British RoyalsThe Queen

What is Trooping the Colour?

The majority of Brits will have heard of Trooping the Colour, but many do not understand what it actually is, why it takes place and who it involves. With the celebration taking place on 9th June, let us explain everything you need to know.

The first thing you ought to know is that Trooping the Colour is the Queen’s birthday parade and it involves regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies. It has been a tradition since 1748 for the monarch’s official birthday to be marked by this performance, and since the 1950s it has always fallen on the second Saturday of June and takes place in London.

The parade starts with the Queen travelling down the Mall from Buckingham Palace in a royal procession with an escort of Household Cavalry which contains horse guards. Until 1987, the Queen rode alongside the guards, but now she watches from a carriage with the Duke of Edinburgh.

Behind the carriage ride the Royal Colonels who each represent one of the Five Foot Guards regiments: Prince of Wales (Welsh Guards), the Duke of Kent (Scots Guards), Princess Anne (Blues and Royals), the Duke of York (Grenadier Guards) and the Duke of Cambridge (Irish Guards). The Royal Colonels are then followed by the non-royal Colonels of Regiments (Coldstream Guards and Life Guards).

Once the Queen arrives, she receives a royal salute from the troops and begins to inspect the lines of members of the Household Division and Horse Guards. These are made up of 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians. This part of the parade is then followed by the Massed Bands troop, where the Massed Band march on Horse Guards Parade.

The next stage is where the name Trooping the Colour comes from. It is called Trooping the Colour because a regimental flag (which represents the ‘Colour’) is paraded in front of the Queen (which represents the ‘Trooping’). On battlefields, a regiments’ colours (flags) were marched up and down the soldiers’ ranks to enable them to recognise their regiments’ colours. The colours embody the spirit and service of the regiment as well as its fallen soldiers.

The flag used in the performance changes every year, but it is always one of the Five Foot Guards regiments. This year it is the 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards who last provided the colour in 2009. Once this part of the performance has taken place, the Colour has been Trooped.

To end Trooping the Colour, the Queen returns up the Mall to Buckingham Palace with the entire parade marching behind her. Finally, the Queen and the Royal Family appear on the palace balcony to witness a flypast by the Royal Air Force.

Trooping the Colour will be broadcast live on BBC One from 10:30am on 9th June.