While most of us celebrate our birthdays with a cake followed by more beers than are good for us, The Queen’s official birthday party involves a shedload of soldiers and horses from the Household Division (Foot Guards and Household Cavalry) performing some seriously complicated marching manoeuvres. Here’s what you need to know…
1. The ceremony takes place in June, not on Her Maj’s birthday – April 21 – because a downpour is less likely, in theory.
2. There’s no ‘the’. It’s just called ‘Trooping the Colour’. Monarchists and military types get quite narky if you get that wrong. The ceremony dates back to the early eighteenth century and originally it was all about making sure soldiers would be able to recognise their own flag in the chaos of battle.
3. It’s free to watch but you should head down pretty early to bag a decent spot along The Mall or on the edge of St James’s Park.
4. The Queen used to inspect her troops on horseback. These days she arrives in a horse-drawn carriage. That’s fair enough – she is 89, you know.
5. Sometimes a soldier faints and his mates carry him off the parade ground. It’s not part of the show, but it’s a bonus – from the spectators’ point of view at least. The soldiers are told to wiggle their toes to get the blood circulating if they suspect they might be about to hit the tarmac.
6. When the ceremonial stuff is all done and dusted, The Queen and her escort head back to Buckingham Palace, along with any other royals who’ve turned up for the show. The finale is a balcony photo-op and a fly-past at 1pm. Like we said: it’s not your average birthday party.
By Sara O’Reilly
Trooping the Colour takes place on Saturday June 13 at 10am.