The custom of Trooping the Colour dates back to the time of Charles II in the 17th.
Although I know about the parades which mark the Queen’s official birthday I have never really known what the phrase ‘Trooping the Colours’ actually means.
In fact The Colours carry upon them all the battle honours of a Regiment and as such have major significance for each and every soldier serving in that Regiment. In olden days they were hung outside the Battalion or Regimental headquarters after a good day’s battle, so The Colours identified their headquarters. They were carried into battle so that in the fog of war, if a soldier was lost, he knew to search for the colours to locate the rest of his Regiment. Hence each day The Colours were trooped in front of the soldiers to make sure that they would always recognise them.
In London, the Foot Guards used to do this as part of their daily Guard Mounting on Horse Guards and the modern Trooping the Colour parade is along similar lines.
The Grenadier Guards first began to mark The Sovereign’s Official Birthday under the reign of Charles ll in 1748. When George III became King in 1760, it was ordered that parades should mark the King’s Birthday. With only a few breaks, most notably for the two World Wars, The trooping of the Colours has been an annual event since.
The impressive ceremony is now held on the occasion of our own Queen’s Official Birthday. The precise date varies but it takes place in June. It is carried out by her personal troops, the Household Division, on Horse Guards Parade, with the Queen herself attending and taking the salute.
The Queen used to ride her own horse, side saddle, wearing the uniform of the regiment whose colour was being trooped. Since 1987, she has attended in a carriage. Regiments take their turn for this honour in rotation depending on their operational commitments.
Over 1000 officers and men, and 200 horses take part in the parade, together with 200 musicians from six bands and corps of drums. The parade route extends from Buckingham Palace along The Mall to Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall and back again.
As the clock on the Horse Guards Building strikes 11am, the Royal Procession arrives and The Queen takes the Royal Salute. The parade begins with the Inspection, The Queen driving slowly down the ranks of all six Guards and then past the Household Cavalry. After the event, the Royal Family gathers on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch an RAF flypast.