Why Does Her Majesty Have Two Birthdays?


Queen Elizabeth II is an incredibly busy woman, but she also knows how to enjoy a good party. So it shouldn't come as a surprise to find out that the Queen has not one, but two birthdays. So as the monarch turns 92, we have developed curiosities around her birthday celebration.

Why does Queen Elizabeth II have two birthdays?

The tradition of celebrating two birthdays started in 1748. King George II was born in November, but decided he wanted to have good weather on his birthday, which is totally relatable. So to solve the problem, the King decided to start celebrating his birthday every summer, by throwing an annual military parade, as well as honoring his actual birthday in November. Since then, the second Saturday of June has become the usual date of the British monarch’s official birthday. So, Queen Elizabeth II, although born in April 21, 1926, will celebrate her “second” birthday tomorrow, the 9th June with an event that is one of the most elaborate and opulent ceremonies of the royal calendar. A large-scale display of pageantry, pomp and circumstance, Trooping the Color takes place every year in June and sees the Queen’s personal troops, the Household Division, marching at Horse Guards Parade in central London, with the Queen attending and taking the salute.

What is the significance of Trooping the Color?

In the past, flags, or colors, were used as a method of identification for different regiments of the British Army during conflicts, as they made it easy for soldiers to recognize their units even in the chaos of a battlefield. Of course, the soldiers would have to learn which colors belonged to their regiment, so they were regularly marched and displayed, or trooped by a young officer. This has morphed over time into the annual trooping the Color ceremony, which while serving no discernable purpose in modern warfare, has become associated with the monarch’s official birthday. This is one of the oldest continuously observed royal celebrations, and is believed to have been performed first during the reign of King Charles II (1660-1685). Furthermore, the Household Division are amongst the oldest regiments of the British Army and have served as the personal bodyguards of the monarch since the Crown was restored after the English Civil War in 1660.

What happens at Trooping the Color?

In its current form, the event is packed with strictly choreographed procedures and rituals. The Queen first travels down The Mall from Buckingham Palace by carriage, with a Sovereign’s Escort from the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. As the clock on Horse Guards chimes eleven, Her Majesty The Queen arrives to take the Royal Salute from the officers and men of the Household Division on parade. After the salute, the Queen rides up and down the ranks, in her carriage, inspecting the troops on parade. After the massed bands have performed a musical troop, the Regimental Color, being trooped, is escorted up and down the ranks of Guards. The Foot Guards and the Household Cavalry then march past the Queen, while the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, rank past with their guns, after which the Queen rides in her carriage back to Buckingham Palace before taking the salute there.

How the other royal family members participate?

Members of the Royal Family will then join the Queen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch what many consider the highlight of the ceremony - a dramatic fly-past by the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows at 1pm. Following the fly-past, a 41-gun salute will be conducted in Green Park, just next door to Buckingham Palace. The Queen has taken the salute at every parade since her accession to the throne 62 years ago, except in 1955 when it was called off due to a national rail strike.

How can I watch the ceremony?

Tickets, priced at £35, usually go on sale early in the year via a ballot system and sell out quickly, and 2018 is no different. This year’s online ballot closed on 1 March, and all the tickets have been snapped up. However, those determined to see the ceremony can head down to The Mall, where you may be able to catch a glimpse of members of the Royal Family as they go past. Alternatively, camp out at the edge of St James’s Park to see the troops on Horse Guards Parade. The Culture Trip recommends arriving at either of those two locations by 9am at the latest in order to claim a spot. If you can’t wrangle a decent viewpoint for the ceremony, the Red Arrows fly-past is visible from across most of central London, so be sure to look up if you’re in the area. And if you are not able to go in person, the BBC will be broadcasting the event in full.