Living so close to Buckingham Palace is particularly useful when one loves parades. And this country loves marching. I went down to the Mall this morning to watch Trooping the Colour, a ceremony marking the Queen’s official birthday. It was a fascinating event. It’s easy to forget that the participants in this parade are all active soldiers in the British Army. Most have served, or will soon serve, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Here’s a better explanation from the monarchy’s website:
Although The Queen was born on 21 April, it has long been the tradition to celebrate the Sovereign’s birthday publicly on a day in the summer, when good weather is more likely. Trooping the Colour is carried out by fully trained and operational troops from the Household Division (Foot Guards and Household Cavalry) on Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall, watched by members of the Royal Family, invited guests and members of the public.
This military ceremony dates back to the early eighteenth century or earlier, when the colours (flags) of the battalion were carried (or ‘trooped’) down the ranks so that they could be seen and recognised by the soldiers. Since 1748, this parade has also marked the Sovereign’s official birthday. From the reign of Edward VII onwards, the Sovereign has taken the salute in person at Trooping the Colour.
During the ceremony, The Queen is greeted by a Royal salute and carries out an inspection of the troops. After the massed bands have performed a musical ‘troop’, the escorted Regimental Colour is carried down the ranks.
The Foot Guards and the Household Cavalry then march past Her Majesty, and The King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, rank past. The Queen rides in a carriage back to Buckingham Palace at the head of her Guards, before taking the salute at the Palace from a dais. The troops then return to barracks. Her Majesty then joins other members of the Royal Family on the palace balcony for a fly-past by the Royal Air Force. The Queen has attended Trooping the Colour every year of her reign, except in 1955 when a national rail strike cancelled the event.