Angela Morgan

Trooping the Colour – A Royal Birthday Parade

Many of us would love to have a birthday parade with marching bands, and soldiers perfectly turned out displaying their marching skills. Trooping the Colour marks Her Majesty The Queen’s official birthday. As the late Duke of Edinburgh stated, ‘it is not a “theatrical” production, (sic) it is a deadly serious demonstration of the basic infantry skills for which the British Guards are renowned across the world.’

Trooping the Colour

What is meant by Trooping the Colour? Well, its origins really go back to the Middle Ages when each Lord or Baron flew his banner and required his followers to distinguish him in the midst of battle. The banner or flags (‘Colours’) became a rallying point for soldiers on the battlefield, an important means of visual communication when the troops became disorientated and separated from their battalion.

To ensure that the troops recognised their respective Colours, they were displayed regularly, including parading the troops and an officer carrying the Colours along the ranks. The Colours also have become a record of the battle honours with names of places where the regiment fought with courage and distinction. The Colours have become sacred icons that are consecrated in a religious ceremony. The Colour is always protected; it is always saluted wherever the flag is displayed or carried.

This year, The Colour of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards will be Trooped.  Active since 1 April 1900, the Irish Guards is one of the Foot Guards regiments of the British Army and is part of the Guards Division.

Since 1748, Trooping the Colour has incorporated the marking of the Sovereign’s official birthday. It was cancelled during the First World War (1914-18), the Second World War (1940-46) and in 1955 due to a National train strike!

Trooping The Colour

The Queen will leave from Buckingham Palace in an Ascot Landau carriage; accompanied by a member of the Royal Family, down the Mall to Horseguards Parade ground, where 1450 soldiers of the Household Division and The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, along with up to 400 musicians from the Massed Bands will be waiting for her arrival.  As is the custom, Her Majesty will carry out an inspection of the line of assembled Guards. The preparations for this day take careful planning with regular practice to ensure precision timing and positioning; everything is rehearsed many times to ensure that all will be perfect on the day. The Parade begins at Horse Guards at 10.00 am and will finish by 12.25 pm.

To ensure timings are kept, two full dress rehearsals take place – the Major General’s Review and the Colonel’s Review that allows the public a chance to see the resplendent display of the Foot Guards, the Sovereign’s Escort of the Household Cavalry, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery with musical accompaniment provided by the Massed Bands of the Household Division. The parade includes the Collection of the Colour. The Escort for the Colour will be the No 1 Guard of the Coldstream Guards. The junior officer designated to carry the Colour will troop the Colour through the ranks, continuing a long-held tradition.

Trooping The Colour

What will follow will be the March Past by the foot guards and the Ride Past by the mounted troops; it presents a wonderful display of their disciplined coordination and a testimony to the hours of rehearsal required to ensure that the Birthday Parade continues to be a popular event.

At the conclusion of the Parade, the soldiers and the Household Cavalry will march down the Mall, where 200 soldiers from the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards line the route. Her Majesty will return to Buckingham Palace greeted by cheering crowds lining The Mall. The public will have the opportunity to see other members of the British Royal Family on their way to Buckingham Palace.

Trooping The Colour

Her Majesty will be joined on the palace balcony by other members of the Royal Family, including Prince Charles and Prince William. At 12.52 pm precisely, the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery will fire a 41-gun salute in Green Park. An aerial spectacle that is the Fly Past by the Royal Air Force will take place but will be subject to weather conditions.

If all goes to plan, expect a flypast of old and new aircraft flying over Buckingham Palace with a finale by the world-renowned Red Arrows announcing their arrival with a spectacular roar as they perform an aerobatic display that will include their signature trail of red, white and blue smoke to bring the Queen’s Official Birthday to a wonderful close.

For more images from the Colonel’s Review and Trooping The Colour, all taken by London Blue Badge Tourist Guide Angela Morgan, check out our Facebook Album featuring the 2015 event.

Trooping The Colour - The Queen

Changing the Guard

If you did not get to see the Trooping the Colour and the procession along The Mall, you might want to consider the Changing the Guard ceremony that takes place at Buckingham Palace.  It usually occurs daily at 11.30 during April to July and on alternate days from August to March. You will see foot guards from one of the five regiments carrying out their duties to guard the Queen. The responsibility for guarding the Sovereign dates back to the time of HVll (1485-1509). If you want to get a good view of the soldiers marching into the Palace, it is advisable to arrive early as it is a very popular event.

Alternatively, you might want to see the Household Mounted Regiment Guard Change. This takes place at Horse Guards Parade. You will see both the Queen’s Life Guard and the Blues and Royals on horseback. Guard change takes place from 11.00 am Monday to Saturday and 10:00 am on Sunday. It lasts about 30 minutes. The Old Guard returns to Knightsbridge Barracks, making their way up the Mall past Buckingham Palace.

If you miss the morning Guard Changes, watch the 4 ‘O’ Clock Parade at Horse Guards. Its formal name is Dismounting Ceremony.  It takes place at 16:00 when dismounted sentries are posted, and the horses return to their stables.

Angela Morgan

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