Of course everyone would love to celebrate two birthdays a year, but the privilege is exclusively reserved for the Queen. Her Majesty, who is 93, celebrates two birthdays: her actual birthday on 21 April and her official birthday on the second Saturday of June at Trooping the Colour – but why?
Historically, official celebrations to mark a sovereign's birthday have often been held on a day other than their actual birthday. This is usually true when their actual birthday does not land in the summer months. The reason, in typical British fashion, comes down to the weather.
The Queen celebrates two birthdays each year
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. While the Queen usually spends her actual birthday in April privately, the occasion is marked publicly by gun salutes in central London at midday: a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21 gun salute in Windsor Great Park and a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London.
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But this year, royal watchers were able to see the monarch on her actual birthday as it coincided with Easter Sunday. The mother-of-four attended the traditional church service at Windsor, where she was spending the Easter break, with family members including Prince William and Kate, Prince Harry, Princess Beatrice, Prince Andrew, and Zara and Mike Tindall.
Her Majesty is joined by members of the royal family on her official birthday
On her official birthday in June, which traditionally falls on the second Saturday, Her Majesty is joined by various members of the royal family at the annual Trooping the Colour parade. 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.
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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 as the head of her Guards. 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 to make an appearance, as they wouldn't take part in the morning carriage procession until they are a bit older.