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For more than two centuries, the United Kingdom has held Trooping the Colour, an annual ceremony that celebrates their sovereign’s birthday with an impressive parade put on by the monarch’s personal troops, the Household Division, who “carry” the colors during the display. Although it is considered a birthday celebration, this tradition doesn’t really fall on the sovereign’s actual birthday: it usually happens around the second Saturday of June since the weather is more agreeable to hold parades and other outdoor activities.

History of Trooping the Colour

Trooping the Colour is a custom that started with King Charles II (1630 – 1685) back in the 17th century. This custom was related to a time where, before a battle, the regiments colors were displayed in front of every soldier, so that they could recognize it during battle and use it as a rallying point. It was only after 1748 that it began to be associated with the sovereign’s birthday during George III’s reign. The new tradition now involved the soldiers “trooping” or lining up in their colors (flags) so that the King could inspect them, therefore earning the name “Trooping the Colour.”

Over time, the Trooping the Colour ceremony became an important national event, attended and cheered on by thousands of people. This day also remains an important symbol of the British monarchy and the country’s military strength and traditions.

What happens during the Trooping the Colour ceremony?

Also known as the King’s Birthday Parade, the highlight of the Trooping the Colour ceremony is a military parade in which more than 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses, and 400 musicians march from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards’ Parade in Whitehall, London, where the ceremony takes place. The ceremony is attended by members of the royal family, including the monarch, who participates in the parade by either riding on horseback or traveling in a carriage.

As the clock strikes eleven, the procession reaches Whitehall, where the sovereign is greeted by a Royal salute. The sovereign then carries out an inspection of the troops, who are all dressed in their full ceremonial uniforms. Each year, one of the four Foot Guard regiments that comprise the Household Division is chosen to carry (or troup) the colors. The Trooping the Colour demonstration then takes place, in which regiments of the British Army march in formation and perform a display of military precision, accompanied by the firing of guns and the playing of music and under the direction of the Officer in Command of the Parade.

After the Foot Guards have marched past the sovereign, they all escort them back to Buckingham Palace, where the Royal Family appears on the balcony to watch a fly-past by the Royal Air Force.

How to celebrate Trooping the Colour

There are several ways to celebrate Trooping the Colour. Aside from the parade and ceremony attended by members of the Royal Family, the general public can also get tickets to watch the event taking place in Horse Guards Parade. People can gather in the streets to watch the military procession march down The Mall. In addition, there are usually fireworks displays and other celebrations in towns and cities throughout the UK. The event is broadcasted on television and online, so people from around the world can watch the celebration. Many people mark the occasion by holding street parties, decorating their homes with flags or their country’s colors, and enjoying a traditional British meal.

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