What the parade is really the color? History, significance and traditions

Trooping the Color is a traditional military ceremony observed in Britain each year to mark the monarch’s official birthday in early June.

A special Trooping the Color ceremony is planned to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, marking her historic 70-year reign on Thursday, June 2.

But what’s really going on at Trooping the Colour? Why do the British do it and what does it mean? Newsweek has the answers.


Trooping the Color is a military parade that involves the seven army regiments that serve the Queen united under the umbrella of “The Household Division”.

The ceremony sees the color (name of a regimental flag) march past assembled troops, overseen by the monarch.

The ceremony is said to be based on an ancient Roman military practice in which the regimental standard was paraded past soldiers who would then be able to identify it on the battlefield.

In Britain, the adoption of the ceremony is thought to date back to the 17th century, and it is officially kept as an annual tradition marking the sovereign’s birthday during the reign of George IV (1762-1830).

It was King George II (1683-1760) who started the tradition of the king having two birthdays and it was because his real birthday was in November. Thinking that none of his British subjects would want to have a parade or celebrations at this time of year, George held an official birthday parade during the summer.

Successive monarchs were given the opportunity to carry on this tradition and the “official” celebrations of royal summer birthdays were standardized by King Edward VII (1841-1910).

Queen Elizabeth II takes part in the Trooping the Color Parade, June 11, 1983.
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images


Trooping the Color’s significance today is primarily ceremonial, but it is an important part of military history and still serves a purpose in terms of providing troops with an opportunity to practice drill and cooperate with other troops. other regiments.

The ceremony has also become an important occasion where the Queen can be seen in her capacity as head of the armed forces and where she can review the soldiers who carry out their duties on her behalf.

Queen Elizabeth Parade Color 2022
Trooping the Color is a traditional military ceremony observed in Britain each year to mark the monarch’s official birthday in early June. Pictured June 12, 2021. (Inset left) The Queen pictured June 16, 1979. And (Inset right) Buckingham Palace, June 13, 2015.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images/Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images


There are many traditions associated with Trooping the Colour, the first and most important being that it is done in the presence of the Sovereign or a senior member of the Royal Family if incapacitated or out of the country.

The ceremony is held annually at Horse Guards Parade, which stands at the eastern end of St James’s Park, a short distance from the shopping center of Buckingham Palace. The parade ground marks the official entrance to the Court of St. James, which is the official title given to the British royal court. Therefore, when the Queen visits Westminster Abbey, she uses Horse Guards Parade as a cut-off and this was the route taken by Princess Diana’s funeral procession in 1997.

For Trooping the Colour, stands are set up around the parade ground setting and sand is laid down to prevent horses and gun carriages from slipping on the hard surface as they enter.

More than 1,400 soldiers take part in the parade in addition to 200 horses and 400 musicians.

In past years, the queen arrived at the parade on horseback, riding sidesaddle, from where she proceeded to review once the color in a troop. In recent years she has used one of the state cars kept and maintained by the Royal Stables at Buckingham Palace.

Queen Elizabeth II parades the colored carriages
In previous decades, the Queen attended the Trooping the Color parade on horseback, but recently attended an open landau carriage. Photographed (L) June 10, 1983. And (R) June 13, 2015.
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images/Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The queen’s carriage is followed by other members of the royal family. Both Prince Charles and Prince William attended on horseback alongside Princess Anne, forming part of the Sovereigns’ escort and other family members such as Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, followed in open pram cars.

Once on the parade ground, the Queen attends Trooping the Colour, then she reviews the regiment that had her color (this rotates from year to year) as well as the Household Cavalry, Foot Guards and King’s Troop .

After the parade, the Queen returns to Buckingham Palace, followed by the rest of the Royal Family, after which they traditionally make an appearance on the balcony of the Palace to give an overview of the Royal Air Force as it flies along the center commercial.

Platinum Jubilee

This year marks the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II, the first such celebration celebrated in the millennial history of the British monarchy.

The central weekend of celebrations for this stage has been planned to include the Trooping the Color parade, which will take place on June 2, a specially designated national holiday for 2022.

This year, the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards will have its color. The Queen is Colonel-in-Chief of the Irish Guards and Prince William was appointed Colonel of the Regiment by his grandmother. William took part in the Colonel’s Review, which acts as a practice ceremony in the days leading up to the official event.

During the parade, a gun salute is scheduled and after the Royal Family returns to Buckingham Palace along the Mall, a special balcony appearance will take place.

Balcony of Colors Flypast Parade
Traditionally, members of the Royal Family join the Queen in watching a Royal Air Force flypast after the Trooping the Color parade.
Max Momby/Indigo/Getty Images

While traditionally many members of the immediate and extended royal family, including members of foreign royal families, have appeared on the Trooping the Color balcony, this year Buckingham Palace announced that only members of the royal family who perform official duties on behalf of the Queen have been invited to appear. This excludes Prince Andrew, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

The Queen’s appearance at this year’s event has not been confirmed as she continues to deal with what the palace described as “episodic mobility issues”. A new pattern for royal operations sees the Queen’s attendance at unpublished events until her arrival, having judged on the day whether she felt capable of attending.

If the Queen is unable to attend the parade ceremony, it is expected that she will be represented by Prince Charles, who has been entrusted with reading the monarch’s speech at the opening official statement from Parliament earlier in May.

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