One of the main events in any UK royalist’s (or London tourists’) social calendar is the ‘Trooping the Colour’ which takes place every year in June to mark the monarch’s official birthday. Here are five facts about the celebration.
Fact 1 – Origins
‘Trooping the Colour’ has been a tradition in the British Army since the 17th century but its roots go back much further. On the battlefield a regiment’s colours (flags) were used as rallying points. Thus ensigns (junior officers) march between ranks to enable soldiers to recognize their flags in the heat of battle. The loss of the regimental colours on the field of battle was considered a great dishonor while capturing a flag of the enemy’s was seen as the pinnacle of martial success!
Fact 2 – The Queen’s Birthday
‘Trooping the Colour’ marks the Queen’s official birthday (her real birthday being April the 21st). It also coincides with the Birthday Honors List which rewards the achievements of various members of the public. The ‘Trooping of the Colour’ ceremony is broadcast live on the BBC and is also shown in Germany and Belgium.
Fact 3 – Almost full attendance
The Queen has attended the trooping of the colour ceremony every year of her reign except when prevented by a rail strike in 1955! Since 1987 she has arrived in a carriage, prior to that she rode in the resplendent uniform of the commander-in-chief of the Coldstream Guards. On the 13th June 1981 she was shot at six times from close range with a revolver (fortunately with blanks) by Marcus Sergeant who was promptly arrested by the police. The Queen still attended the ceremony despite the events.
Fact 4 – Passing Out
One of the unfortunate aspects of the trooping of the colour is that sometimes soldiers faint! This is not altogether surprising given that the ceremony takes place in June and the troops are on parade for hours in temperatures sometimes in excess of 70 F. In the past, these troops were left where they fell. Nowadays, however medical assistance is on hand to help them.
Fact 5 – What actually happens?
The ceremony gets under way with the Queen travelling down The Mall from Buckingham Palace with a royal escort. After receiving a royal salute she inspects the Household Division (the Foot Guards, Horse Guards, King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.) Each year one of the foot-guards regiments troops its colours through the ranks of guards. Then the whole division marches past the Queen saluting her. This is a special moment the grenadiers resplendent in their scarlet tunics and distinctive bearskins! Returning to Buckingham Palace the Queen watches a further march past, the day being completed by a flyover from fighter aircraft from the R.A.F and a salvo from the Royal Horse artillery. All in all a memorable occasion, enough to make any Brit rightfully proud!
 Rallying (to rally) – come together again in order to fight.
 Pinnacle – the height, top level
 Reign- length of time she has been queen
 Resplendent- to look impressive
 Blanks- not live ammunition
 Promptly (adverb)- quickly
 Faint- lose consciousness
 Bearskins-the type of headwear worn by the Grenadier Guards