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Royal Pictures from History: Elizabeth at Royal Ascot

Every picture tells its own story. In this occasional series, Royal Central looks at some of the most interesting regal images ever taken and today, it’s time to go to Ascot. The meeting, which takes place every June at the famous racecourse just down the road from Windsor Castle, is a high point of the royal calendar and the Queen’s presence is a must at this must see event. As the runners and riders jockey for position and hats are pinned into place, Royal Central takes you back over seven decades to see a very early visit by Elizabeth II to Royal Ascot.

The Picture – Royal Ascot, Berkshire, June 18th 1946

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The Story

The famous Royal Ascot hadn’t taken place at all during World War Two but as the summer of 1946 began, the racecourse opened its doors once more for the spectacle.

Among the royal guests was a young princess who would become Ascot’s most famous fan. Princess Elizabeth, as she was then, attended the races with her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and other members of her family as the House of Windsor put on a spectacular show to inaugurate a new era in this famous course’s history.

Princess Elizabeth, then heir to the throne, rode in the carriage procession alongside her aunt, Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood. Both women, like every other person there, had had to create their outfits for this showpiece fashion event of the year under the restrictions of rationing. Coupons were still needed to buy material so many of those at Ascot wore dresses they already owned. Style commentators of the time described the meeting as being all about hats because of the restrictions on cloth for new outfits.

The Next Chapter

The Queen has become perhaps the most famous royal fan of Ascot since Queen Anne began its regal associations back in 1711. Elizabeth II attends every part of the meeting, which now runs for five days, every year. Her appearance in the first carriage of the procession which sweeps into the grounds at 2pm sharp on each afternoon of the event is a fixed point in the royal calendar while Royal Ascot itself is a huge draw for visitors all hoping to get a glimpse of the Queen and her family in the famous royal enclosure.

Royal Ascot this year gets under way on June 18th 2019, exactly 73 years to the day since this picture was taken. Much has changed but the Queen’s love of horse racing remains the same.

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