Trooping the Colour

by Margaret Powling-

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. 

* * * *

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.

Margaret Powling


  1. Rosemary

    Your photos are very good considering that you took them straight off the screen. I felt for the soldiers today as it much have been unbearably hot under their bearskin hats.

    17 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      I think it was Huw Edwards (commentating) who said that there had been a few ‘victims’ of the heat, i.e. soldiers passing out, but I didn’t see any while watching the ceremony. The photos aren’t too bad considering I just snapped the TV screen and then cropped the photos accordingly.

      18 . Jun . 2017
  2. Pieta

    Thank you for the pictures Margaret. I would love to see the event but don’t like crowds. I did manage to see the changing of the guard when I was there a couple of years ago. What a magnificent sight and carried out with so much precision. The British do it so well.

    17 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      I have only seen the changing of the guard once, when I was about eleven years old in the summer of 1956! I understand that some of the guards on the parade ground yesterday were going straight into a 2hr period of sentry duty at the Palace. Now that takes some stamina, doesn’t it, not even a chance of relieving themselves or a cool drink. But you are right, it was a magnificent sight and yes, the British do this kind of ceremony very well. During the commentary, Huw Edwards (for the BBC) mentioned that some of the bearskins that the guardsmen were wearing had been handed down through the generations, and one chap was wearing one that had been his ancestor’s in about 1854 (I think that was the date, but it was a long time ago even if this date isn’t quite accurate.)

      18 . Jun . 2017
  3. Jane

    A lovely post. Makes one proud to be British! ❤️

    17 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Jane, and thank you for your comment – yes, very proud to be British! And what a lovely day it was for this ceremony to celebrate the Queen’s official birthday.

      18 . Jun . 2017
  4. Sarah Socialist

    We must be the laughing stock of the world if all we can do is wheel out chinless wonders with excessive medals when we are in crisis as a nation, what a shambles.

    18 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      We shall have to agree to disagree, Sarah. Perhaps being the laughing stock of the world accounts for the millions of tourists who visit the UK each year. Please also bear in mind that several of the “chinless wonders” (for I feel you are not referring to the soldiers on parade yesterday) were once themselves members of the armed forces and Prince Philip served this country in WW2 in the Royal Navy.

      18 . Jun . 2017
  5. Eloise at thisissixty.blog

    My daughter was in London yesterday and saw the display.

    18 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      How wonderful to be there and actually see it, rather than on TV. I do hope she enjoyed it and didn’t get sunburnt!

      19 . Jun . 2017
  6. Lara

    Thank you for such an informative post. As always, you have provided details and beautiful photos.

    We saw something on our evening news of the event. However, the focus was on the youngest generation on the balcony. They are a huge hit here in Australia.. Hubbie and I both commented on how difficult it must have been for the Queen and Prince Phillip to stand (unaided) for the minute silence. My parents-in-law are of similar age and have difficulty standing still for any period of time. Unlike the comment by SS above, I think it is important to go on as intended after tragedy (if possible). It can be a show of strength. Of course, everyone feels differently.

    I always learn something when I read your post 🙂

    19 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you for your comments, Lara, and I totally agree; just think how we’d have been when Britain stood alone in 1940, before the Americans joined us to help prevent Hitler ruling the whole of the western world. The nation simply got on with it, strength in adversity and that is what we need today more than ever. And I do admire the Queen and Prince Philip, standing in the heat and unaided isn’t easy at any time, let alone when you are 91 and 96. They are a remarkable couple.
      I took lots more photos, but I don’t like to put every single photo I take onto my posts, that would soon become boring! I try and sift through them and post only those which actually illustrate what I’m saying. It’s the journalist in me coming out!

      19 . Jun . 2017

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