The Sovereign’s official birthday is celebrated by the ceremony of Trooping the Colour. This impressive display of pageantry will take place this year on a Saturday 11th June on Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall. The Queen celebrates two birthdays each year. These are her actual birthday on 21 April and her official birthday on a Saturday in June. The latter is a ceremonial occasion selected when there is a strong probability of fine weather.
Historically soldiers needed to be able to locate their regiment in the heat of battle. Hence the practice of carrying the regimental flag (colour) into battle. As they represented the honour and traditions of a regiment, they were treated with reverence. Colours are usually inscribed with the names of battles in which a regiment fought – a regiment’s battle honours. Regiments often adopted ‘colour guards’ to protect their colours. These were composed of experienced or élite soldiers. Conversely the capture of an enemy’s standard was considered as a great feat of arms.
The custom of Trooping the Colour dates back to the time of Charles II in the 17th. Century. The first traceable mention of The Sovereign’s Birthday being ‘kept’ by the Grenadier Guards is in 1748. In 1760, after George III became King, it was ordered that parades should mark the King’s Birthday. From the accession of George IV and with a few exceptions they became an annual event.
There are five regiments of foot guards making up the Sovereign’s personal troops. They are the Coldstream, Grenadier, Irish, Scots and Welsh Guards. The regiments take their turn in rotation to troop their colour. This year the honour falls to the Coldstream Guards. As usual the regiment will be joined by the Household Cavalry and a massed band of over four hundred musicians. In total over 1400 officers and men are on parade together with two hundred horses.
Lasting approximately one hour the ceremony begins 11.00am when the Royal Procession arrives. The parade begins with the inspection when the Queen drives slowly down the ranks of the Guards and then past the Household Cavalry. The Queen then takes the Royal Salute as the regiment marches past her. After the event, the Royal Family gathers on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch an RAF flypast.
Tickets for the ceremony are available to the public by ballot. However applications should be made before the end of February each year. Those unable to obtain tickets can see the procession to and from Horse Guards. The parade route extends from Buckingham Palace along The Mall to Horse Guards Parade and back again. Alternatively there are two practice parades: the Major General’s Review on Saturday 28th May and the Colonel’s Review on Saturday 4th June.
For further details go to http://www.householddivision.org.uk/trooping-the-colour
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