It’ll soon be time for the Trooping the Colour, one of London’s trademark displays of traditional royal and military pomp and splendour. We’ve all heard of it, of course, but how many of us actually know what it is and why it happens? Why do we troop the colour?
Although the origins of the ceremony are to be found in the battlefields of sixteenth century Europe, in its current, annual incarnation, the Trooping the Colour is the British military’s way of honouring the sovereign. It takes place on the monarch’s official birthday, which is set on a Saturday in June every year: if you’ve read our recent post about the Queen’s Birthday(s), then you’ll be one step ahead here.
The Queen travels down the Mall, escorted from her residence at Buckingham Palace by the Household Calvary. When she reaches Horse Guards Parade at St. Jame’s Park (the entrance is known to tourists across the world as the site of the daily Changing of the Guard), she inspects the rest of her Household regiments before returning to Buckingham Palace. Here, the ceremony goes on as all of the regiments march (or, in the case of cavalry, trot) past the Queen outside the gates. All of this is conducted to military march music provided by the regiments’ mounted bands. And while the drummers on horseback are quite a sight, the acoustic highpoint is reached when a 41-gun salute is let off in Green Park before an RAF flypast thunders overhead: the Queen watches this from the Buckingham Palace balcony with the rest of the Royal Family.
The ceremony is broadcast live by the BBC and is an old favourite in the TV schedules. Royal watchers pore over the Queen’s outfits and that of the other royals on the balcony, and the full splendour of the military parade is a guaranteed draw for tourists, who line the route in London on the day.