Trooping the Colour
Trooping the Colour is a ceremony performed every year in London, United Kingdom, by regiments of the British Army. Similar events are held in other countries of the Commonwealth. Trooping the Colour has been a tradition of British infantry regiments since the 17th century, and since 1748 has marked the official birthday of the British sovereign, although its roots go back much earlier.
Each year, one of the five Foot Guards regiments of the Household Division is selected to troop (carry) its colours through the ranks of guards. The colours were once used on the battlefield as a rallying point. During the ceremony, the monarch travels down the Mall from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards Parade in a royal procession with a sovereign's escort of Household Cavalry (mounted troops or horse guards). After receiving a royal salute, the monarch inspects his troops of the Household Division and the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery.
The entire Household Division assembly then conducts a march past the monarch. Parading with its guns, the King's Troop takes precedence as the mounted troops perform a walk-march and trot-past. Music is provided by the massed bands of the Foot Guards and the mounted Band of the Household Cavalry, together with a Corps of Drums, and occasionally pipers, totalling approximately 400 musicians.
Returning to Buckingham Palace, the monarch watches a further march-past from outside the gates. Following a 41-gun salute by the King's Troop in Green Park, the royal family make an appearance on the palace balcony for a Royal Air Force flypast.[note 1]
Sovereign's official birthday
Sovereign's birthday parade
In the United Kingdom, Trooping the Colour is also known as the King's Birthday Parade. First performed during the reign of King Charles II (1660–1685), in 1748 it was decided that the parade of Trooping the Colour should mark the official birthday of the Sovereign. In 1760, after the accession of King George III, it became an annual event.
In 1892, the only member of the royal family to attend was Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, due to court mourning for the death of Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence. Queen Victoria herself only attended Trooping the Colour once, in 1895, when it was held at Windsor Castle. Although some elements of the parade have remained fairly constant, the ceremonial seen today was not fixed until 1889.
Sovereign's "Official Birthday"
It was Edward VII who moved Trooping the Colour to its June date, because of the vagaries of British weather (his actual birthday being in November). It is held annually on the second Saturday in June, coinciding with publication of the Birthday Honours List, and usually takes place at Horse Guards Parade by St James's Park, London. It is followed by a 41-gun salute at noon in Green Park, and a flypast over Buckingham Palace, watched by the royal family from the Palace balcony.
Since 1959, it has been held on a Saturday in June. From 1979 to 2017 it was always held on the Saturday falling between 11 and 17 June; however, in 2018 it was held on 9 June and in 2019 on 8 June. During 2020 and 2021, a modified ceremony took place at Windsor Castle due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The parade is witnessed by a global TV audience of many millions. Over the years, commentary for the annual live broadcast in the UK by BBC1 has been provided by Huw Edwards and also by Clare Balding, together with expert guests and interviews with some of the personnel involved. The BBC's live broadcast has become accessible to an international audience via live streaming on BritBox in both the United States and Canada. The BBC also streams it live on YouTube beginning with the 2019 edition.
For the Platinum Jubilee in 2022, additional live videos commentary of the parade for international viewers were provided by Sky News UK and the Telegraph newspaper's YouTube channels.
Queen Elizabeth II attended Trooping the Colour in every year of her reign, except in 1955 when the event was cancelled due to a national rail strike. Riding her mare Burmese (horse) between 1969 and 1986, The Queen rode in a carriage from 1987 onward. On 13 June 1981, she and her horse were startled by an unemployed youth, Marcus Sarjeant, who fired six blank rounds from a starting revolver. In her years attending on horseback, the Queen, as Colonel-in-Chief, wore a biretta and a Guards Regiment uniform with the medals she was awarded before becoming Queen (Order of the Crown of India; Defence Medal; War Medal 1939–1945; King George V Silver Jubilee Medal; King George VI Coronation Medal; Canadian Forces Decoration) and the riband and star of the Order of the Garter, the Order of the Thistle or a combination of those orders, depending which regiment was trooping its colour. From 1987 onward she did not wear uniform, but wore the Brigade of Guards badge.
Her 80th birthday in 2006 was marked by a large flypast of 40 planes led by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and culminating with the Red Arrows. It was followed by the first feu de joie ("fire of joy") fired in her presence during her reign, a second being fired at her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012. In 2008, a flypast of 55 aircraft commemorated the RAF's 90th anniversary.
Participants and parade summary
A note on sources
The information for the ensuing section is drawn from the visuals and music, plus the annual commentary and analysis on the BBC's live broadcast, as well as the annual programme for the event.
Foot Guards, including Escort to the Colour (No. 1 Guard)
Nos. 1–6 Guards – six companies of Foot Guards, each comprising 3 officers and 71 other ranks  - line two sides of the perimeter of Horse Guards Parade in an extended "L" shape. This recalls the defensive formation known as the "hollow square."
All six companies are collectively commanded as "Guards..." and individually by company number, e.g., "No. 3 Guard..." Up to eight Guards have taken part, the number varying over the years. The most Guards ever seen on parade was 11, as seen on the 1919 parade held in Hyde Park.
The battalion trooping its colour in any given year is No. 1 Guard. During the parade, they are referred to as 'Escort FOR the Colour' (and, once they have collected their colour during the ceremony, as 'Escort TO the Colour'). At the outset, the colour is held by the Colour Party – a colour sergeant and two other guardsmen of No. 1 Guard, standing well-spaced on the northern side of Horse Guards Parade. Once obtained by the Regimental Sergeant Major of No. 1 Guard, the colour is borne through the ranks of Nos. 2–6 Guards by an Ensign of No. 1 Guard.
Mounted troops and Sovereign's Escort
In the Royal Procession, the Household Cavalry are termed "Sovereign's Escort". Two divisions ride before the King mounted on horseback and two behind, and the Life Guards and Blues and Royals alternate these positions each year.
Commanding officers and parade coordination
Three mounted officers drawn from No. 1 Guard give drill commands during the parade. The most senior is the Field Officer in Brigade Waiting (rank of Lieutenant Colonel), assisted by the Major of the Parade. The Field Officer occupies a central position on the parade ground. The third mounted officer is the Adjutant.
With almost 400 musicians on the field, led by the Massed Bands of the Household Division, the music forms an integral part of the day. The massed bands of the Foot Guards number over 200 musicians. Joining them, since 2014, is the Mounted Band of the Household Cavalry. The musicians of all these bands are all members of the Royal Corps of Army Music. There is also a Corps of Drums from several of the regiments and, on some occasions, pipe bands of the Scots Guards and Irish Guards. As per divisional tradition, the Corps of Drums and Pipe Bands form up behind the Massed Bands. As per Queen Elizabeth II's request, during a Scots or Irish Guards troop, the Pipers would march to the front of the Massed Bands to play the regimental quick marches of the Scots and Irish Guards as their Guards march past in quick time.
Summary of the parade design
The entire parade is best understood as an exercise of several elements carried out in slow and quick march time, with the Trooping the Colour phase forming the centrepiece.
- The King inspects first the Foot Guards and then the Household Cavalry and King's Troop, to slow and quick march music respectively.
- Then the massed bands "troop" before the King in slow and quick time. A lone drummer breaks away to no 1 Guard.
- Drummer's Call signals No. 1 Guard – the Escort for the Colour – to march to the centre of the field and obtain their colour from the Colour Party. The massed bands execute the "Spin Wheel" manoeuvre.
- As "Escort to the Colour", No. 1 Guard then slowly troops its regimental colour through the ranks of Guards Nos. 6–2.
- After forming divisions, Nos. 1–6 Guards march past the King in slow and quick time.
- To music from the mounted band, the King's Troop leads the Household Cavalry past the King, first in walk-march and then in sitting-trot (i.e., slow and quick time for the horses). The mounted band then salute the King as they walk off.
- Finally, led by the Sovereign's Escort, the massed bands play the King back to Buckingham Palace, the foot guards following, as the King's Troop leaves Horse Guards first to Green Park.
Ceremonial commands and troop movements
This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2022)
The entire parade is supervised by the Field Officer in Brigade Waiting (sometimes shortened to "Field Officer"), with the assistance of the Brigade Major and the Adjutant, all on horseback, and joined by the London District Garrison Sergeant Major, who is unmounted and coordinates the proceedings of the ceremony.
A detail of guardsmen bearing marker flags marches on, to mark the positions of Nos. 1-6 Guards. (These marker flags are the respective company colours from each regiment.)
Preceded by their regimental bands, Nos. 1-6 Guards march into position. No. 1 Guard is "Escort for the Colour."
- Nos. 1-5 Guards align in two ranks on the west side of the parade ground facing Horse Guards Building.
- No. 6 Guard lines up perpendicular to them on the north side, thus making an "L" shape. Up to eight Guards companies may take part. Nos. 7 and 8 Guards, if present, would line up next to No. 6 Guard. In 2009, to reflect the successful recruitment efforts of the Irish Guards, there were seven Guards on Horseguards.
- The massed bands are on the south side, by the gardens of 10 Downing Street.
- Adjacent to No. 6 Guard is the Colour Party made up of 3 soldiers. A snare drummer joins them in the march on. As the party takes its place the drummer marches off and the colour's casing is removed, revealing the colour to be trooped.
- The King's Troop, the Household Cavalry, and their mounted band form up behind Nos. 1-5 Guards.[note 2]
With the foot guards in their home service order and the mounted band in state dress uniform, the assembled ranks of Household Division make a colourful spectacle.
Guards half-companies line up on the road to Horse Guards Parade to provide security to the Royal Family that will arrive later and to the marching and mounted contingents.
Arrival of the sovereign
Preceding the sovereign, senior members of the royal family arrive in barouches to view the ceremony from a central first floor window in the Duke of Wellington's former office in Horse Guards Building. This procession turns at the Guards Memorial, and No. 3 Guard has opened ranks to allow their carriages to pass through.
Preceded by the Sovereign's Escort, the King (Colonel-in-Chief) will journey from Buckingham Palace down the Mall, on horseback. Directly behind the King in the Royal Procession ride the Royal Colonels—the Prince of Wales (Welsh Guards) and (Irish Guards), the Duke of Kent (Scots Guards), the Princess Royal (Blues and Royals), Colonel of the Grenadier Guards (currently vacant)—who are followed by the non-royal Colonels of Regiments (those of the Coldstream Guards and the Life Guards). Other officers of the Household Division and of the Royal Household follow, all mounted, including the Master of the Horse, the Major-General commanding the Household Division with his chief of staff and aide-de-camp, Silver Stick-in-Waiting, the regimental adjutants and a number of the King's equerries.
As the King arrives, the Royal Standard is prepared to be released and flown from the roof of Horse Guards. The King will salute the Queen Consort who is at a window above Horseguards and then will alight at the Saluting Base to start the ceremonies.
The field officer commences the parade with the command: "Guards - Royal Salute - Present Arms!" and the national anthem (God Save The King) is played by the Household Division's Foot Guards Massed Bands, led by the senior director of music of the Household Division. Simultaneously, the Royal Standard is formally released and flies from the Horse Guards flagpole.
Inspection of the line
The King then rides off from the saluting base before and behind the long line of assembled guards, with the Royal Colonels following. BBC television commentaries every year emphasise the King's knowledge of the attributes of his guards, and single out "steadiness" as a highly prized quality for a guardsman.
The accompanying marches always carry a flavour of the regiment whose colour is being trooped on the day, lending the royal inspection a unique atmosphere. For example, if the Welsh Guards are trooping their colour, the music will include their traditional regimental march, Men of Harlech. While the King passes the six companies of foot guards on his left, a slow march or air is played. Once the phaeton turns around the rear of No. 6 Guard, the music changes to a quick march. The King travels back up the line, passing the Household Cavalry and King's Troop stationed on his right, with the head coachman saluting the Sovereign's Standard of the Household Cavalry and the lead gun of the King's Troop in quick succession with a whip. The inspection completed, the music ceases, and he is conveyed back to the saluting base.
Massed bands troop
With the monarch once more mounted at the saluting base, the command "Troop!" is given by the Field Officer. This is not to be confused with the trooping of the colour itself, which occurs later in the ceremony. Three strikes on a bass drum give the signal for the Massed Bands to start their march.
The Guards, after standing at attention, change arms. Under the command of the Senior Drum Major, the Massed Bands march and countermarch on Horse Guards Parade in slow and quick time. The slow march music is traditionally the Waltz from Les Huguenots. During the quick march, a lone drummer from the Corps of Drums breaks away from the massed bands, marching to two paces to the right of No. 1 Guard to take his post while the band marches on, stopping just near the colour party.
The Trooping of the Colour phase of the ceremony is initiated by the lone drummer's eight-bar "Drummer's Call", signalling the Captain of No. 1 Guard to cede his command to the Subaltern of No.1 Guard and move to take his new position at the right of No.2 Guard. It slopes arms, while the Field Officer directs the other companies present to change arms and stand at ease. The call having been sounded, the lone drummer returns to the Massed Bands.
Escort for the Colour obtains the colour
As Escort for the Colour, No. 1 Guard performs the centrepiece of the parade.
An orderly takes the pace stick from the Regimental Sergeant-Major (RSM), positioned behind the Escort for the Colour, thus freeing the RSM to draw his sword - the only time a British Army infantry warrant officer ever does so on parade. The Subaltern then commands No. 1 Guard to move into close order, and then dresses it. Then, led by the Subaltern with the Ensign following, and with the Regimental Sergeant-Major marching behind the company, the Escort for the Colour quick marches onto the field to "The British Grenadiers". (This tune is always used irrespective of which regiment's colour is being trooped, because the right flank of every battalion used to be a grenadier company.) A guardsman behind the colour party marches forward towards the Colour Sergeant of the colour party at the same time during the Escort approaching then hands over the rifle to the Colour Sergeant, salutes the colour and leaves the parade ground. The Escort marks time while the Massed Bands "clear the line of march"  and move to the front of the Guards and mark time. Fifteen steps away from the Colour Party, the music halts and four paces later, the 'Escort for the Colour' halts in place, and is ordered to open ranks and dressed, followed by the Massed Bands making an about turn.
The guards are then called to attention and then change and slope arms under the direction of the Field Officer, while the Household Cavalry are also called to attention by the commander of the Sovereign's Escort.
The RSM marches around to the front of the Escort and, followed by the Ensign, approaches the Colour Party. Having saluted the colour with his sword, the Sergeant-Major takes it from the Colour Sergeant, freeing him to change and then slope arms. The RSM turns, marches to the Ensign, and presents the colour to him. The Ensign salutes the colour with his sword, sheathes the sword without taking his eyes off the colour, and takes possession of it.
Having obtained their colour, No. 1 Guard (formerly known as "Escort for the Colour") is now termed "Escort to the Colour." By then, the massed bands, now with the line cleared, face front, with the Corps of Drums, pipe bands and the senior director of music leading.
Positioning of the Escort to troop its colour
To the first six bars of "God Save the King", the Escort to the Colour presents arms. Simultaneously, turning outward at an angle of 45°, the NCOs (non-commissioned officers) at the four corners (or flanks) of the Escort port arms, described in annual television commentary and analysis as "protection" for the colour.
The Escort to the Colour and Colour Party slope arms. The Colour Sergeant marches to the right and to the rear of the Escort. Once the Colour Party, Ensign and Regimental Sergeant-Major have joined the Escort, the RSM repositions himself to the left of and behind the Escort. The Subaltern then orders the Escort to change arms and orders the slow march. The Massed Bands turn about.
Spinwheel of the massed bands
As the Escort to the Colour slow-marches down the field towards No. 6 Guard to begin their colour trooping, the massed bands perform their unique anti-clockwise "spinwheel" manoeuvre. This, a 90° turn in restricted space, is performed while playing the slow march "Escort to the Colour."
The celebrated spinwheel is largely individual and instinctive:
A 'wheel' is not an easy manoeuvre with even a small body of troops, and with a block of 400 men the normal wheel is impossible. The massed band therefore pivots on its own centre, so that certain outer ranks and files march long distances in a hurry while the centre and inner ranks loiter with extreme intent, or merely mark time. Yet others not only step sideways but backwards as well. This highly complex movement is called a 'spin-wheel', the details of which can be found in no drill book or manual of ceremonial. Its complexity defies description, and if the truth were known, many of the participants know not whither they go or, on arrival, how they got there. The spin-wheel is almost an art form and each performance of it, although similar in essentials, is different in detail. Most of the performers are adjusting their actions to suit the needs of the spin-wheel of the moment, having adjusted their movements quite otherwise on other occasions.
Once the Escort reaches the edge of No. 6 Guard, the music stops, and the Field Officer in Brigade Waiting orders the entire parade (except the Escort) to present arms as the trooping proper starts. The music changes to "The Grenadiers' Slow March."
Trooping the colour through the ranks
To the strains of the Grenadiers Slow March, the Escort to the Colour then troops the colour down the long line of Nos. 6-2 Guards. The colour itself is borne by the Ensign in front of the line of guards, but the ranks of the Escort interweave with their ranks. For Nos. 6-2 Guards, who maintain the 'present arms' position, the long trooping, especially on a hot day, requires stamina.[note 3] As this is done the Massed Bands move back in slow time to their original places.
Eventually the Escort arrives back at its original position as No. 1 Guard - from where it first marched off in quick time. Their Captain, who had temporarily ceded his command to the Subaltern, resumes his command over No. 1 Guard by ordering them to present arms, thus bringing the Escort back in line with Nos. 2-6 Guards. The entire parade is now ordered by the Field Officer to slope arms, thus concluding the trooping phase.
The trooping phase is followed by the march-past in slow and quick time of the foot guards and then the Household Cavalry and King's Troop, also in slow and quick time.
Preparing for the march-past
The Field Officer gives the command, "Officers, take post." Nos. 1 to 5 Guard then "retire", about-turning and right-forming into review formation, following which the Adjutant commands "Guides, steady", giving signal to the company guides to resume their positions. Nos. 1 to 5 Guard then about-turn again as the Corps of Drums play. Since No. 6 Guard is already standing at right angles to the other five companies it does not need to execute this movement, but instead it moves close-order position then to the right in threes after Nos. 1 to 5 Guards turn back to advance position.[note 4]
Once intervals are established, the Field Officer salutes the Queen and informs her that the foot guards are ready to march past, then commands, "Guards will march past in slow and quick time. Slow march." No. 6 Guard will left turn to be advance and then form two ranks on marching after the parade has started to execute the slow march.
Foot guards march past in slow and quick time
No. 1 Guard - the Escort - leads the six companies for two circuits of Horse Guards Parade, saluting the King as they pass. The corners of the field are negotiated with the complex Left Form manoeuvre. Commands of "Change direction - left!" are then followed by the Left Guide (or Right Guide) of each Guard signalling "Right Sir!" to the Captain that the company has reached the position, the Captain will immediately orders "Left...Form!"
At the end of both the slow and quick march-past, the Field Officer rides out to salute the King with his sword, telling him that His Majesty's Guards have ended their march-past.
Neutral slow marches start and conclude this section as the Massed Bands march into the centre of the field to take their places. The guards are preceded past the saluting base by the Field Officer and the Major of the Parade, who salute the King with their swords and eyes right.
To the strains of their regimental slow marches, each of Nos. 1-6 Guards passes before the King with their eyes right, their regimental officers saluting with swords. The leading company, No. 1 Guard - the Escort to the Colour - has a particular honour. The Ensign lowers the colour - the 'flourish'. The King acknowledges it with a bow of the head, and the Royal Colonels salute the colour. Once past the saluting base, the colour is raised again - the 'recover' - and "eyes front" is ordered.
Each company's salute is acknowledged by the King and the Royal Colonels.
For this circuit, the colour is at the rear of the Escort (No. 1 Guard), protected by the Colour Party. Their regimental quick marches are played as each guard passes before the King with eyes right.[note 5] However, this being a quick march, the officers do not salute with swords, but only with the eyes right instead. As with the slow march-past, neutral marches start and conclude this section, and the Colour is marched on past the saluting base as the King, Queen consort and Royal Colonels salute it.
The massed bands, led by the Corps of Drums and the pipes and drums, march away to allow the mounted bands on to the ground. By then, the foot guards have ended their march, and are now back in place and dressed.
Mounted troops ride past
The now sole Mounted Band of the Household Cavalry in state dress, led by the two drum horses[note 6] representing the two constituent regiments of the Household Cavalry, and the Director of Music of the Household Cavalry, ride slowly on to the field, traditionally to the tune "Preobrajensky."
It is the turn of Household Cavalry and King's Troop to complete two circuits of Horse Guards Parade. For the horses, slow and quick time correspond to a walk-march and a sitting-trot, respectively. Since 1997, the mounted contingent is led by the commander of the King's Troop and then by the Sovereign's Escort commander.
In both turns of the ride past the Foot Guards present arms as per the Field Officer's orders. The order of march past follows the arrangement of the Sovereign's Escort for the year.
Salutes are again given to the King, and returned by him, the Queen consort, and the Royal Colonels to the colours as they pass by.
The Royal Horse Artillery, marching to the "Royal Artillery Slow March" and then the "March from Aida", is first, taking precedence over all other units when on parade with its guns. When the King's Troop passes the saluting base, the King acknowledges the leading gun as the colour.
The Life Guards, in red jackets and white plumes, are next, followed by the Blues and Royals, in blue jackets and red plumes. The sequence of regimental marches is: "Life Guards' Slow March", followed by "Blues and Royals' Slow March", and then "The Royals."
Riding at the rear of the Household Cavalry are the farriers, one for each regiment, carrying their glinting axes and flanked by a soldier of each regiment. (The Life Guards farrier wears a black plume rather than the usual regimental white.)
The two Household Cavalry regiments take turns to parade and the job of parading the King's Cavalry Standard of either of the two regiments alternates yearly between the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals. As the standard passes by, it is flourished (dipped), in the presence of the King, Queen consort and the Royal Colonels and after walking past them is recovered.
A state trumpeter of either of the two Household Cavalry regiments plays "The Trot" to signal the beginning of the sitting trot-past. "The Keel Row" is traditionally played, and much dust is raised by the horses. Both the King's Troop's lead gun and the King's Cavalry Standard (not dipped) are trotted in the presence of the King and the Royal Colonels as they salute them.
As the trot-past ends the mounted band salutes the King, the drumhorse riders crossing their drumsticks above their heads. They then proceed back to the east side of Horse Guards Parade and halt in place.
Preparing for march-off
Their director of music turns inwards on his horse as a signal to the Field Officer that the Household Cavalry and the King's Troop are now in position to formally end the proceedings under the command of the Field Officer.
During the final Royal Salute, as the parade renders their birthday wishes from all 7 regiments of the Household Division to their colonel-in-chief, the colour of No. 1 Guard is lowered to the ground by the Ensign while "God Save the King" is played by the Massed Bands. Forming divisions once more, accompanied by the Corps of Drums, the guards prepare to march off, and the Household Cavalry and the King's Troop leave the field. The Field Officer, after forming the parade for the march-off, then rides towards the saluting base, informing the King that the guards are ready to march off the field while the RSM of the Escort returns his sword into his scabbard as an orderly returns to him his pace stick.
The King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, leaves Horse Guards Parade and proceeds to Green Park (adjacent to Buckingham Palace) to formally commence the royal 41-gun salute. At the same time in the Tower of London, the Honourable Artillery Company takes its positions in the tower grounds for the special 62-gun salute that will be happen when the King arrives. This gun salute is only done by the HAC during royal anniversaries.
Led by the massed bands, the King places himself at the head of his foot guards. The entire parade of 1,000 soldiers and 400 musicians marches up the Mall towards Buckingham Palace. The Markers then march off the grounds carrying the regimental company colours on the marker flags. The King's Troop and the HAC, now in place, get ready to commence firing their respective gun salutes during the Royal Family's arrival at the palace. At the same time, the old and new King's Guards, now performing the Changing of the Guard in the palace forecourt at the same time as the ceremony being done, also prepare for the royal carriages' arrival and to salute the King on horseback when he arrives.
After the ceremony
When the King returns to Buckingham Palace, the first division of the Escort to the Colour forms into two detachments of the new guard and enters the forecourt, opposite the old guard; but unlike the usual Changing of the Guard, the Regimental Sergeant Major participates in the ceremony. The remainder of the guards perform a march-past outside the gateway, in quick time instead of the usual slow time, with the King, positioned before the central gateway, receiving their salute. As the guards march past, their regimental marches are played by the massed and mounted bands respectively. The rest of the royal family observes the march-past from the balcony.
The King passes into the palace between the Old and New Guards, with both guards saluting him and the Royal Colonels. The usual semi-daily Changing of the Guard continues on the forecourt of the palace.
The gun salutes begin on the arrival of the King at Buckingham Palace, with the King's Troop firing a 41-gun royal salute in Green Park and the Honourable Artillery Company firing a 62-gun royal salute from the Tower of London grounds.
Finally, the King and the royal family on the palace balcony witness a flypast by the Royal Air Force, often featuring the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Red Arrows. This is once again followed by the National Anthem and in special years, a feu de joie followed by the shouting of the three cheers to the King on behalf of the entire Household Division.
Regimental marches of the foot guards
Below are links to words and music of the regimental marches of the five foot guards regiments.
- Grenadier Guards: "The March from Scipio", composed for the First Guards (Grenadier Guards) by Handel. It was presented by Handel to the Regiment before its inclusion in his opera Scipione which was first performed in 1726. (The title and composer's name are anglicised by the Regiment.)
- Coldstream Guards: "Figaro" (the tune is "Non piu andrai" from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro)
- Scots Guards: "The Garb of Old Gaul" Lyrics and Music
- Irish Guards: "Let Erin Remember" Lyrics and Music
- Welsh Guards: "Men of Harlech" Lyrics and Music.
Quick marches Music for all five regiments' quick marches
- Grenadier Guards: "The British Grenadiers" Lyrics and melody-notation and Music
- Coldstream Guards: "Milanollo." This march was composed by J V Hamm in honour of a pair of violin-playing child prodigy sisters, Teresa and Maria Milanollo, who performed in England in the mid-19th century during their extensive European tours.
- Scots Guards: "Hielan' Laddie" (Listen)
- Irish Guards: "Saint Patrick's Day" (Listen) whose lyrics were the poem "Pulse of an Irishman" (Beethoven composed an arrangement of the march as part of a song cycle of Scots and Irish tunes).
- Welsh Guards: "The Rising of the Lark" (Listen) Lyrics and Music
List of regiments trooping the colour
Since only one colour can be trooped down the ranks at a time, each year a single battalion of the five Foot Guards regiments is selected to troop its colours.
|2024||2nd Battalion||Grenadier Guards|
|2023||1st Battalion||Welsh Guards||First for King Charles III to take the salute as sovereign and the commander in chief of the Armed Forces, while also marking the Household Division's appreciation for the forthcoming Coronation of Charles III and Camilla.|
|2022||1st Battalion||Irish Guards||Held as part of the national celebrations for the Platinum Jubilee of the Accession of the Queen. The Prince of Wales took salute on behalf of the Queen in Horse Guards while the Queen saluted the parading formations in Buckingham Palace. Non-participating Guards: Welsh Guards.|
|2021||2nd Battalion [note 7]||Scots Guards||Public event cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, reformatted as a private televised parade of the Household Division at Windsor Castle.|
Marked the official 95th birthday of the Queen. 70th anniversary of Elizabeth's first Trooping acting in behalf of her father King George VI. The Queen was joined by the Duke of Kent for the salute.
|2020||1st Battalion||Welsh Guards||Public event cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, reformatted as a private parade at Windsor Castle|
|2019||1st Battalion||Grenadier Guards||Parade was held on 8 June 2019. Coincided with the centennial year of the conclusion of the First World War and the anniversary of the Victory Parade of 1919, as well as the historic Hyde Park trooping of that year, the largest ever held. Non-participating Guards: Irish Guards and Welsh Guards.|
|2018||1st Battalion||Coldstream Guards||Parade was held on 9 June 2018. The Queen was flanked at the Saluting Base by the Duke of Kent, for the 96-year-old Duke of Edinburgh who withdrew during 2017 from royal public duties.|
Non-participating guards: Irish and Welsh Guards.
|2017||1st Battalion||Irish Guards||Parade was held on Saturday, 17 June 2017, part of the national celebrations of the Sapphire Jubilee of the accession of the Queen. |
Non-participating guards: Welsh Guards. 14th row/rank was added in the massed bands.
|2016||2nd Battalion[note 8]||Coldstream Guards||Parade was held on Saturday, 11 June 2016, part of the national celebrations for the official 90th birthday of the Queen.|
Non-participating guards: Irish and Welsh Guards.
|2015||1st Battalion||Welsh Guards||Parade was held on Saturday, 13 June 2015.|
Coincided with the Welsh Guards centennial year of foundation
Non-participating guards: Irish Guards.
|2014||2nd Battalion[note 9]||Grenadier Guards||Non-participating guards: Irish and Welsh Guards.|
|2013||1st Battalion||Welsh Guards||Non-participating guards: Irish Guards|
|2012||1st Battalion||Coldstream Guards||First trooping of the battalion since 1999.|
Held as part of the nationwide celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee of the Accession of the Queen
Non-participating guards: Welsh Guards
|2011||1st Battalion||Scots Guards||First time a battalion not stationed as part of London District has trooped.|
Non-participating guards: Irish Guards.
|2010||1st Battalion||Grenadier Guards||Non-participant guards: Irish and Welsh Guards.|
|2009||1st Battalion||Irish Guards||Non-participating guards: Welsh Guards|
First trooping to feature 7 foot guards since 1993.
|2008||1st Battalion||Welsh Guards||Non-participating regiment: Irish Guards|
|2007||2nd Battalion[note 8]||Coldstream Guards||Non-participating guards: Irish Guards and the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, which were originally scheduled to troop their Colour but an operational deployment prevented this.|
|2006||1st Battalion||Welsh Guards||Non-participating guards: Irish Guards|
|2005||1st Battalion||Irish Guards||Non-participating guards: Welsh Guards|
|2004||1st Battalion||Grenadier Guards||Inkerman Company trooping the colour.|
Non-participating guards: Welsh Guards
|2003||1st Battalion||Grenadier Guards|
|2002||1st Battalion||Scots Guards||Held as part of the national celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of the Accession of the Queen. |
Last time Corps of Drums of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards were present before being disbanded to move into their permanent combat role.
Non-participating guards: Irish and Welsh Guards.
|2001||2nd Battalion[note 9]||Grenadier Guards||Non-participating guards: Irish and Welsh Guards|
Showered by heavy rain
Since 1993, the 2nd Battalions of the Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards and Scots Guards have been in "suspended animation" - they are represented in the parade by the three incremental companies. Incremental companies, however, serve for their respective 3rd Battalions, as well as for the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Irish and Welsh Guards, respectively.
The number of soldiers participating in Trooping the Colour in London has declined over the years due to defence budget cuts in Household Division battalions as well as the battalions' commitments to military and peacekeeping operations overseas.[note 10] This gives some of the units little time to practise ceremonial functions. However, the format of the ceremony has remained the same over the centuries following routines of old battle formations used in the era of musket warfare.
Trooping the Colour in other countries and territories
In Australia the Trooping the King's Colour takes place annually on the King's Birthday Holiday by the staff cadets of Royal Military College, Duntroon, in Canberra, formerly at the RMC parade grounds and now at Rod Point at the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. The Queen's colour was trooped there for the first time on the Queen's Birthday Parade in 1956, a practice which has continued since then. Colours were first presented to the Corps of Staff Cadets by King George VI when, as Duke of York, he visited Australia in 1927. These colours are now lodged in the college's Patterson Hall. Colours were again presented by Queen Elizabeth II on 10 May 1988 and most recently on 22 October 2011 during a brief visit to Australia, coinciding with RMC Duntroon's centenary year.
The Champion Company of the Corps of Staff Cadets is named after the Sovereign's Company and it carries the Queen Elizabeth II's banner, which was first presented to the Corps of Staff Cadets by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother on 26 February 1958. The Sovereign's Company is entitled to carry the banner on all ceremonial parades as well as escorting the Queen's colour during the Trooping the Colour. The Governor-General of Australia, being the King's representative in the Commonwealth, is the reviewing officer of the parade, and since the move to Rod Field has been attended by the public as well.
The Trooping of the Colour in Hamilton is held on Front Street by troops of the Royal Bermuda Regiment (who make up No. 1 Guard), as well as supporting units of the Bermuda Police Service and the Bermuda Junior Leaders (RBR). The presiding officer of the ceremony is the Governor of Bermuda, who inspects the units at the start. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the guards conduct a Feu de joie, followed by a 21-gun salute and three cheers to the Sovereign.
In Canada the Trooping the Colour ceremony on Parliament Hill takes place, with a trooping of the King's Colour, only for the King, members of the royal family, the governor general, or a lieutenant-governor, on Remembrance Day, or in honour of the King's Birthday, on Victoria Day. Trooping the Colour ceremonies have also taken place at Rideau Hall. New colours may also be trooped when they are presented. Colours are also trooped during unit anniversaries. In Ottawa, should any of the above be absent for the ceremony, the salute is taken by the Minister of National Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff, and the Regimental Colour is trooped instead. The ceremony was first performed on a national scale in Canada in 1939, during the royal tour that year. Earlier versions of the event were held in relation to the regiment, with one of the first to occur since the Confederation of Canada taking place over two weeks later on 18 July 1867, with The Royal Canadian Regiment trooping on the Champ de Mars in Montreal. The first major ceremony since 1939 took place in 1953 during the coronation day ceremonies in front of Centre Block that included the Trooping of the Colour in front of Governor General Vincent Massey. In 1958, it became a regular event on Dominion Day.
List of regiments trooping the colour in Canada
- The Royal Canadian Regiment, 2002
- The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, Hamilton, Ontario, 2002
- Governor General's Foot Guards
- The Canadian Grenadier Guards
- The Governor General's Horse Guards
- The Canadian Guards - disbanded (reduced to nil strength) 1970
- The Princess Louise Fusiliers
- The Calgary Highlanders trooped their new Queen's Colour when it was presented by their Colonel-in-Chief, Queen Elizabeth II, in June 1990.
- The Grey and Simcoe Foresters, Owen Sound, Ontario, 1983
- The Toronto Scottish Regiment (Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother's Own)
- The Lorne Scots (Peel, Dufferin and Halton Regiment), 2001, 2006, 2016
- The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, 1987, 2012
In Ghana, the traditional Trooping the Colour ceremony is held annually during the Independence Day celebrations on March 6. The escort for the colour is mounted by the Ghana Army and has the task of retrieving the ceremonial colours of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, alongside the Flag of Ghana. After the escort presents arms to God Bless Our Homeland Ghana, the escort for the colour then marches off to the tune of the British grenadier guards in slow time. The ceremony takes place on Black Star Square, where the national salute is taken by the President of Ghana in his, or her, position as commander in chief of the GAF. Musical accompaniment is provided by the combined massed bands of the Ghana Armed Forces Central Band and school marching bands.
Before the First World War and the partition of Ireland, Trooping the Colour was performed annually on 17 March, Saint Patrick's Day, by the garrison battalions in the Upper Castle Yard at Dublin Castle, in the presence of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
Jordan hosted its first Trooping the Colour - the first in the Middle East - in June 2016 celebrating the centenary of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The Parade was the official celebrations of the centennial of the Great Arab Revolt (Arabic: الاحتفالات الرسمية لمئوية الثورة العربية الكبرى) or Arab Revolt Parade on coverage online. In 2017, the Trooping of the Colour (officially known as the Flag Parade) was moved to September and is held annually. Around 1,000 troops take part in the parade, which is held in Amman, the national capital. Al Rayah Square (Square of the Emblem) was specially built for this occasion near the royal court. It stands on an area of 6,300 square metres and can host up to 5,000 people. In the parade, the King awards the Colours of the Arab Revolt to one of the army's battalions which holds it until the next Trooping the Colour.
In 2016, the colours went to the 28th prince Hussein bin Abdullah II Rangers Brigade. In 2017, the colours were awarded to the 39th Ja'far bin Abi Talib Infantry Battalion. In 2018, the colours were in the possession of the 9th Prince Mohammed Mechanised Battalion.
Regiments that take possession of the Colour of the Arab Revolt
|2018||9th Prince Muhammad Infantry Battalion||Parade was held on 4 October 2018, Thursday|
|2017||39th Ja'far bin Abi Talib Infantry Battalion||Parade was held on 28 September 2017, Thursday|
|2016||28th prince Hussein bin Abdullah II Rangers Brigade||Parade was held on 2 June 2016, Thursday
First ever Trooping the Colour in Jordan as well as in the Middle East.
As one of the country-wide celebrations of the Great Arab Revolt centennial and the Arab Awakening anniversary.
Kenya is one of three African countries that still practises the traditional British ceremony of Trooping the Colour.
This takes place every 12 December on Jamhuri Day (the day when Kenya became an independent nation and later a republic), but unlike the British one all the three services of the Kenya Defence Forces takes part in the Trooping the colour. The service branch whose battalion is trooping the colour provides number one and number two guards.
The ceremony normally begins at 11:30 after the arrival of the President of Kenya, who takes the national salute as the national anthem and the anthem of the East African Community are played by the massed bands. After finishing his inspection of the parade, the bands play a slow march followed with a quick march, during which the lone drummer then breaks away to take his position beside number one guard to play the drummers call, signalling the officers of No.1 Guard to take positions to receive the colour and the Guard's RSM removing his pace stick and then unsheathing his sword. The escort for the colour then marches off to collect the colour as the massed KDF band play either The British Grenadiers or a locally composed march, after which the escort halts in position. After the hand over and as the Escort presents arms the first verse of the Kenya national anthem is played, then the escort to the colour marches off in a slow march to the tune of The Grenadiers' Slow March. The first tune normally played during the march in slow time is always 'By land and sea'.
Also part of the Commonwealth, Malaysia performs Trooping the Colours every first Saturday in June, days after the official birthday of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the elected Malaysian King, on the first Monday, in front of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the Raja Permaisuri Agong, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Deputy Prime Minister, and other officials of the Government, and officers of the Malaysian Armed Forces, of which the King is the Commander-in-Chief as prescribed by the Malaysian Constitution of 1957 as amended.
The Malaysian trooping follows the publication of an Honours List for the King's Birthday on the same week. It also incorporates many elements of the British Trooping ceremony, including a Royal Procession before and after the parade, The Sovereign's Escort provided by the Royal Armored Corps, Saluting Base at Merdeka Square, National Heroes' Square or at the Merdeka Stadium, Royal Inspection, the duties of Field Officer, Major of the Parade and Adjutant officers and the NCO duties of Regt. Sergeant Majors and Colour Sergeants, the Royal Salute, 21-gun salutes by the Royal Regiment of Artillery, and flypasts (flying the Malaysian flag and the flags of the Armed forces). It is conducted in Malay and includes prayers, in the Islamic traditions of the Malaysian Armed Forces. Motorized vehicles are used in the Royal Procession from the Royal Malaysian Police. The main differences are that five colours are trooped, covering all three branches of the Armed Forces, and some of marches played are locally composed. This threefold representation is reflected in the composition of the Colours Party, the Escort for/to the Colours and the Massed Military Bands in attendance.
The 2014 event was held on Friday, 13 June, at Kem Perdana, Sungai Besi, which was a departure from normal tradition of the Saturday troopings. This was the very first time in Malaysian history that Trooping the Colour was held on the Friday in June closest to the King's Birthday, rather than the traditional first Saturday of the month. In an old tradition which resumed in 2016 at the National Heroes' Square, Putrajaya, if the celebrations fall on Ramadan, then the birthday parade is held on the Friday before 31 July, Heroes' Day.
For the first time in history, the traditional Trooping the Colours was held on 19 September 2017, the Tuesday after Malaysia Day, in National Heroes' Square, Putrajaya, given the decision to move the King's Birthday to the Monday following Hari Merdeka. With the move to September the Trooping the Colours in Putrajaya ends more than a month of national celebrations in honour of the anniversary of Malaysian independence in 1957 and the formation of the armed forces in 1932.
The old June date was restored in 2019.
Given Malta's history as a former British dominion, the Armed Forces of Malta performs Trooping the Colour every 13 December in celebration of Republic Day at St. George’s Square in Valletta, the national capital. The salute is taken by the President of Malta, who is the commander in chief of the AFM.
On 25 April 1954, a date which was later designated as Tanlwe Chaung Day, the Rhodesian African Rifles performed the first ever Trooping of the Colour in Southern Rhodesia in the presence of Governor General Lord Llewellin.
The Rhodesian Light Infantry trooped their Colour for the only time on 27 July 1970 at Cranborne Barracks, with the Mayor of Salisbury (now Harare), the Minister of Defence Jack Howman, Prime Minister Ian Smith and the commanding officer of the Rhodesian African Rifles in attendance. Regimental Sergeant Major Robin Tarr began the proceedings at 10:35, after which the Rhodesian African Rifles Band and Drums began playing the RLI's slow march, The Incredibles, as the RLI troopers marched onto the parade square. The regimental colour was then trooped before finally the RLI men performed a march-past in slow and quick time.
The Singapore Armed Forces performs Trooping the Colours annually in the SAF Day Parade on 1 July. It is toned down as compared to the British version and is done after the awarding of the State Colours to the Best units of the Army, Navy and Air Force. If new Colours have been consecrated on SAF day, they are usually included in the Trooping, but if otherwise, are Trooped on a separate day. The Escorts to the Colour (No.1 Guard) are usually formed by the Singapore Armed Forces Military Police Command, while Nos. 2-4 Guards are composed of personnel from the SAF National Day Parade Guard of Honour Companies. Unlike the British parade, it has supporting contingents that march past as well.
The salute is taken by the President of Singapore, the Prime Minister of Singapore, and the Chief of Defence Force, while the band in attendance is either the SAF Central Band or the SAF Ceremonial Band A (both from the Singapore Armed Forces Bands).
The No.2 Guard is usually made up of personnel from the Singapore Army's Best Army Unit Competition winner for the current year, typically the 1st Commando Battalion, Singapore Armed Forces Commando Formation. Of Nos. 3 and 4 Guards, these are, as of recent NDPs, formed up of the Naval Diving Unit and the Air Power Generation Command.
- List of marches of the British Armed Forces
- List of Trooping the Colour by event from 1890
- Burmese (horse)
- Winston (horse)
- Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards Parade and Windsor Castle
- Beating Retreat
- Remembrance Day
- Presentation of Colours
- Thai Royal Guards parade
- Hanover Schützenfest, including the largest marksmen parade in Germany
- Bayerischer Defiliermarsch, Bavarian march used in similar circumstances
- Occasionally, aircraft from the British Army and the Royal Navy take part as well, as during the 2022 Queen's Platinum Jubilee.
- 2011 marked the first time that the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery did not attend the ceremony since its first appearance in 1997. Instead, they performed the gun salutes on the anniversary of the Queen's coronation (2 June) and on the Duke of Edinburgh's birthday the day before. The job of handling the salutes was entrusted to the Honourable Artillery Company in the Tower of London grounds with a 62-gun Royal Salute as per tradition.
- When the colour passes the spectators, members of the British and foreign armed services, and military attachés of the diplomatic corps salute the colour, as is customary in the British Army.
- Also, as No. 6 Guard is always formed on the left of the line by the Coldstream Guards if present, by tradition they do not recognize the command to "retire".
- When the Scots or Irish Guards troop their colours, the regimental pipers move to the front of the massed bands for the march past in quick time. If there are pipers present when another regiment troops, then the pipers remain at the rear of the massed band.
- The kettledrum players must manoeuvre the reins of the drum horses with their feet.
- 2nd Battalion represented by F Company
- 2nd Battalion represented by No. 7 Company
- 2nd Battalion represented by Nijmegen Company
- For example, the Welsh Guards, prior to trooping their colour in 2006 had returned from Iraq and were scheduled to redeploy to Bosnia later that year.
- Trooping The Colour at Turnipnet's British Military Ceremonial website
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- Gun Salutes in Green Park, from Royal Parks website Accessed31 May 2022
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