THE LONDON SEASON
At its peak in the 19th Century, the London Season used to mark the appropriate time to move away from your country pile and become an urbanite. London became a place to engage in politics and social calculation. In answer to a growing demand for something upon which to speculate and deliberate, events began to crop up centred upon a strict dress code, personal invitations and private enclosures.
Whilst today that Georgian exclusivity may have faded, and with it the glamour of elitism, the movement of the season from private to public does mean it can now be enjoyed by everyone! Phaetons are traded in for busy tube carriages headed out to outer London boroughs and these days focus is more on filling your Pimms jug than your dance card. The modern day London Season is more of an open invitation English Garden Party – Henman Hill, or Murray Mound, is a far cry from the days when the All England Club sidelined a working-class Fred Perry. However, remnants of the London Season as it was still remain. Members enclosures are the pride of many sporting events and you’ll not be allowed into Royal Ascot without a hat nor into Henley with a hem line higher than your knee.
So what can you expect from the Summer Season? Pretty much everything. If the equestrian takes your fancy, choose between pretty polo ponies or thoroughbred racehorses, between Goodwood, Ascot, The Gold Cup and Polo in the Park. Don your best straw hat and avoid getting burnt in the sun at Lord’s, dust off your blazer and line the river at Henley or downgrade to one of two shades of blue and join the University-lined banks of the Thames at the Oxbridge Boat Race.
Of course, Wimbledon and Queen’s Tennis must be held as the essence of Britishness. Strawberries and cream, Pimms, and crowds under umbrellas accompany the achingly pristine lawns (see the Wimbledon Instagram account for evidence of the painstaking preening process running up to the tournament.) However, if the Champagne tents and shorts-clad athletes does not appeal then the season also spans across the arts, with the RA Summer Exhibition, Chelsea Flower Show, Garsington and Glyndebourne.
Use these books to brush up on your etiquette, your trivia and history to polish your interval/half-time conversation.
Polo: Equine Warriors
by Bob Tabor
This striking photography book showcases the beauty of the polo pony. Accompanied by insights from polo players, trainers, psychologists and handlers, the portraits bring to life the true heroes of the polo field.
Love Game: A History of Tennis, from Victorian Pastime to Global Phenomenon
by Elizabeth Wilson
Love Game is the go-to Wimbledon accessory as it tells the story of tennis’ journey, from the players to the politics, the spectators to the commentators.
The Horse: From Arabia to Royal Ascot
by John Curtis
This book is everything equine. With illustrations from throughout history, from cave paintings to photography, Curtis celebrates the relationship between horse and man.
by Michael Kennedy
An affectionate portrait of what is an iconic English institution. Started by three exiles from Nazi Germany, there is a fascinating story to be told here and Kennedy uses original illustrations and quirky tales to do it.
Tales from the Turf: Reflections from a life of Horseracing
by Robin Oakley
The Spectator’s long-running Turf columnist presents a personal history of all things horseracing. A charming mix of musings, anecdotes and celebrations, this is a unique look-in at one man’s undying passion for racing.
Wodehouse At The Wicket: A Cricketing Anthology
by P.G. Wodehouse
P.G. Wodehouse and cricket – the unbeatable combination of all things English!
Fashion at Royal Ascot: Three Centuries of Thoroughbred Style
by James Sherwood
Brush up on decorum with this illustrated presentation of fashion through the ages, as displayed in the enclosures of Ascot. Learn what dress to impress really means as you browse the lavish and beautiful costumes of society.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show: A Centenary Celebration
by Brent Elliott
Drawing from the extensive RHS archive, this includes photographs, plans and posters so you can get the full Chelsea experience without facing the crowds.
by Jack Carlson
Few sports are so easily distinguished by an item of clothing than rowing. Learn to read the blazer with this beautiful photography book.
The Season: A Summer Whirl Through the English Social Season
by Sophia Campbell
Join Sophia Campbell’s quest to discover why the Social Season is the way it is as she stumbles from enclosure to enclosure on her quasi-regal rite of passage into the English summer.