Horse Guard’s Parade will play host today to Trooping The Colour as part of the celebration of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Ma’am!). It is a display pageantry that is a traditional part of the ceremonial theatre that is part and parcel of the British Monarchy.
It dates back to The London Storyteller’s favourite Sovereign of all, the 17th century’s leading ladies man, Charles II. The colours are banners and flags that identify specific regiments in the British army. As the great lothario’s ill-fated father discovered in the English Civil War (1642-49), it was difficult to pick out one side from another in battle. In fact, in the English Civil War because the country was divided politically but not so profoundly geographically often soldiers found themselves – in the early phase of the war at least – wearing the same uniforms as their adversaries.
During Charles II’s reign the colours were used as a rallying point during battle and they were trooped on daily basis so that soldiers knew what to recognise. It was part of the daily routine in London for the Foot Guards as part of their daily mounting ceremony on Horse Guards Parade.
Horse Guards Parade is situated just behind the grand boulevard of Whitehall, which is the home of the British government. Along Whitehall for many centuries was an extensive complex of buidings known as the Palace Of Whitehall, which was in fact the main centre of royal governance for hundreds of years up until the end of the 17th Century. What is now Horse Guards Parade was part of this complex and was used a practice ground for Henry VIII to practice his jousting so today’s ceremony has its roots in at least six hundred years of royal history.
Links to the Sovereign’s birthday and this custom of celebration can be traced first back 1748 and the reign of George II and from the reign of George IV with the exception of the two world wars and a handful of other occasions it has since been an annual event.
Today marks the Queen’s official birthday and the ceremony will be carried out by her personal bodyguard of troops, The Household Division. The parade route runs from Buckingham Palace along the Mall to Horse Guards Parade along Whitehall and then back to Horse Guards. There are over 1000 Officers and soldiers in the parade with more than 200 musicians taking part from six military bands. The colours will be trooped by the 1st Division of the Coldstream Guards in 2018.
At 11am, the Queen will arrive at Horse Guards Parade and take the Royal Salute. An inspection follows of all six Guards divisions and the Household Cavalry. It is available to watch live on BBC television and online with more information available at directly from The Household Cavalry Division.
Her Majesty will then join with the royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to enjoy a flypast from the RAF.