Wouldn’t it be great if we could all have two birthdays a year? Two cakes, two parties and double the presents – it sounds perfect.
Well, that’s exactly what Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British History, has done every year since she became our queen.
It’s the Queen’s official 92nd birthday this coming Saturday, June 9th. But she was actually born on April 21st, 1926, therefore her ‘real’ birthday is in April. In preparation for the Queen’s Birthday
Why does the Queen have two birthdays?
The tradition of British monarchs having two birthdays – a day to mark their actual birthday and a day for the ‘official’ public birthday – is believed to date back to 1748. And what did it all boil down to? The temperamental British weather, of course.
It’s said that King George II was born in November, which isn’t a month which is known for great weather in the UK – think rain, wind, and single figure temperatures. But George wanted sunshine to celebrate his birthday – and sunshine he got!
He solved the problem by combining his birthday celebrations with an annual military parade which took place each summer, and so began the double birthday tradition. And this tradition has continued to this day. All British sovereigns have the option of having two birthdays – yes, we’re a little jealous.
When the Queen first ascended the throne, she chose the second Thursday of June to hold her official birthday. This was the same day King George VI, her father, chose to celebrate his. But in 1959, she decided her birthday should be held on the second Saturday of the month, and the day has remained the same ever since.
How does the Queen celebrate her birthday?
While we’d like to imagine that the Queen has a disco and a good old boogie on her birthday, unfortunately, that’s not quite what happens – well, as far as we know.
The Queen usually spends her real birthday in April privately, though the occasion has often been marked by gun salutes in central London at midday, including a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London, a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, and a 21 gun salute in Windsor Great Park.
In 2018, the Queen celebrated her birthday with a night of music and songs from around the Commonwealth, including Sir Tom Jones, Craig David, Kylie Minogue, Sting and even Shaggy (it wasn’t me!). That has to be the best lineup any 92-year-old has had for their birthday party!
The bigger celebration, however, comes on the Queen’s official birthday, where she is joined by the members of the Royal Family for the annual Trooping the Colour parade.
What is the Trooping the Colour parade?
The Trooping the Colour parade is one of the most anticipated events in the royal calendar. The Queen hasn’t missed the occasion a single time throughout her reign – except when the event was cancelled in 1955 due to a rail strike.
The ceremony, which is the official celebration of the reigning monarchs birthday, is steeped in tradition. During the ceremony, the Queen carries out an inspection of her troops, the Household Division, and is greeted by a Royal salute.
It’s an incredible show, with over 1400 officers on parade along with around 200 horses. 400 musicians, part of 10 bands, march and play as one. Each year, a different regiment’s colours are trooped – this year, it’s the colour of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards.
The huge parade will start at the Queen’s official residence – Buckingham Palace – and then move along the Mall to Horse Guards Parade at Whitehall, near to Downing Street, and then back again.
Then, the Queen joins other members of the Royal Family on the palace balcony before a 41 gun salute in Green Park and a spectacular fly-past by the Royal Air Force – definitely the most dramatic part, and probably our favourite bit of the show.
This year marks newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s first appearance as husband and wife at the Trooping the Colour parade – so keep an eye out for them!
How you can watch the event
Tickets were available for the event, but unfortunately, they’re now sold out – so if you’re itching to go, make sure you apply early next year. However, there is still a couple of ways that you can get a glimpse of the event.
Every year, the Mall outside Buckingham Palace fills with members of the public proudly wearing Union Jacks and frantically waving around the British flag – and you could be one of them!
According to the Royal UK website, ‘members of the public wishing to watch the parade are advised to stand on The Mall or on the edge of St James’s Park overlooking Horse Guards from 9am’. It’ll be busy, so get there early.
If you’re not in London at the time, you’ll be happy to hear the entire parade is broadcast live on the BBC every year in the UK. We’re guessing you’ll be able to stream it internationally, too. The event begins at 10am and the RAC flypast is at 1pm – don’t miss it!
If you’d like to experience more of the British Royal Family take a look at our Historic Royal Palaces tour.