Written by Daniel James Parry
Every year, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her official birthday in a patriotic ceremony of splendour known as ‘Trooping the Colour’, which takes place between Buckingham Palace and the Horse Guards Parade via the Mall, falling this year on Saturday 11th June.
The term ‘colours’ originated from the way in which regimental flags utilized by the British Army utilized the uniform colours and insignia worn by various different units of soldiers, a term still used today. The role of a regiment’s colours was to create a gathering point on the battlefield, as it was often all too easy for soldiers to become disorientated and separated from the rest of their unit when conflicts arose. The term ‘trooping’ describes the manner in which young officers would march in between ranks of troops formed up in lines, with their Colours held high.
The Royal Guards are one of the oldest regiments in the British Army, and have held rank as Her Majesty’s personal bodyguards since the restoration of the Monarchy after the English Civil War (1642 – 1651). It’s widely believed that the very first Trooping the Colour ceremony took place during King Charles II’s reign (1660 – 1685). It became an official Royal birthday celebration in 1748, and has been an annual event ever since the coronation of George III in 1760. Although Her Majesty’s actual birthday is on 21st April, her ‘official birthday’ is commemorated by the Trooping the Colour ceremony.