It is said that the most beautiful way to look at the world is from horseback. Horses, once the only mode of transportation, are now tied to sports, passion for nature, but also a lifestyle of luxury. Similar to the times past, not everyone owns one now, making horses somewhat a symbol of the world of nobility.
Simply going for a ride, heading out for a hunt, playing polo – a favorite pastime of more than just British or Belgian princes – or participating in horse races or shows. All of that and more is the lifestyle of nobility. The relationship between nobility and horses has changed primarily due to the invention of the automobile but some aristocratic families engage in horse breeding to this day. This applies especially to the British aristocracy but the other noble families of western Europe are not far behind. Horses have become a way to earn money as well as a favored pastime. One does not have to be an aristocrat to fall in love with horses and horse racing, however.
Horse racing dates as far back as ancient times. The first horse racing event was part of the Panhellenic Games in ancient Greece. It also spread throughout the Roman and Byzantine empires as well as Europe in the middle ages. Horse racing only took the form we know today in the modern era. It evolved from a tradition in horse markets where potential buyers would inspect the horses and compare their performance. The jockey wearing the owner's colors competing for a trophy as well as horse races as a place of business were minted in England. The oldest written record of a horse race comes from the English town of Roodee Fields from 1539. The very best horses only started competing in races held by the Royal Family towards the end of the 18th century.
Ascot is the pinnacle
The Ascot racetrack, located less than 10 kilometers away from Windsor Castle, was built at the behest of Queen Anne, the last member of the Stuart dynasty. The opening race took place on August 11, 1711. Despite the Ascot being located on land owned by the Crown, it has been open to the public since 1813 due to a law passed by the Parliament. The Jockey Club organization was established around the year 1750 to draw up a detailed set of rules and a competition system as well as a way to categorize the races, jockeys, and more. The rules of horse riding were gradually implemented in other European countries as well. Due to Turkish influence, purebred Arabian horses spread throughout the Old Continent originating in Hungary. Many stud farms and breeding stations were established with the purpose of cultivating new breeds. One such breed was the English Thoroughbred, considered today to be the perfect racehorse. Racetracks turned into not only a place to enjoy sports but also to relax, do business, and socialize, even becoming a fashion venue.
Strict dress code
The Royal Ascot, an event regularly attended by the British nobility, among others, blends horse shows with fashion and tradition with originality, and in so doing attracts lovers of both horses and fashion. Horse races are some of the most coveted events for socialites. The strict dress code that is followed diligently to this day was put in place by Queen Anne. For the gentlemen, a jacket with a proper top hat is required. The ladies in attendance often come up with splendid fashion creations making the performance of the horses and jockeys pale in comparison. A must-have part of the female outfit is a distinct hat or fascinator with a diameter of at least 10 centimeters that has to match the dress in color. Women in the royal family prefer less complex pieces adorned with flowers or bird feathers. Some attendees like to experiment and go with hats that are often extravagant, verging on bizarre. Ladies should wear a skirt that goes at least down to the knees, pants are also allowed. Dresses and tops with spaghetti straps or none at all are not allowed. Originality and extravagance are welcome but we would not recommend breaking the strict dress code. The strictest rules apply to the seats neighboring the boxes reserved for the Royal Family.
High-end and a people's party both
The horse races in Ascot are an excellent opportunity to meet friends or even to make new connections. Many also look forward to betting and the potential of winning big. And if you can't win, you can at least try to guess the color of the hat that the known lover of horse racing, Princess Anne, or another female member of the Royal Family will wear to the event. As always, this year's prominent horse racing event, which took place between June 14 – 19, was attended by numerous members of the British Royal Family with the exception of the Queen. Prince Charles with his wife Camilla, Prince William with his wife Kate, Princess Anne, and Princess Beatrice with her husband all made an appearance. Horse racing is an integral part of Great Britain and the British people. Similar to the monarchy. It is a thing many complain about but that the majority loves. You can sample the atmosphere of the royal races in person between June 20 – 24, 2023.
Movies and cravats
The Ascot racetrack also appeared in movies such as "My Fair Lady" from 1964 with Audrey Hepburn or the 1985 Bond movie "A View to a Kill" with Roger Moore. The famous track even gave the name to a special type of cravat, the Ascot, which is a sophisticated and elegant blend of necktie and scarf for refined gentlemen. It is usually made with light grey silk adorned with patterns of all kinds.
Ascot is also a place where one might meet, or at least catch a glimpse of, the Queen or other members of the British Royal Family.