What is Trooping the Colour? Date, time and how to watch the Queen's 2018 birthday parade

Members of the royal family including Prince William, Kate, Prince George and Princess Charlotte attend the event

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It's one of the most highly anticipated events in the royal calendar, but what exactly is Trooping the Colour? Since 1748, Trooping the Colour has been the official commemoration of the sovereign's birthday, and throughout her reign, the Queen has never missed the occasion, apart from in 1955 when the event was cancelled due to a national rail strike.

What is Trooping the Colour?

The ceremony is steeped in tradition and involves a military parade and the chance for the Queen to inspect her personal troops, the Household Division, on Horse Guards Parade in London. More than 1,400 officers take part as well as 200 horses and over 400 musicians from ten bands. In the past, royal family members including Prince William, Prince Charles and Princess Anne have participated on horseback. The Queen, 92, used to trot through the event but she prefers to ride a carriage now.

The event is held to celebrate the Queen's birthday

On the day, the royals travel in procession via horse-drawn carriage from Buckingham Palace, along The Mall to Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall and back again. When Her Majesty arrives at Horse Guards Parade, she is greeted by a royal salute and inspects the troops. The band also performs a musical troop as the regimental flag – or colour – is carried down the ranks. The Queen is then driven back to Buckingham Palace at the head of her Guards.

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The royal family then stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to greet crowds and watch the spectacular RAF flypast. This is a chance for younger members of the family, including Prince George and Princess Charlotte, to make an appearance, as they wouldn't take part in the morning carriage procession until they are a bit older. 

Here's a guide to Trooping the Colour...

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When is Trooping the Colour?

Traditionally, Trooping the Colour is held on the second Saturday of June. This year it falls on 9 June. Proceedings usually kick off at around 9:15am, when the troops begin to form, but the Queen doesn't leave Buckingham Palace until around 10:45am. Her Majesty will arrive at Horse Guards Parade at around 11am to review the ranks, before heading back to the palace. The RAF flypast is scheduled for 1pm.

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How can I watch it?

Members of the public wishing to watch the parade are advised to stand on The Mall or on the edge of St James's Park overlooking Horse Guards from 9am. The parade is also broadcast live on the BBC in the UK.

The youngest members of the royal family make an appearance on the balcony

Where can I buy tickets?

Sadly, tickets are no longer available for this year's event. Tickets for seated stands around Horse Guards Parade are allocated by ballot, and applications should be made in January and February. Up to a maximum of three tickets, each priced at £35, can be applied for. The dress code is morning dress or lounge dress, and strictly no denim.

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Why does the Queen have two birthdays?

Although almost everyone would love to celebrate two birthdays a year, the privilege is exclusively reserved for the Queen. Her actual birthday is on 21 April but historically, the sovereign's birthday is official marked in June with the Trooping the Colour ceremony if the sovereign's actual birthday does not land in the summer months. The reason, in typical British fashion, comes down to the weather. The tradition started in 1748 with George II, who was born in chilly November. Instead of risking his subjects catching a cold, he combined his birthday celebration with the annual spring parade known as Trooping the Colour.

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