Around & About

Getting There

There is a story, told of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, about his arrival at an airport following a flight from one royal engagement to the next.

"Sir? Sir?" one eager young reporter who had been waiting on the runway tarmac for longer than he might have liked and now, with deadline imminent, was desperate to get some sort of story based on a comment by the royal consort. "How was your flight?"

Prince Philip turned and fixed the reporter with his steely eyes before saying: "The aircraft took off, it flew, and it landed."

And with that, the Prince strode off to his next round of handshakes and speeches. The reporter could only shake his head and wonder what his news editor might say.

Britain's royal family is renowned as lovers of sport, whether as spectators – the Queen and her late mother through their love of horse racing – or as participants, with the Princess Royal and her daughter, Zara Phillips, having been European and world champions, respectively, at eventing.

And as with any sportsman or woman, or spectator, even those without royal blood, getting to and from competitions, race meetings and training sessions always requires enormous attention to the logistics of travel.

In some respects, that is where the royal family enjoy considerable advantages over many of their subjects, as their daily entrance at the annual Royal Ascot horse racing meeting ably demonstrates.

Royal Ascot (never refer to the June festival as plain "Ascot", or risk being rusticated from polite English society for a very long time) dates back nearly 400 years, the race track being created in 1711 by Queen Anne for her royal convenience.

And modern day royals – which this summer included the newly weds the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - make the most of the proximity of the course to Windsor Castle.

After enjoying a suitable regal lunch at the castle, the royals set off through Windsor Great Park in a small fleet of royal limousines, which drive them to Duke's Lane at Ascot where they transfer to the elegant open-topped, horse-drawn landaus. These then process down the race track's home straight in front of the race goers to the Grandstand.

Bookmakers on the rails notoriously make as much money from bets placed on the colour of the Queen's hats each day of the five-day meeting as they do from such major races as the Ascot Gold Cup.

Royal Ascot is very much a family affair, attended by three generations of the Windsors, and regarded as part of the nearly 3, 000 official royal engagements in the United Kingdom and around the world every year.

Since ascending the throne in 1952, the Queen has used every conceivable form of transportation - from elephant to barge. Most royal journeys use more conventional forms of transportation, however.

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