Off to the races! Queen Elizabeth II returned to Royal Ascot after having to skip it last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The monarch, 95, arrived for the final day of the race meeting on Saturday, June 19, in a mint green skirt suit and matching hat decorated with pink fabric roses. During her drive to the racetrack, she was accompanied by her lady-in-waiting, Lady Susan Hussey.
Though Ascot is purportedly one of the queen’s favorite events of the year, she had to miss opening day on Tuesday, June 15, because she was meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In 2020, she missed the event for the first time since 1945, as the race was held behind closed doors because of coronavirus restrictions. (She watched at home instead.)
The queen, an avid horseback rider, had several horses in the races this year. One of them, Companionship, was forced to withdraw from the Sandringham Stakes on Friday, June 19, after a downpour made the ground “unsuitable.”
Reach for the Moon, another of the royal’s horses, came in second during the Chesham Stakes on Saturday. In one photograph taken at the track, the queen grinned while inspecting the horse with her racing manager, John Warren.
“I think this is her passion in life, and she loves it and you can tell how much she loves it,” Duchess Camilla recently told ITV. “She can tell you every horse she’s bred and owned, from the very beginning. She doesn’t forget anything. I can hardly remember what I bred a year ago, so she’s encyclopedic about her knowledge.”
The queen’s daughter-in-law, 73, added that the monarch is “the biggest expert of all time” when it comes to horses. “You wouldn’t want to think you knew better because she does have all the answers,” she joked.
Though the queen was seemingly pleased to back among her beloved horses, her appearance was still somewhat different than it’s been in years past. She normally arrives at the event by horse-drawn carriage as part of a royal procession, but that didn’t happen year because of the ongoing pandemic.
Attendance by the public was also curbed, with capacity limited to 12,000 people per day as compared to around 300,000 guests across five days in normal times. Spectators also had to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival at the event and agreed to take a second test five days later for contact tracing purposes.