While the Queen’s official birthday in mid-June is traditionally marked by Trooping the Colour, this year’s event was a more pared-back affair, in keeping with government guidelines around the coronavirus pandemic. In lieu of the usual parade from Buckingham Palace, Her Majesty instead viewed a military ceremony executed by members of the 1st Battalion of Welsh Guards at Windsor Castle, where she is self-isolating with the Duke of Edinburgh and a reduced staff.
Taking place in the complex’s famous quadrangle, the celebration opened and closed with a royal salute, and featured a cheering musical performance by a Band of the Household Division. For the occasion, Her Majesty wore a mint green suit and hat, accessorized with a diamond brooch. Below, everything you need to know about the Queen’s annual birthday traditions.
Why does the Queen have two birthdays?
The Queen famously has two birthdays each year: her actual birthday on the day she was born, on 21 April, and her official birthday, which is normally celebrated on the second Saturday in June. The tradition of the British monarch having “private” and “public” birthdays was first established by George II in 1748, and the logic behind it was fairly simple: the King wished to have a yearly parade thrown in honor of his birth, but, being born on 9 November, he realized that the weather would likely be too inclement for the grand festivities to take place, opting to hold the event in the warmer summer months instead. By the time that George III ascended to the throne in 1760, it had become an annual royal spectacle – one that would continue for more than 250 years, ceasing only for the First and Second World Wars.
What is Trooping the Colour?
Before modern technology transformed warfare, regiments used their flags and uniforms to identify one another on the battlefield. To ensure that all troops were familiar with the colors and insignia of their particular unit, officers regularly marched up and down in front of regiments with their “colors” held aloft in an act that came to be known as trooping. It’s believed that this became a more formalized ceremony during the reign of King Charles II – before being designated the King’s Birthday Parade in the Georgian era.
How does the Queen celebrate her birthday?
The Queen’s actual birthday is generally spent privately, with gun salutes taking place in her honor in Hyde Park, the Tower of London, and Windsor Great Park. Her official birthday, however, is another story – with 1,400 soldiers, 400 musicians, and 200 horses participating in Trooping the Colour. Members of the royal family – including Her Majesty – move with the parade from Buckingham Palace to the Horse Guards Building in Whitehall. (In the past, the Queen has chosen to ride on horseback, but more recently she has ridden in a carriage.) Once at Horse Guards Parade, the Queen takes the royal salute, before returning to Buckingham Palace to view an RAF fly-past from its storied balcony.
Originally published on Vogue.co.uk