It has endured since 1711, I suspect, the unfairness of it all. Queen Anne may have instigated it as a way for women to get one over on men for ever more. She was, it seems, as prodigious an eater at the dinner table as any king before her and was so fat by the time she ordered the construction of the royal racecourse she could barely walk. Her husband, Prince George of Denmark, possessed the sparkle and wisdom of a side of bacon and was a constant source of embarrassment to her. Queen Anne also suffered from gout, a condition assured only to bring accusation of wantonness and little in the way of charity and she also suffered the heartbreak of any number of miscarriages, with no child surviving to its teenage years.
So it can be safely assumed she was not the happiest monarch our fair country has had upon the thrown and no doubt placed most of the blame for her discontent on the male sex in general and poor old George in particular. This is the only explanation I can find for the virulent discrimination imposed on the male of the species when it comes to the rules regarding what a man must wear at Royal Ascot.
Women can wear nice summer dress and wide-brimmed hats. They have the entire spectrum of colour to choose from when creating their outfits. As long as it confers with the dress code the woman can throw caution and fashion to the wind. Yet no matter what excess of weather a man will be thrown out of the royal enclosures if he is not wearing a suite of clothes more appropriate to an assembly at a cathedral than a race meeting. It is fancy dress used as punishment for crimes unknown. Only in Great Britain! And we can’t even blame Brussells!
I don’t like it and I won’t ever attend Royal Ascot because of it. I am sure the Queen, who I would follow onto the battle field, will be mortified by the uncouthness of my revolutionary outburst.
The racing, though, is nothing short of exceptional, with the quality and diversity becoming more pronounced every year. This year I want to see the Queen have a winner, Godolphin to do better than Coolmore, Josie Gordon to ride a winner (or 2), Big Orange to win the Gold Cup, and the journeyman jockey and small trainer and owner win more than the odd race. I want an uncontroversial Royal Ascot, with no reference to it as the main item of news at six o’clock.
If I could change one race at the meeting I would move the Queen Alexandria Stakes to the big July meeting at Ascot and replace it with a ‘silver cup’ Royal Hunt Cup. The Queen Alexandria I would turn into a 2-mile 6 handicap with a six-figure prize fund. The King George meeting needs a second stand-out race as in some years the big race is a bit of a yawn, especially when there are no runners from abroad.
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.