Queen travels north for Ascot races
Tuesday, 14 June 2005
The Queen will be on unfamiliar turf at the start of Royal Ascot this year as it is being held at York races for the first time.
The royal race meeting has never taken place anywhere but Ascot, a short gallop from Windsor Castle.
But redevelopment of the Berkshire course, which is owned by the Crown, has meant Royal Ascot is this year a northern affair.
It seems that some regular racegoers are less than enthusiastic about making the trip to York.
For those who prefer the south, there is even a fake Royal Ascot beamed live from York where punters can parade in their finery, sip Pimms, place bets and pretend nothing has changed.
A highlight in the royal calendar and social season, the annual race meeting is a great British sporting occasion.
It mixes top horse-racing with extravagant hats, cocktails, champagne, smoked salmon, strawberries and cream, and the unreliable English summer.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh arrive at the Royal Ascot horse racing meeting at York Racecourse, York, England, Tuesday June 14, 2005. Royal Ascot, the 300 year old royal meeting, is being held in York this year while the Ascot course is undergoling redevelopment. (AP Photo/Paul Ellis)
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh usually attend every day of the week-long meeting which begins each afternoon with a royal carriage procession.
The Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Princess Royal and her daughter Zara Phillips - the only Royal to have her own personal stylist and fast becoming a royal pin-up - the Earl and Countess of Wessex, as well as the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, are all regular Ascot racegoers.
However, Charles and Andrew are probably less interested in the racing than other members of their family.
The Royals - men wearing grey or black top hat and tails, and ladies in colourful designer outfits and hats - can be seen inspecting the horseflesh in the Winners' Enclosure.
Britain's Prince Charles, right, and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall arrive at the Royal Ascot horse racing meeting at York Racecourse, York, England, Tuesday June 14, 2005. Royal Ascot, the 300 year old royal meeting, is being held in York this year while the Ascot course is redeveloped. (AP Photo/Paul Ellis)
Toffs in top hats take off their toppers to greet the Queen or princesses as they walk by.
A host of celebrities also rub shoulders with the Royal Family as punters watch each other, as well as the racing, and picnic - some with butlers - in the car parks.
Ladies Day, on Thursday, is a favourite opportunity for stylish - and often outrageous - fashion statements and is a sight to behold.
Hats, of course, are as much the focus as horseflesh and the royal ladies delight in wearing their latest designer millinery.
The Queen often wears a distinctive colour to be noticed by those who have come to see her and she chooses a narrow brim so as not to mask her face from onlookers and photographers. Also, a wide-brimmed hat is more likely to be whipped off by high winds.
Royal Ascot dates from 1711 when Queen Anne drove from nearby Windsor with her entourage for a day's sport organised at her command.
The present Queen first went to Ascot in 1945 and has attended every year since. When in 1955 Royal Ascot was cancelled because of a railway strike, she went privately to the July meeting instead.
The Queen used to give a large house party at Windsor Castle for each meeting and until 1963 names of those attending were listed in the Court Circular printed in some newspapers.
But since then it has been considered a semi-private occasion and names are no longer published. Since 1974 house parties have been much smaller with extra guests invited to lunches and dinners.
This year, the Queen and the Duke are staying privately near York.
A horse owner, the Queen often has one or two runners during the meeting and can be seen urging her horses on, even punching the air in excitement if she has a winner.
Ladies attending the Royal Enclosure are required to wear formal day dress with hats covering the crown of the head, and gentlemen morning dress or uniform.
A relaxation of the rules was allowed in 1968 when men could wear lounge suits. However, few actually did and the following year the rules reverted to formal dress.
Ladies have been allowed to wear smart trouser suits of matching material since 1970 but hats are still obligatory. Overseas visitors are welcome to wear the traditional national dress of their country.
The Royal Enclosure dress code is policed by stewards and anyone not complying will be asked to leave.
There have been incidents when people without the required Royal Enclosure badge have tried to gatecrash the royal party.
Actress Joan Collins's face turned redder than her lipstick when she was caught trying to enter the Royal Enclosure wearing somebody else's badge.
Rock star Rod Stewart had the right badge but, in a "Mod" white suit, was judged by the stewards to be inappropriately dressed.
Since 1955, a ban on divorcees entering the Royal Enclosure has been lifted. Undischarged bankrupts are still unwelcome and admission of ex-prisoners is at the discretion of officials.
Daily Mail 14th June 2005