Heritage

What Is Trooping the Colour, Anyway?

Here's everything you need to know about the Queen's annual birthday parade.
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This Saturday marks the Queen's birthday parade, the Trooping the Colour. Here's what you need to know about the annual royal event, from the history to how you can watch the whole thing go down.

THE HISTORY

The tradition dates all the way back to King George II, who in 1748 combined the annual summer military march with his birthday celebration—even though he was born in October. Ever since, the reigning monarch has had the option of having an official birthday in the summertime.

So what does "trooping the colour" mean, exactly?

Back in the 1700s, the various regiments would show off their flags, so all the troops would recognize their banners during battle. Hence, "trooping" the "colour."

IT'S WHY THE QUEEN HAS TWO BIRTHDAYS

It's basically every child's dream come true. On April 21, the actual day of her birth, Elizabeth II celebrates privately, but on Saturday, June 9 she will mark her "official" birthday publicly with a parade.

It all comes down to the weather. (Can you think of a more British reason?) Summer is the only time for a proper parade.


Queen Elizabeth II during the Trooping the Colour ceremony during the 1980s.

THE PARADE

During the parade, the Queen will inspect her troops. For years, she did this on horseback, but since 1987, she has attended in a carriage.

According to the Telegraph, the annual event features not only 1,500 officers and men, but also 244 horses.

For a cool 360-degree video of the pageantry a few years ago, watch the below:

THE BALCONY APPEARANCE

A key part of the Trooping the Colour tradition is the royal family's balcony appearance. While the royal family does from time to time assemble on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for reasons other than the birthday parade, Trooping the Color is the only guaranteed annual appearance, and the one with the largest group.

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The royal family's balcony appearance in 2015.

Invitees include descendants of the Queen, her sister and her cousins, plus their spouses. The group often tips the 30+ mark, and for the Queen's 90th birthday in 2016, there were over 40 family members gathered.

This year, newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are expected to be in attendance, as is the Duchess of Cambridge, even though she is technically on maternity leave. It's unclear if baby Louis will be making an appearance.

HOW CAN I WATCH?

If you want to see the whole spectacle go down, you have a few options. In the U.K., the parade will be broadcast live on the BBC at 10:30 a.m. The program will also be available online shortly after the event—for those of you in the U.S. that should be in time for your morning coffee.

If you'd like to attend in person, unfortunately tickets for the stands around the Horse Guards Parade have all been allocated. Next year, submit a ballot by late February for a chance at a seat. (Full instructions can be found here.)

But if you're okay standing, make your way to the Mall on Saturday morning. According to the Household Division, "the parade route extends from Buckingham Palace along The Mall to Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall and back again," so there is ample opportunity to see members of the royal family arrive via carriage.

Keep in mind for next year that there are also multiple rehearsals that take place in the weeks before the parade. Those can both be seen from the Mall as well.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Caroline Hallemann
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