Preparing For Ascot: The Royal Enclosure

A Royal Ascot 1 Today heralds the start of June, the most exciting month on the royal hat calendar. While there will undoubtedly be some great hats at the Epsom Races and Trooping the Colour, the pinnacle of royal events this month is Royal Ascot. Reader Charles (known here as Chicago Chuck) has attended Ascot several times and shared his experience buying an antique silk top hat for the event. This year, he is headed back to the UK to take in the races and has generously invited Royal Hats readers along for inside view of the experience, sharing everything from the preparation and wardrobe planning to the Pimm’s on raceday. 

Royal Ascot, one of the most exciting and interesting events on the annual calendar of what used to be termed the “London Season” is held each year during the third week of June.  The Saturday previous to Royal Ascot is the annual Trooping the Color (Queen’s birthday parade) and the Monday of Ascot week is the annual Service of Thanksgiving for members of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. Royal Ascot is held on the Tuesday through Saturday of the week of Garter Day.  There are various areas (enclosures) within the Ascot racecourse facility with the most exclusive being the Royal Enclosure.

Just what is the Royal Enclosure?  The Royal Enclosure can be most easily described as the VIP section of the Ascot Racecourse.  But what a grand VIP section it is!  It includes areas available only to those wearing the distinctive badges of a Royal Enclosure attendee.  There are excellent areas to view the actual racing – with garden areas where one can almost reach out and touch the horses as they cross the finishing post.  There are also Grandstand areas with seating, and beautiful garden areas for dining, drinking the all-important glass of champagne to celebrate a win or lament a loss, and to do one of the most enjoyable parts of Royal Ascot – people watch!

Because of the very strict dress guidelines and requirements the people watching is like no other.  Women in formal day wear – dresses of modest length with no bare shoulders and a hat or headpiece with a base of at least four inches.  Men in formal day wear – black or gray morning dress, including a waistcoat (vest) and tie, as well as a black or gray top hat.

There is no better or easier place to meet someone – every woman enjoys a friend or stranger to walk up and compliment her hat and outfit; likewise, any gentleman is pleased when another person compliments him on his dandy outfit and beautiful topper!  After a great start to what might become a new friendship, a shared glass of bubbly is just the way to enjoy the Royal Enclosure.

Races are run beginning at 2:30 PM with additional races throughout the afternoon, approximately every 45 minutes.

Thank you, Charles, for this great introduction to Royal Ascot. In his next posts, Charles will share a detailed how-to obtain tickets to the royal enclosure, his impressions of what makes the event so special (along with where to spot the royals) and the adventure of choosing his wardrobe for this year. Stay tuned for this fantastic countdown to the races!
Photos from Getty as indicated
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24 thoughts on “Preparing For Ascot: The Royal Enclosure

  1. I remember reading about the purchase of a top hat last year and special case for it! So look forward to the entertaining and informative tales from the Royal Enclosure in 2016 thanks to Chicago Chuck and Hat Queen.

  2. Thank you, Charles! What a great treat we will all have reading your series. I love the hats that you chose to showcase: Helen Mirren, Earl Spencer’s wife, the lady in blue and fuchsia, and is it Jeremy Irons who looks very happy to be there? They all look fantastic in gorgeous hats.

  3. I always wondered what Ascot was like. It looks like a lot of fun! Thanks for sharing with us, Charles. Your hats are so beautiful I can’t wait to see what you are planning to wear.

  4. How wonderful for us to ‘tag along’ with you, Chuck! Thank you! I enjoyed your previous post about the crucial differences in top hats. Very much looking forward to the insider view of the Ascot Races.

  5. This is so interesting. I thought the races were all day long! I think I’m going to learn a lot about Ascot this year, bring it on!
    HQ are you going too? And are you and Charles friends?

  6. WOW! It’s like I’m getting a front row seat at ASCOT!! You rock Charles! Thanks for sharing this. It’s so awesome (says the woman at home on bedrest 8 months pregnant. I was dreading the next 3 weeks but since you’re taking me to Ascot, it’s all good!)

  7. I am extremely excited to learn more about Ascot! Thank you Charles! This series of posts promises to be great fun.

  8. It looks like the best tea party in the entire world. With champagne instead of tea!
    I honestly thought that Ascot was only for upper crust types and had no idea that regular people could go. Charles- how did you start going to Ascot? Where did you get the idea to go in the first place.

    LOVE this post and can’t wait for the next ones. If I ever went to Ascot I’d go nuts figuring out what to wear.

    • I’ve never seen so much champagne consumed – truly amazing. And I’ve done my part consuming lots of bubbly.

      As to how I started going, etc. – honestly it is complicated but, thanks to a fantastic website at Ascot it is rather easy to navigate. The Royal Enclosure’s associated costs definitely has an impact on who can attend but it isn’t out of reach.

  9. Thank you, Charles, for your insider’s view of Ascot, and for your excellent writing skills. And thank you, Hat Queen, for sharing your platform. Looking forward to the series!

  10. Interesting how the Grandstand and Silver Ring have been renamed the Queen Anne Enclosure and Windsor Enclosure respectively (I assume so all the section names now include “enclosure”). Greatly looking forward to all the hattery madness this month!

    • Jake, my cynicism makes me believe the grander names will also include grander pricing for everything. They are amazingly helpful in the Hospitality Office at Ascot, but it ain’t cheap! LOL!

      • Based on the prices I saw, including the exchange rate, the prices looked to be better than those of the Kentucky Derby (at least for any decent seating there). It’s still not cheap (especially since I would have to fly there and buy a top hat and morning outfit haha), but I think I would have a lot more fun than the Derby.

      • I agree Jake. The Kentucky Derby I believe is significantly more expensive, certainly for a “similar” experience. As it happens, a group of about 8 friends (including me) are considering attending the Derby in 2017. My first cursory investigation suggests it is going to be pretty eye-dropingly expensive.

        As for Royal Ascot/Royal Enclosure, you actually could attend with pretty minimal expense (assuming you own morning attire and top hat – a bit easier for a woman to already own the requisite attire). If you are a member of the Royal Enclosure, which membership is a mere £40 (I think for life), you can purchase a day badge for £90. You don’t have to eat at Ascot, nor drink (the horror!), nor even bet for that matter. We have friends who live locally in Windsor and they arrive early afternoon, just before the carriage procession and first race and don’t drink that much. And since they attend annually they have their attire already.

      • I’m gobsmacked! I had no idea it was so affordable to go to Ascot and to the Royal Enclosure noless! (I already live in southern England and have a few hats I could wear). I have a big birthday next year and you’ve helped me decide what I want as my present!

      • Whoops! I think I’ve over simplified and misled regarding entry into the Royal Enclosure. The membership price is £40 and the price for one day’s entry is £90, however you must be a member of the Royal Enclosure. Becoming a member is the tricky part. To become a member you must be sponsored by two individual members (married couple doesn’t count) who have both themselves been members for 5+ years and that you have known personally for 5+ years. So it is less the cost than the process and who you know. Sorry for the over simplification!

      • Charles’ next post will detail the ways to gain access to the Royal Enclosure- it’s a very informative read. Stay tuned!

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