Ascot stages 26 days of racing throughout the year, but the five-day Royal Meeting, held annually in June, is the most famous - a key date in the social calendar which combines venerable tradition with fashionable panache. Hordes of well-dressed racegoers descend on the Berkshire town, and many enjoy the traditional Car Park Picnic.
The first race meeting ever held at Ascot took place on 11 August 1711 and was instigated by Queen Anne, but it was with the accession of George II that the race became the second most popular in England.
Originally established to ensure privacy for members of the royal family, the Royal Enclosure dates back to the 1790s, when a separate Royal Stand was erected. The exclusive Royal Box, commissioned by George IV in 1822, was only accessible to guests brandishing a royal invitation.
To gain entry to the Royal Enclosure, race-goers must obtain a sponsorship form and have it signed by someone who has attended the Royal Enclosure for 4 years. Convicted criminals and undischarged bankrupts were barred from the Royal Enclosure. Divorcées have been allowed in since 1955.
Each day during the Royal Meeting the Queen and her party drive in open-topped carriages across Windsor Park, entering the racecourse by the Golden Gates.
Tuesday features The Queen Anne Stakes, The St James's Palace Stakes and The King's Stand Stakes. On Wednesday you can see The Prince of Wales's Stakes.
The prestigious Gold Cup event is held on Ladies' Day (Thursday), when women entering the Royal Enclosure must wear a hat that covers the 'crown of their head'. Ladies' Day at Royal Ascot can trace its roots back to 1823, when an anonymous poet described the Thursday of the Royal meeting as 'Ladies' Day... when the women, like angels, look sweetly divine.'
On Friday it is the turn of the Coronation Stakes, and the Meeting ends on Saturday with the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
Royal Ascot's much loved tradition of 'singing round the bandstand' dates to the 1970s under the stewardship of Lady Beaumont, wife of the then Clerk of the Course. The after-racing medley of British favourites and flag waving was an immediate hit, and thousands of racegoers stayed on and joined in. Now, traditional singing is listed as part of the day's formal proceedings and songbooks and flags are handed round.
Note: To obtain Royal Ascot tickets, book as early as possible. Tickets for Royal Ascot 2013 are available from www.ascotkiosk.co.uk or by telephone.
Dress Codes Please note that the dress code was revised in 2012.
Dresses and skirts should be of modest length (falling just above the knee or longer). Dresses and tops should have straps of one inch or greater. Jackets and pashminas may be worn but dresses and tops underneath should still comply with the Royal Enclosure dress code. Trouser suits should be of full length and of matching material and colour. Hats should be worn; a headpiece which has a base of 4 inches (10cm) or more in diameter is acceptable as an alternative to a hat. Please note: Strapless, off the shoulder, halter neck, spaghetti straps and dresses with a strap of less than one inch (2.5cm) are not permitted. Midriffs must be covered. Fascinators are no longer permitted in the Royal Enclosure; neither are headpieces which do not have a base covering a sufficient area of the head (4 inches / 10cm).
Black or grey morning dress which must include a waistcoat and tie (no cravats). Black or grey top hat and black shoes. Please note: A gentleman may remove his top hat within a restaurant, a private box, a private club or that facility's terrace, balcony or garden. Hats may also be removed within any enclosed external seating area within the Royal Enclosure Garden. The customisation of top hats (with, for example, coloured ribbons or bands) is not permitted in the Royal Enclosure.
Children (admitted on Friday and Saturday only):
Girls (aged 10-16) should be dressed for a formal occasion. Smart summer dresses are suggested. Hats, headpieces or a fascinator may be worn but are not compulsory. Boys (aged 10-16) should either dress in accordance with the gentlemen's dress code (as set out above); or alternatively may wear a dark-coloured lounge suit with a shirt and tie (whereupon no hat is required). Overseas visitors & Serving Military Personnel:
Overseas visitors are welcome to wear the formal National Dress of their country or Service Dress. Serving military personnel are welcome to wear Service Dress or equivalent. Grandstand Admission
Ladies within the main Grandstand enclosure are encouraged to dress in a manner as befits a formal occasion. A hat, headpiece or fascinator should be worn at all times. Strapless or sheer strap dresses and tops are not permitted. Trousers must be full length and worn with a top that adheres to the guidelines above (i.e. strapless or sheer strap tops are not permitted). Jackets and pashminas may be worn but dresses and tops underneath should still comply with the Grandstand Admission dress code. Midriffs must be covered; shorts are not permitted. Gentlemen:
Gentlemen are required to wear a suit with a shirt and tie. Children
Girls (17 or under) should be dressed for a formal occasion. Smart summer dresses are suggested. Hats, headpieces or a fascinator may be worn but are not compulsory. Boys aged (13-17) should wear a suit or jacket with a shirt and a tie. Younger boys (12 or under) should be dressed smartly but are not required to wear a jacket or tie. Please visit the official Ascot website for further information on dress codes and tickets.