Prince William roars up clad in black leathers to the Westbury Shield on his beloved 180 mph Ducatti motorcycle; Fabio Capello takes part in an auction where the top draw is an Argentinean polo holiday (from which an Arabian horse is the souvenir) at the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polo, while the Elephant Parade – where effigies come daubed by London’s film stars and aristocracy – springs to life from The Hempel’s magical garden.
Welcome to the London Season – when the widest selection of social events takes place each year in the country where such pastimes began. Shakespeare famously proclaimed: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” A half century later, the upper classes began travelling to London to attend the parties and occasions thrown here during the summer season.
Traditionally falling just after Easter, and taking in events such as the Ascot Races, the opening of the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, Queen Charlotte’s Ball and the Henley Regatta alongside a heady melee of debutante balls and private soirees, it came to a close on the 12th August – the start of the hunting season, when the landed gentry returned to their country estates - with Glorious Goodwood.
Today, in the age of private jets and helicopters, participants come from much farther afield, while events are increasingly championed by luxury brands, becoming more exclusive and carefully selected. The best adventures centre around sport (as long as it involves cars, horses or boats), charities and fundraising, arts and festivals – and often they’re a cross-pollination of the lot.
Just as with the original London Season, the smaller and more boutique the event, the higher the VIP-quotient – at the Cartier Polo, it’s as much about attending as whose party you are invited to (top marks go to the Shand-Kidds’, followed by the China White tent until dawn). The Chelsea Flower Show is beautiful whatever the weather, but their annual gala dinner is where you’ll find the most magic.
And it’s not just about indulgence – many of London’s most sensational events have a conscience. All profits from Elton John’s annual White Tie and Tiara Ball go to his AIDs Foundation, while the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation Gala, whose guest list reads like a transatlantic ‘Who’s Who’, raises money for children with cancer, and the annual Serpentine Summer Party arguably marks the heart of The Season.
Dress to impress, and be prepared to accessorize on the day – after all, Audemars Piguet and Boodles sponsor Salon Prive and impromptu auctions offer unmissable lots. Just don’t forget the Gucci sunglasses, your sense of adventure, or way back to the hotel.