Royal Ascot History
The origins of the world’s most famous race meeting date back to 1711 when British monarch Queen Anne made the decision to purchase a plot of land close to Windsor Castle, believing it would be a suitable location for holding horse races.
The land was promptly purchased by the Crown for the princely sum of £558, and the first horse races were held in August of that year. The very first race held at the course carried a purse of 100 guineas and was open to mares, colts and geldings over the age of six. ‘Her Majesty’s Plate’ was also something of a handicap event, with each horse required to carry 12 stone.
Seven horses competed in the first races held at Ascot Racecourse, with the winner decided after three heats of four miles. For the next century the race meeting grew in popularity amongst the members of the English nobility, both for horse racing and the social events that came with it. As time passed the event gradually expanded to include more races, with the first four-day meeting held in 1768.
In 1813 Ascot Racecourse was made the subject of an ‘Act of Enclosure’ which guaranteed public access to the land whilst ensuring the racecourse remained property of the Crown. The oldest of the Royal Ascot’s Grade 1 races came into existence in 1807, with the first running of the prized Ascot Gold Cup. The race, held on Ladies’ Day at the meet, proved to be a massive success and marked the occasion at which the ‘modern’ Royal Ascot meeting came into existence.
Within the next 50 years the majority of the races now contested at the annual Royal Ascot meeting were established, including the Queen Anne Stakes and the St. James’s Palace Stakes. By the turn of the 19th century the Royal Ascot had earned the reputation of being easily the most popular and prestigious flat racing meeting in Britain.
In 1913 the Ascot Authority was established by virtue of a Parliamentary Act to administer the racecourse and the races there. For the first 200 years of the Royal Ascot’s history the event was the only fixture held at Ascot Racecourse every year.
The rich heritage and Royal Ascot history are celebrated to this day with strict rules applying to dress codes to ensure that the event maintains its old world charm.