What is Trooping the Colour? The Queen's official birthday celebration explained in full

The event will not take place in its traditional format this year

Danielle Stacey

It's one of the most highly anticipated events in the royal calendar, but what exactly is Trooping the Colour? Since 1748, Trooping has been the sovereign's official birthday celebration. 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.

READ: When royals make their debut at one of the Queen's favourite events, Trooping the Colour

Loading the player...


WATCH: Prince Louis makes balcony debut at Trooping the Colour 2019

This year, Trooping falls on Saturday 13 June but it will not take place in its traditional form due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. A scaled-down event will instead take place at Windsor Castle, where the Queen has been isolating since March. It's the first time the sovereign's official birthday will be marked at Windsor Castle since 1895.

Saturday's brief ceremony will be carried out by a detachment from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, whose Colour was due to be trooped this year at the Queen’s birthday parade on Horse Guards. The Welsh Guards are currently stationed at Windsor Castle, and have played a key role in the military response to the Covid-19 pandemic over the past months.

The military ceremony will take place in the presence of Her Majesty and upon her arrival in the Quadrangle, the Queen will be greeted by a royal salute. A series of military drills will then be carried out as the band plays, and the ceremony will conclude with a second salute before the Queen’s departure.

What is Trooping the Colour?

The ceremony is steeped in tradition and traditionally 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, 94, used to trot but she prefers to ride a carriage now.


The event is held to celebrate the Queen's birthday

On the day, the royals usually 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.

MORE: Why did Meghan Markle miss the first balcony appearance at Trooping the Colour?

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. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's youngest child Prince Louis made his adorable debut on the balcony at the 2019 event.

When is Trooping the Colour?

Traditionally, Trooping the Colour is held on the second Saturday of June. This year it falls on 13 June.  

How can I watch it?

The event has always drawn large crowds to The Mall and surrounding areas in London, but this year members of the public are being asked not to attend nor gather in Windsor town centre in the hope of seeing any of the ceremony, which is taking place behind closed doors. Royal fans can watch the event take place on television as BBC One is airing live coverage of Trooping the Colour from 10:15 on Saturday 13 June.


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

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.

Make sure you never miss a ROYAL story! Sign up to our newsletter to get all of our celebrity, royal and lifestyle news delivered directly to your inbox.

Activate HELLO! alerts and find out about everything before anyone else.