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Reasons for ‘The Season’

An English Rose in Georgia

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POSTED: June 26, 2014 10:00 a.m.

As I speak to and email friends, family and business contacts back in England at this time of year, I am reminded that the land of my birth is in the midst of what is still thought of as “The Social Season” or simply “The Season.”
The Season began in the seventeenth century as a way for young, upper class ladies to find suitable men to marry. This custom peaked in the nineteenth century, and declined after the end of the First World War. Its traditional purpose of “husband finding” has declined since the Queen cancelled the traditional presenting of debutantes at Buckingham Palace in 1958.
In more recent times "The Season"  has become to most people a time of great British sporting events, in particular Wimbledon (tennis), Royal Ascot (horse racing), and The Henley Royal Regatta (rowing).
Not just for the upper classes, these are now enjoyed by everybody, although when attending in person, good connections, deep pockets and/or corporate hospitality helps a lot.
This week has seen the beginning of Wimbledon in South West London. This is the oldest and arguably the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world but as I have written about this great tennis event before, I will simply cheer on Scotsman Andy Murray to repeat his victory of last year.
Last week was also Royal Ascot week. This five day long horse racing event is loved by Queen Elizabeth 2nd who, through her private stables, has owned 22 winners at Royal Ascot during her long reign.
A few interesting facts about Royal Ascot include:
* The famous Royal Racecourse was founded by Queen Anne in 1711 and every day of racing begins with the Royal Procession - the arrival of The Queen and the Royal party in horse-drawn carriages
* The Royal Enclosure is at the heart of Royal Ascot, and where the Queen and her guests watch the races
* Within the Royal Enclosure, gentlemen are required to wear a special suit in black or grey known as ‘morning dress’ which includes a waistcoat with a top hat. Ladies must wear formal day wear, which means no pants, skirts must be on or below the knee, no showing of bare midriffs or shoulders, and - most famously - should always wear hats. The more elaborate the hat, the better.
Moving onto rowing, one of my personal favorite events of the English season, the Henley Royal Regatta, takes place during the first week of July.
Many Americans have heard about Royal Ascot but in my experience fewer people have heard about ‘Henley’ as the Brits usually refer to this event.
The Henley Regatta was first held in 1839 and has been held annually ever since, except during the two World Wars. Originally staged by the Mayor and people of the town of Henley (about an hour from London) as a public attraction with various amusements, the emphasis rapidly changed to competitive amateur rowing on the River Thames.To preserve the natural beauty of the Henley Reach of the River Thames, every part of the Regatta’s installations, both on land and in the river, is removed after each Regatta and then re-erected the following year.
Much like the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, Henley’s Stewards’ Enclosure has stringent dress and etiquette rules.
Gentlemen must wear a jacket and tie, and rowing club colors on a blazer or cap are encouraged, as is the wearing of boater hats. A lady’s skirt hem must reach below the knee and is checked before entry by the Stewards’ Officers. Although hats for ladies are encouraged they are not required. The intention is to maintain the atmosphere of an English Garden party of the Edwardian period by wearing a more traditional dress. Anyone found using a cell phone is asked to leave immediately!
I must admit that I do miss wearing the flamboyant hats I used to wear during events of The Season back in England. Frank Sinatra once said “Cock your hat, the angles are attitudes”.
God Bless America!

Lesley grew up in London, England and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009 with her American husband, Carl and English dogs. She can be contacted at lesley@francis.com or www.lesleyfrancispr.com

 

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