The traditional season was defined by the movements of the royal
family, who were in residence in the capital from April to July and
from October until Christmas. During these months, the aristocracy
and members of the ruling classes made it their custom to reside in
By the late 18th century the social season had become firmly anchored in the marriage market for the upper echelons of society. Well-bred girls became 'debutantes' when they were launched into society at the age of 17 or 18 with a formal introduction to the monarch and a debut at the high-profile ball, followed by a whirlwind six months of parties, dances and special events.
Gradually these events - which ranged from balls and concerts to sporting events and horseracing - became annual milestones, a socially circumscribed ritual that changed very little until the middle of the 20th century.
Today, the traditional Season, with its trappings of debutantes, Court presentations, balls and parties, has all but disappeared. What remains, however, is a well-loved round of events that are still regarded as highlights of the British social calendar - from Royal Ascot, the Chelsea Flower Show and Wimbledon to Henley Royal Regatta, Glyndebourne, Glorious Goodwood and Cowes Week.
The lingering vestiges of the historical Season can still be seen in certain social conventions, especially those associated with dress codes, and most people revel in the opportunity to dress up, and enjoy the undoubted glamour of these traditional events.