The Queen’s ‘official birthday’ was this weekend in Britain (her actual Birthday is in April but it’s celebrated in June when the weather is better) and that means it’s time for Trooping the Colour, an annual ceremony where the Queen inspects her troops.
Trooping the Colour is a ceremony performed by regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies. It has been a tradition of British infantry regiments since the 17th century, although the roots go back much earlier. On battlefields, a regiment’s colours, or flags, were used as rallying points. Consequently, regiments would have their ensigns slowly march with their colours between the soldiers’ ranks to enable soldiers to recognise their regiments’ colours.
Since 1748 Trooping the Colour has also marked the official birthday of the British sovereign. It is held in London annually on a Saturday in June on Horse Guards Parade by St. James’s Park, and coincides with the publication of the Birthday Honours List. Among the audience are the Royal Family, invited guests, ticketholders and the general public. The colourful ceremony, also known as “The Queen’s Birthday Parade”, is broadcast live by the BBC.
The Queen travels down The Mall from Buckingham Palace in a royal procession with a sovereign’s escort of Household Cavalry (mounted troops or horse guards). After receiving a royal salute, she inspects her troops of the Household Division, both foot guards and horse guards, and the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. Each year, one of the foot-guards regiments is selected to troop its colour through the ranks of guards. Then the entire Household Division assembly conducts a march past the Queen, who receives a salute from the saluting base. Parading with its guns, the King’s Troop takes precedence as the mounted troops perform a walk-march and trot-past.
The music is provided by the massed bands of the foot guards and the mounted bands of the Household Cavalry, together with a Corps of Drums, and occasionally pipers, totalling approximately 400 musicians.
Returning to Buckingham Palace, the Queen watches a further march-past from outside the gates. Following a 41-gun salute by the King’s Troop in Green Park, she leads the Royal Family on to the palace balcony for a Royal Air Force flypast.
British pomp and ceremony at its very best. The highlight for me is always the flypast at the end.