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The Royal association with
Ascot Racecourse
Royal Ascot
It’s one of the most famous race meetings in the world, but how did Royal Ascot come to be associated with the British Royal Family? Along with the Grand National and the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot has built up a strong reputation amongst horse racing fans and has been a huge part of the sport for centuries now.

With Royal Ascot 2019 just around the corner, let’s take a look back at how it all began and exactly why it is a royal race meeting.

Origins of Ascot

Ascot Racecourse has been a royal location since the very beginning, as it was founded by Queen Anne back in 1711. The racecourse has received patronage from another eleven monarchs since then, but it wasn’t until 1911 that the summer race week became royal.

Getting to Ascot was a dangerous journey, as racegoers would often be targeted by highway robbers. It was easy to distinguish between the rich and the poor as the richer classes would travel by carriage while the poor would walk. When the railway reached Ascot in 1856 it made the journey to the racecourse much safer for everyone.

Until the 19th century, there was no dress code for racegoers. However, Beau Brummel, a close friend of the Prince Regent, decreed that a dress code would be appropriate to uphold the prestige of Ascot.

Ascot’s oldest surviving race is The Gold Cup, which was first introduced in 1807. One tradition which remains from the inaugural race is that the winner receives their own gold trophy to keep.

Prominent royal supporters

For decades throughout the 1900s, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was the most recognisable face in the crowd at Ascot. A keen horse racing fan, she also owned several horses who proved successful throughout the race week.

Queen Elizabeth II is another member of the royal family to have an interest in the sport and will be in attendance for this year’s event. Since her coronation in 1952, there have been over 70 winners at Ascot that have belonged to Her Majesty.

One of the most iconic meetings of Ascot came in 1910 in what is known as ‘Black Ascot’. All racegoers were required to wear black to mourn King Edward VII, who was an influential supporter of the sport.

Changing over time

As you can imagine, Ascot Racecourse has seen plenty of changes, whether it’s how well protected the racecourse is or who can attend the race week. In 1813, the Act of Enclosure was passed by parliament, which meant that although Ascot Heath was owned by the Crown, it would remain in use as a racecourse and that the public were able to visit to watch the racing.

Helen Vernet made history in 1920 by becoming the first woman to pass the ‘fit and proper’ character test and obtained a bookmaker’s licence. Prior to this, it was exclusively men who had passed the test.

Until 1955, women were barred from the Iron Stand, which was opened in 1859, and divorced men, who could enter the stand, were barred from the Royal Enclosure. As societal behaviours changed, so did these rules.
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