The festival of horse racing will go on without the usual crowds and royal carriage procession, led by the Queen

By Stephanie Petit
June 16, 2020 10:05 AM

Queen Elizabeth is breaking a 68-year streak.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 94-year-old monarch will not attend the Royal Ascot for the first time in her 68-year reign. Instead, the festival of horse racing will go on without the usual crowds, royal carriage procession and trophy presentations — with the Queen watching on TV from Windsor Castle, where she has been isolating with husband Prince Philip, who recently turned 99, since March.

The Queen continued her tradition of writing the introduction to the race cards, in which she praised everyone who made the races possible under unprecedented circumstances.

"I send my best wishes to the thousands of racing professionals and enthusiasts who will join me in celebrating this year's Royal Ascot," she said. "In these challenging times, we are once again delighted to welcome the best horses and jockeys from across the world and pay tribute to those who have helped make this race meeting possible."

Queen Elizabeth
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

"This year Ascot will feel different for many, as it is so often a chance for friends, families and colleagues to gather together and enjoy a shared passion," the Queen continued. "I am sure however, that with the valiant efforts of the organisers, owners, trainers and stable staff, it will remain one of Britain's finest sporting occasions and a highlight of the racing calendar."

The official Ascot website announced that the event, which is taking place June 16 to 20, would not be open to the public in April.

"For public health and safety reasons, we have reached the difficult but unavoidable conclusion that Royal Ascot 2020 will not be able to take place as an event open to the public,” the statement read. “This will of course be a great disappointment for everyone planning to attend."

Britain’s most iconic horse race event attracts the world’s finest racehorses to compete for millions in prize money — and the royal family takes center stage. The signature accessory of the Royal Ascot dress code: hats, which are on eye-catching display throughout the races.

Queen Elizabeth and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands
James Veysey/Shutterstock
Prince Harry, Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Meghan Markle at Royal Ascot 2018

The carriage procession sees Queen Elizabeth and her guests make their entrance to Ascot in a number of Landau carriages every day at precisely 2 o'clock. The Queen’s carriage leads the procession, with others following behind. Only invited guests of the Queen are granted seats in the carriages.

Kate Middleton and Prince William at Royal Ascot 2019
Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty

The Queen, who is passionate about horses, brings members of her family with her on each of the five days of the event.

Princess Eugenie, Zara Tindall and Kate Middleton at Royal Ascot 2019
James Veysey/Shutterstock

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Other royals who join the monarch include Prince WilliamKate MiddletonPrince CharlesCamilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie. Members of other European royal families are also in attendance, from King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands to Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.

Despite not being able to attend the races this year, Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter Zara and her husband Mike Tindall still got all dressed up for the occasion. Ascot fans have been urged to share their best ensembles online in aid of Ascot’s #StyledWithThanks charity for frontline workers against the coronavirus.

"When it’s day 1 of Royal Ascot and you have nothing else on!!!" Mike, who sported a top hat and blue tie for the occasion, captioned the photo on Instagram.