Once a year, to mark the Queen's official birthday Trooping the Colour is held on Horse Guards Parade in St James's Park. This colourful military parade by the Household Division is from two older military ceremonies - 'Trooping the Colour' and 'Mounting the Queen's Guard', both of which began during the early eighteenth century.
The Queen personally carries out an inspection of the troops. The 'Colour' is the battalion flag that is 'Trooped' - or carried - slowly down the ranks of soldiers. This was traditionally done so each man was familiar with his battalion's flag, used as a rallying point during battle.
As the troops of the Household Division have the honour of guarding the monarch, the link has been particularly close. However it has only been since King Edward VII's reign that the sovereign has regularly taken the salute during the ceremony in person.
At the conclusion of the main ceremony, the Queen leads the troops down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. She then makes the salute at the Palace. At the end of the ceremony The Queen appears at the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
The Queen first appeared at the parade when she was Princess Elizabeth, as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards in 1947. This was the first ceremony to be held after the Second World War.
Watching the ceremony
In 2018, Trooping the Colour (also known as the Queen's Birthday Parade) will be held on Saturday, 9 June.
In the two weeks leading up to the Queen's Birthday Parade, there are two rehearsals:
- The Major General's Review - held on the Saturday two weeks before the parade
- The Colonel's Review - held on the Saturday the week before the parade.
The procession can be viewed along The Mall or along the edge of St James's Park facing Horse Guards Parade. The ceremony is also shown live on terrestrial British television.
Tickets for seated stands around Horse Guards Parade are allocated by ballot in March. Applications should be made in January or February only. For further information visit the Trooping the Colour website.