exciting major events in the English social calendar, for the keenest of all racegoers.
The origin of the Thoroughbred may be traced back to records indicating that a stock of Arab and Barb horses were introduced into England as early as the 3rd century. The Romans 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 the death of James I, Charles I continued to develop it further, with his son Charles II even more passionate about the sport, taking the Royal Patronage to a new height, becoming a jockey in the races and setting 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 a great chum 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 born, 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 racegoers would arrive with carriages full of champagne, wine, cigars and portable ice houses to transport them in. The arrival of the motor car eventually replaced carriages and the tradition of lavish lunch parties continued up until the first World War and then sadly 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, 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.
Watching from their carriages, 1907.
Crossing the course, 1907.
Discussing the form.
Them and us, 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.
Inside the Royal Enclosure.
The Royal Enclosure.