The custom of Trooping the Colour dates back to the time of Charles II in the 17th. Century when the Colours of a regiment were used as a rallying point in battle and were therefore trooped in front of the soldiers every day to make sure that every man could recognise those of his own regiment. In London, the Foot Guards used to do this as part of their daily Guard Mounting on Horse Guards and the ceremonial of the modern Trooping the Colour parade is along similar lines. The first traceable mention of The Sovereign's Birthday being 'kept' by the Grenadier Guards is in 1748 and again, after George III became King in 1760, it was ordered that parades should mark the King's Birthday. From the accession of George IV they became, with a few exceptions and notably the two World Wars, an annual event.
This impressive display of pageantry is now held annually. It takes place in June each year to celebrate the official Birthday of the Sovereign and is carried out by their personal troops, the Household Division, on Horse Guards Parade, with the Sovereign attending in person and taking the salute.
Since 1987, Queen Elizabeth II attended in a carriage rather than riding, which she did before that on 36 occasions, riding side-saddle and wearing the uniform of the regiment whose Colour was being trooped. The regiments take their turn for this honour in rotation as operational commitments permit.
Over 1000 officers and men are on parade, together with two hundred horses; over two hundred musicians from six bands and corps of drums march and play as one. Some 113 words of command are given by the Officer in Command of the Parade. The parade route extends from Buckingham Palace along The Mall to Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall and back again.
Precisely as the clock on the Horse Guards Building strikes eleven, the Royal Procession arrives and the Sovereign takes the Royal Salute. The parade begins with the Inspection, The Sovereign driving slowly down the ranks of all six Guards and then past the Household Cavalry and King's Troop. After the event, the Royal Family gathers on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch an RAF flypast.
Overview video clip of Trooping the Colour from the perspective of the Ensign
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A brief history of the Garrison Sergeant Majors, HQ London District
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The HQ London District Household Division official website is at: www.householddivision.org.uk