In the aftermath of the horrendous events of recent weeks, it was lovely to see what is always a joyous event: the ceremony of trooping the colour which takes place in June each year on the occasion of the sovereign’s official birthday.
When Her Majesty attended the ceremony this morning she was participating in a custom which dates back to the reign of Charles II in the 17th century. This spectacular ceremony – with over 1,000 officers and men on parade, together with horses, and over two hundred musicians from six bands and crops of drums playing as one – has a specific purpose: the colour was a rallying point in battle and therefore it was trooped every day to make sure that every man could recognise his own regiment.
The first known mention of the Sovereign’s birthday being celebrated in this way was by the Grenadier Guards in 1748. From the accession of George IV, with few exceptions – such as the two World Wars – Trooping the Colour on the sovereign’s birthday has been an annual event.
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We don’t usually go shopping on a Saturday but my shopping list was sufficiently long enough to warrant this, but it didn’t take long and we arrived home with just in time for me to put away the fridge and freezer goods before the ceremony began at 11 am.
And so, with a cold drink – lime cordial topped up with sparkling Badoit mineral water – I settled myself in the summerhouse and took my place on my own virtual Horse Guards Parade.
The colour being trooped today was that of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards. I wish I could remember all that Huw Edwards, the commentator for the ceremony explained, but that would be impossible. Take it from me it is a wonderful sight, with military precision and stirring music.
The proceedings always start with the massed bands playing one of my favourite slow marches, Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots.
It has been a very hot day even in our summerhouse, shaded by the walnut tree. Goodness knows how hot it would’ve been on Horse Guards Parade, without any shade at all and dressed in thick military dress uniform. And one mustn’t forget that these are all serving members of HM armed forces, they don’t always dress like this.
Here is a view of the massed bands playing Les Huguenots.
And here, on a dais, is Her Majesty with The Duke of Edinburgh on her right (as we look at this photo) and Her Majesty’s cousin, the Duke of Kent, on her left. When she was younger the Queen would inspect her troops while on horseback, riding side-saddle, but she is now is taken to the parade ground in an open carriage.
I really felt for this elderly couple, even though there was an awning, it must’ve been very hot.
The colour being trooped.
Wonderful drum horses with the silver drums dating from the reign of Charles II.
Sparkling breast plates, sleek horses.
Gun carriages being driven at speed, the dust flying …
The Queen and Prince Philip being driven from the parade ground and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace where members of the royal family were on the balcony watching the procession.
As the television audience waited for the Queen to arrive on the balcony, we were informed about the preparations for this special event. I think it was said that 260 flags had to be erected …
How the royal parks and gardens close to the route of the parade were replenished and carefully weeded …
How the traffic lights along the route were removed …
and how the statues were cleaned and any bronze given an extra sheen …
And once the royal carriage and the soldiers were back at Buckingham Palace, the police ushered the crowd slowly up the Mall so they could have a closer look at the Palace and see the fly past by the RAF.
The royal family and guests await the Queen and Prince Philip …
But they returned inside the Palace to allow the Queen and Prince Philip to appear first on the balcony, and then they were re-joined by the family.
The Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge.
Before the fly past of 29 planes, some large, some small …
And finally, the Red Arrows …
I wanted to take a shot as they flew over the Palace, but sadly, my camera battery packed up!
I hope you’ve enjoyed your virtual visit to London today, as I have done. Apologies for the quality of the photos, but I was taking photos of the television screen!
Until next time.