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The British Social Season – History and Guide

London’s social calendar, or ‘The Season’ is steeped in history and the highlight of the summer months in the capital with its traditions and hugely popular events that include music, the Arts, Horticulture, Sport and dedicated royal occasions. The event organisers are always careful to avoid date clashes, so if you have the time, income and stamina, it’s possible to attend all the events in the same year! But first, a quick bit of history:

The social season emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries when the British aristocracy and gentry left their country estates to spend the summer months socialising in the capital and attended balls, dinners, charitable and sporting events. The tradition reached its peak in the 19th century, when the purpose altered slightly with children of marriageable age being launched into society. For debutantes (from the French for ‘female beginner’), ‘The Season’ was a very serious business that required months of preparation. culminating in being presented at Court to the monarch of the day, and hopefully, receiving the ultimate goal of a marriage proposal. The 12th August (‘The Glorious Twelfth’) officially marked the end of the season and a return to their country estates for the start of the shooting season.

Today, there is no longer an official ‘Season’, but many of the same traditions and customs remain. Dress codes may apply, especially for Royal events, when hats must be worn, and jacket and tie. Below is this year’s running order and for ticketed events it’s advisable to pre-book:

The 161st Boat Race, Putney: 11th April
Join the crowds lining the banks of the River Thames from Putney to Mortlake to watch the Oxford and Cambridge crews battle it out along the 4.2 mile (6.8 km) course. The women’s race starts at 4.50pm, the men’s at 5.50pm. If you’re just interested in the sunshine and socialising it’s always a fun afternoon.

The Royal Windsor Horse Show, Windsor Castle: 13th – 17th May
The UK’s largest outdoor horse show, it’s a great day out for horse lovers with equestrian events in four different disciplines and plenty of space to view the action in the private grounds of Windsor Castle.

Chelsea Flower Show, Royal Hospital: 19th-23rd May
Another world-famous event and this time the focus is on horticulture with stunning show gardens and floral displays. Monday is a Private View day and always packed with London’s high society. Tickets are available on the Royal Horticultural Society website.

Glyndebourne Festival, Sussex: 21st May
Recognised globally as one of the great opera houses, Glyndebourne remains a very English institution for opera enthusiasts.

The Epsom Derby: 6th June
With winnings of £1.25m, the Investec Derby has one of the biggest prize in money in UK racing and ranks as one of the greatest flat races in the world.

Polo in the Park, Hurlingham Club, Fulham: 6th-8th June
This popular event takes place at the Hurlingham Club in South West London. Most guests head for the Champagne Garden to get enjoy the best view of the action.

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, Piccadilly, W1: 8th June – 16th August
Now in its 247th year, the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition showcases work by both well-known and new artists and is famous as the world’s largest open submission contemporary art show.

Trooping the Colour, Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall: 13th June
The custom of Trooping the Colour dates back to the time of Charles II in the 17th Century and today, the impressive display of pageantry takes place on the Queen’s official birthday when her personal troops, the Household Division, salute her on Horse Guards Parade. www.troopingthecolour.co.uk

Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club: 15th – 21st June
Hosted at The Queen’s Club where the grass courts have been described as ‘the best in the world’. For tennis enthusiasts, it’s a warm up to another big tennis event and the action can be just as thrilling.

Cartier Queen’s Cup 2015: 16th June
Finals Day is the highlight of this high-goal polo competition and the event always boasts a unique blend of glamour, style and elegance in a beautiful setting.

Royal Ascot: 16th -20th June
This premier racing fixture has all the excitement of some of the best flat racing in the world. Formal attire for men and women is required and there’s always a spectacular display of hats and fashions!

Wimbledon Tennis: 29th June – 12th July
Wimbledon fortnight needs little introduction. The oldest tennis tournament in the world lasts for two weeks, which means that there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the action – come rain or shine!

Henley Royal Regatta: 1st-5th July
If you really needed one, the Henley Royal Regatta is a perfect excuse to venture into the British countryside. This rowing event is a popular social occasion with a party atmosphere.

The BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, Kensington: 17th July to 12th September
Simply put, the World’s Greatest Classical Music Festival with something for everyone.

For more information on the Season’s events visit: www.thesloaney.com/the-british-summer-social-season-guide

Or: www.visitlondon.com

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