With Royal Ascot not too far away – it’s actually the 18th to 22nd of June, if you were wondering – now is the time to dust off your finery and head off to Berkshire for Britain’s most valuable race meeting. Each day at 2pm, before racing commences, the Queen and her companions arrive in horse-drawn carriages that make their way up the racecourse to congregate at the Royal Enclosure, where they mingle with other members.
Membership of the Royal Enclosure is governed by referrals from existing members, but it is something that almost anyone can join, so you could be quite easily be dunking biscuits with the Queen. But what if you do? What is the protocol, and does The Queen dunk her biscuits, or at least have someone dunk them for her? What are the rules when faced with Royalty at the races?
Generally, you shouldn’t approach The Queen or any other Senior Royal and expect to get anything other than a frosty reception. Usually you would be expected to be presented to them and, while there is no obligatory code of behaviour when meeting The Queen, formal is probably the best way to go. For men this is a neck bow – that is tilting the head only - whilst women should perform a small curtsy. The correct formal address is 'Your Majesty' and subsequently 'Ma'am,' pronounced with a short 'a,' as in ‘spam’. Definitely do not, on presentation, say “haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”
Have your name badge prominent. Everyone except the Queen and Prince Philip should be showing a name badge in the Royal Enclosure so make sure that yours is on show. Don’t squint and stare at a Royals name badge and challenge one if their badge is not on show, like Meghan Markle’s wasn’t in 2018.
If you are drinking tea in the Royal Enclosure, hold the cup by the handle and use your thumb and index finger to hold the top of the handle, while the middle finger supports the bottom. Do not stick your little finger out – it is considered to be highly pretentious!! If you are drinking coffee (as if?!), protocol demands that you loop your index finger through the handle.
Don’t walk in front of The Queen nor turn you back on her. The Royal Family must always walk in line with their given rank, which means no one – not even you - should walk in front of her. It is also very bad form to present a horses back-end to The Queen, so if you are in charge of a horse, you must lead it round as she moves so that the head is always facing her.
Apart from those general etiquette rules, don’t ask The Queen what she fancies in the 3:15 whilst giving her a cheeky wink. The Queen will always have a little flutter put on one of her own horses, so don’t suggest another.
If you fancy a flutter at Ascot, you can do so for a minimum bet of £2 on each of the six daily races, however there is also a side bet that goes on every day as to what colour The Queen will dress in for the event. If you happen to be in the Royal Enclosure, don’t remonstrate with The Queen because she wore yellow and you bet on blue.