Today should be the celebration of Trooping The Colour when troops from the Household Division honour the Queen's official birthday. It's an impressive display of pageantry and military that has taken place in London for two centuries, since the accession of King George IV in 1820, except during the world wars and a national strike in 1955, and cancelled this year because of covid restrictions. A smaller alternative Parade is taking place in the quadrangle at Windsor Castle.
Although the Queen's official birthday is celebrated in June, her actual birthday is on 21 April. Monarchs are traditionally given a second birthday if they were not born in the summer, in case the British weather is unsuitable for an outdoor celebration!What is Trooping The Colour and what are the origins?
Regimental flags of the British Army were historically described as ‘Colours’ because they displayed the uniform colours and insignia worn by the soldiers of different units. 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 conflict. In order for the troops to know what their regiment's colours were it was necessary to display them regularly. This was done by officers marching in between the ranks of troops formed up in lines with the Colours held high. Hence the origin of the word ‘trooping’. So, what started as a vital and practical parade designed to aid unit recognition before a battle, is today a time honoured tradition.
Her Majesty used to attend on horseback, but in recent years has travelled by carriage. She is escorted from Buckingham Palace, along the Mall to Horse Guards Parade, where she is greeted by a Royal salute, and carries out an inspection of the troops, who are fully trained and operational soldiers wearing the ceremonial uniform of red tunics and bearskin hats. The massed bands perform a musical troop and the escorted Regimental Colour is carried down the ranks. The Foot Guards, the Household Cavalry, The King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery march past Her Majesty.
Riding in a carriage the Queen then leads her guards back to Buckingham Palace, alongside members of the royal family who are on horseback or in carriages.
Once at the palace the Queen takes the salute again from a dias before being joined by the other members of the royal family on the famous balcony to watch a 41 gun salute and a fly-past by the RAF.