9th June 2018
Today the Queen is celebrating her official birthday, her actual birthday is April 21st. The tradition of our monarchs having two birthdays a year actually has to do with the weather, if their real birthday is in the winter traditionally the Trooping of the Colour, which is the official birthday parade, has taken place in the summer. Throughout the Queen’s reign the Trooping of the Colour has usually been held on the second Saturday in June.
Regimental flags are traditionally known as Colours and Trooping the Colour refers to the tradition in which the colour was carried between the ranks of soldiers so that they could recognise it easily in battle. The principal role of a regiment’s Colours was to provide a rallying point on the battlefield. This was important because, without modern communications, it was all too easy for troops to become disoriented and separated from their unit during battle.The Colours are also a record of the battle honours with names of places where the regiment fought with courage and distinction.
The Foot Guards (they are the soldiers with the red tunics and the bearskin hats) are amongst the oldest regiments of the British Army and have served as the personal bodyguards of The Sovereign since the monarchy was restored after the English Civil War in 1660. The ceremony of Trooping the Colour is believed to have been performed first during the reign of King Charles II (1660 – 1685). In 1748, it was decided that this parade would be used to mark the official birthday of the Sovereign and it became an annual event after George III became King in 1760. Each year a different Battalion of the Guards troops the colour.
The events begin around 10am when Members of the Royal Family drive down the Mall in carriages to watch the parade on Horse Guards. The Queen follows them a little later and her carriage is timed to arrive on Horse Guards at 11am. She is greeted by a Royal salute and then carries out an inspection of her Foot Guards. The Queen used to ride on horseback, riding side saddle on her favourite horse, a mare called Burmese who was given to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When Burmese died she started travelling by carriage. After the military bands have performed, the escorted Regimental Colour, is processed through the ranks of soldiers of its battalion with musical accompaniment. It is carried proudly by a young Officer.This year, The Colour of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards will be trooped. The Coldstream Guards is the oldest continuously serving regiment in the British Army. This is followed by a march past by all the Foot Guards on parade in slow and then quick time and then a walk past and then a trot past by the Household Calvary and the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery. The parade is the culmination of many hours of rehearsal and for the battalion whose colour is trooped it is a proud moment which will probably only happen once in a soldier’s career. At the end of the parade the Queen travels back to Buckingham Palace, again along the Mall, at the head of the soldiers, before taking the salute once more, this time at BuckinghamPalace from a dais. She is then joined by other Members of the Royal Family on the balcony of the Palace to watch a fly-past by the Royal Air Force at 1pm. A 41-gun salute is also fired in Green Park to mark the occasion at 12.52pm.
Over 1400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians will be on parade today in a great display of military precision and horsemanship. I amy be biased but I don’t think any other country does pageantry like the British. Over one hundred words of command are used by the Officer in Command of the Parade to direct the several hundred soldiers. 1,200 pots of black polish will be required by the Household Calvary to shine their boots and spare a thought for the 5 road sweepers who will be required to clean up the manure afterwards.
The Queen has a great love of pageantry and military precision especially when horses are involved and she will notice every detail and enjoy every moment of the celebration today as she casts her eagle eye over the proceedings.