Trooping the Colour

Trooping the Colour
Trooping the Colour is an annual ceremony performed by regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies to celebrate the official birthday of the British monarch. The tradition dates back to the 17th century although it became associated with the sovereign’s birthday somewhat later.

The colours of military regiments embody their spirit and service, as well as their fallen soldiers. The loss of a colour was considered the greatest shame on a battlefield. In the 17th century, regimental colours were trooped (marched) before and after every battle so that everyone could see that they were intact. Over the years, the ceremony has become primarily symbolic.

The ceremony of Trooping the Colour was first held to mark the sovereign’s official birthday in 1748 and has been held annually since 1820, being canceled only under exceptional circumstances such as unsuitable weather conditions or periods of mourning. Today the ceremony is also known as the King’s Birthday Parade.

The participants of the ceremony include six companies of Foot Guards, mounted troops and Sovereign’s Escort, commanding officers, and military bands. The sovereign personally inspects the troops while other senior members of the Royal Family attend the ceremony but do not participate. The audience also includes invited guests, ticket holders, and the general public.

The entire parade consists of several stages: march on, arrival of the sovereign, inspection of the line, massed bands troop, trooping the colour, foot guards march past, mounted troops ride past, and marching off. The monarch arrives at the ceremony in a royal procession that travels from Buckingham Palace down the Mall. During the reign of Elizabeth II, the Queen used to be mounted herself but began to ride a carriage in 1987 due to declining health. Since only one regiment colour can be trooped at a time, the regiments take their turns in rotation.

After the ceremony, the monarch returns to Buckingham Palace. They and their consort stop at the gateway and receive the salute of the guards and the mounted troops. The sovereign’s arrival at the palace is followed by gun salutes and a flypast by the Royal Air Force.

Several Commonwealth countries hold their own Trooping the Colour parades on the Kings’s Official Birthday. They include Australia, Canada, Kenya, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Trooping the Colour

Photo: K Barker from Newfoundland




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