The Greatest Minefield of All: The Season

The ‘Season’ begins in just under a month’s time and is a uniquely British thing.  In these days of a so-called classless society it is quite amazing that this totally inimitable feat of social engineering continues to hold such sway.  Perhaps it is entirely because it is such a change from the mundane that it remains so popular!

The Season came about primarily in the 19th century, and its heyday was reached during the reign of the gregarious King Edward VII.  Since then, we have witnessed two world wars, banking crashes and the horrors of the credit crunch, and whilst there are bound to be some financial casualties this year, particularly where corporate sponsorship is concerned, many of the events of ‘the season’ seem to attract ever increasing crowds.  Attendance at most is not cheap, but because corporate sponsorship has boosted entry many people will be invited to at least one event this year through work or friends.  Our intention is to give a basic guide – but do email us for more specific assistance!

Blooms from 2008's show

Blooms from 2008's RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Debutantes went out in the 1950s as a result of The Queen’s ‘modernisation of the Monarchy’, although the Berkeley Dress Show and the Paris Crillon Ball have been revived to rave reviews – aspiring young ladies no longer need to be presented at Court, nor do they necessarily want to find a wealthy and eligible bachelor for long term wedded bliss, but instead perhaps enjoy a chance to show off a pretty dress and meet some new friends, whilst the aspirations of good manners, correct dress codes and a little bit of gentility in our increasingly hectic lives is cutting the mustard.

Officially, the ‘season’ is a three month period from May to July when in days gone by, the Court and fashionable society were in town (London).  During winter months, the ruling classes spent time at their country estates hunting, shooting and fishing – nowadays many do not even own one home let alone two – but the Chelsea Flower Show, this year from 18th May, continues to herald the start.

The English Manner always has a presence at Chelsea, usually with guests who are taking part in one of our guided garden tours, and if the weather is good, it is a wonderfully English way to kick-start summer.  The Derby follows, and then Royal Ascot, possibly the most famous race meeting in the world, presenting an opportunity to wear that fabulous outfit and out of this world hat, whilst picnicking on smoked salmon, strawberries and champagne at the side of the course – in Number One car park, of course!

After Ascot and The Queen’s Birthday Parade, we have Wimbledon, Glorious Goodwood and the Festival of Speed, and for the sailing fraternity, The Royal Henley Regatta and Cowes Week, preceded by Cartier International Polo Day – always a firm fixture in the social calendar and now attracting a celebrity crowd from all over the world.

Packed tightly in between all of these are myriad charity events, timed to perfection to attract the most likely donors, and to give credibility to all that partying!  Coupled with the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair and Hampton Court Flower Show, those who have the money, the time and the inclination, can have a jolly good time!

Of all the summer events, I think Royal Ascot is probably the one we think of more often than not when we talk about ‘the Season’, and it was here that the term ‘Royal Enclosure’ began.  King George IV invented the idea of entertaining his private friends, and the idea of a private or select area quickly caught on for Centre Court at Wimbledon, the Stewards’ Enclosure at Henley – where entry is even more restricted than Ascot – and the Member’s Enclosures at Polo.  As the names imply, entry is limited, often to the cognoscenti and ‘who you know’, and there are essential elements of dressing up as well as certain rules and traditions.

As ‘the season’ unfolds, we will give you some do’s and don’ts on protocol and customs.

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

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