The real reason the Queen celebrates two birthdays every year

It's a very British reason…

Everyone would love to celebrate two birthdays a year, but the privilege is exclusively reserved for the Queen. Her Majesty, who turned 96 on Thursday, celebrates it twice: her actual birth date on 21 April and her official birthday on the second Saturday of June at Trooping the Colour – but why?

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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.

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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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While the Queen tends to spend her actual birthday in April privately, the occasion is usually 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.

The Queen celebrates two birthdays each year

This year, the Queen has travelled to Sandringham from her usual base in Windsor, where she is expected to stay at Wood Farm on the estate, where her late husband Prince Philip spent much of his retirement. It's understood that the monarch wanted to feel close to the Duke on her birthday.

On her official birthday in June - which traditionally falls on the second Saturday of the month, although this year will be marked on Thursday 2 June due to the big Platinum Jubilee celebrations - Her Majesty is joined by various members of the royal family at the annual Trooping the Colour parade

Her Majesty is joined by members of the royal family on her official birthday

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.

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.

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