Queen's Official Birthday
The Queen's Official Birthday, or King's Official Birthday in the reign of a male monarch, is the selected day in some Commonwealth realms on which the birthday of the monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) is officially celebrated in those countries.
The sovereign's birthday was first officially marked in the United Kingdom in 1748, for King George II. Since then, the date of the king or queen's birthday has been determined throughout the British Empire and later the Commonwealth according to either different royal proclamations issued by the sovereign or governor or by statute laws passed by the local parliament. The date of the celebration today varies as adopted by each country and is generally set around the end of May to start of June, to coincide with a high probability of fine weather in the Northern Hemisphere for outdoor ceremonies, rather than with the monarch's actual birthday, that of the present monarch being 21 April. In some cases, it is an official public holiday, sometimes aligning with the celebration of other events. Most Commonwealth realms release a Queen's Birthday Honours list at this time.
Except in the state of Western Australia, Australia observes the Queen's Birthday on the second Monday in June. Because Western Australia celebrates Western Australia Day (formerly known as Foundation Day) on the first Monday in June, the Governor of Western Australia each year proclaims the day on which the state will observe the Queen's Birthday, based on school terms and the Perth Royal Show. There is no firm rule to determine this date, though it is usually the last Monday of September or the first Monday of October. In 2012, Queensland celebrated the holiday in October, as the June holiday was reserved to mark Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee as Queen of Australia, after which the holiday has reverted to its traditional date in line with the other eastern Australian states.
The day has been celebrated since 1788, when Governor Arthur Phillip declared a holiday to mark the birthday of the King of Great Britain. Until 1936, it was held on the actual birthday of the monarch, but, after the death of King George V, it was decided to keep the date on the second Monday in June. This has more evenly spaced out public holidays throughout the year. While George V's successor, Edward VIII, also celebrated his birthday in June, the two sovereigns since have not: George VI's birthday was in December, very close to public holidays for Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Years, while Elizabeth II's birthday falls shortly after holidays for Good Friday and Easter and very close to ANZAC Day.
The Queen's Birthday weekend and Empire Day (24 May) were the traditional times for public fireworks displays in Australia. The sale of fireworks to the public was banned in various states through the 1980s and by the Australian Capital Territory on 24 August 2009. Tasmania is the only state and the Northern Territory the only territory to still sell fireworks to the public. The Queen's Birthday Honours List, in which new members of the Order of Australia and other Australian honours are named, is released on the date of the Queen's Birthday in most states.
A royal proclamation issued on 5 February 1957 established the Canadian monarch's official birthday as the last Monday before 25 May. The sovereign's birthday had been observed in Canada since 1845, when the parliament of the Province of Canada passed a statute to officially recognize Queen Victoria's birthday, 24 May. Over the ensuing decades after Victoria's death in 1901 (at which time the Monday before 25 May became known by law as Victoria Day), the official date in Canada of the reigning monarch's birthday changed through various royal proclamations: for Edward VII it continued by yearly proclamation to be observed on 24 May, but was 3 June for George V and 23 June for Edward VIII (their actual birthdays).
Edward VIII abdicated the Canadian throne on 11 December 1936, three days before the birthday of his brother, the new king of Canada, George VI. The King expressed to his ministers his wish that his birthday not be publicly celebrated, in light of the recent circumstances. But, the Prime Minister at the time, William Lyon Mackenzie King, the rest of Cabinet, and Governor General the Lord Tweedsmuir felt otherwise, seeing such a celebration as a way to begin the reign on a positive note. George VI's official birthday in Canada was thereafter marked on various days between 20 May and 14 June.
The first official birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, daughter of George VI, was the last to be celebrated in June; the haphazard format was abandoned in 1952, when the Governor-General-in-Council moved Empire Day and an amendment to the law moved Victoria Day both to the Monday before 25 May, and the monarch's official birthday in Canada was by regular viceregal proclamations made to fall on this same date every year between 1953 and 1957, when the link was made permanent. The two holidays are in law entirely distinct except for being appointed to be observed on the same day; it is a general holiday in Nunavut and New Brunswick (there prescribed as a day of rest on which retail businesses must be closed). The Queen's official birthday is marked by the firing of an artillery salute in the national and provincial capitals and the flying of the Royal Union Flag on buildings belonging to the federal Crown, if there is a second pole available.
The reigning Canadian monarch has been in Canada for his or her official birthday twice. The first time was 20 May 1939, when King George VI was on a coast-to-coast tour of Canada and his official birthday was celebrated with a Trooping the Colour ceremony on Parliament Hill. The second time was when Queen Elizabeth II was in Canada from 17 – 25 May 2005, to mark the centennial of the entries of Saskatchewan and Alberta into Confederation; no government-initiated events, aside from those dictated by normal protocol, were organized to acknowledge the official birthday. Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, heir to the Canadian throne, and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in 2012 attended events in Saint John, New Brunswick, and Toronto, Ontario, marking the queen's official birthday. The couple did the same in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, in 2014.
Despite Fiji ceasing to be a Commonwealth realm in 1987, following a second military coup d'état, the Queen's Birthday continued to be celebrated each 12 June until 2012. That year, the military government of Commodore Frank Bainimarama announced the holiday would be abolished.
In New Zealand, the holiday is the first Monday in June. Celebrations are mainly official, including the Queen's Birthday Honours list and military ceremonies. There have been proposals, with some political support, to replace the holiday with Matariki (Māori New Year) as an official holiday. The idea of renaming the Queen's Birthday weekend to Hillary weekend, after Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to ascend Mount Everest, was raised in 2009.
The monarch's birthday has been celebrated in the United Kingdom since 1748. There, the Queen's Official Birthday is now marked on the first, second, or third Saturday in June and, since 1974, it has been the Saturday in the range 11 – 17 June. Edward VII, who reigned from 1901 to 1910 and whose birthday was on 9 November, after 1908 moved the ceremony to summer in the hope of good weather.
The day is marked in London by the ceremony of Trooping the Colour, which is also known as the Queen's Birthday Parade. The list of Birthday Honours is also announced at the time of the Official Birthday celebrations. In British diplomatic missions, the day is treated as the National Day of the United Kingdom. Although it is not celebrated as a specific public holiday in the UK (as it is not a working day), some civil servants are given a "privilege day" at this time of year, which is often merged with the Spring Bank Holiday (last Monday in May) to create a long weekend, which was partly created to celebrate the monarch's birthday.
Other countries and territories
Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands both celebrate the Queen's Official Birthday on the second Monday of June. Tuvalu does so on the second Saturday of June. In Saint Kitts and Nevis, the date of the holiday is set each year.
The Queen's official birthday is a public holiday in Gibraltar and most other British overseas territories (known as Crown colonies until 1981). In 2008, the Government of Bermuda decided in 2009 that the day would be replaced by National Hero's Day, despite protests from people on the island, who signed a petition calling for its retention. The Falkland Islands celebrate the actual day of the Queen's birth, 21 April, as June occurs in late autumn or winter in the Falklands. It is a public holiday in Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha, where it falls on the third Monday in April. Norfolk Island celebrates the Queen of Australia's birthday on the Monday after the second Saturday in June.
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The current Queen Elizabeth II celebrates two birthdays each year: her actual birthday on 21 April and her official birthday on a Saturday in June.
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