An annual slice of history
Since the 18th century, Trooping the Colour has been the birthday celebration of the British monarch, but it’s also a military exercise – and it brings the royals together in all their spring finery.
The day on which the birthday of the monarch is celebrated
“The Trooping of the Colour has marked the official birthday of the British Sovereign for over 260 years,” according to the official website of the royal family. Regardless of when a monarch’s actual birthday is, the Trooping of the Colour takes place on a Saturday in June (because the weather tends to be pleasant in June in Britain), but Queen Victoria, whose birthday is being celebrated here in this photo from 1899, was born on May 24, so the event closely coincided with her actual birthday.
First, it was a military tradition
Trooping the Colour was already a longstanding military tradition when King George II decided to double up on it to celebrate his own birthday in 1748. “Colours” refers to the flags of the regiments of the British army. “Trooping” refers to displaying them for the benefit of the regiment members (so they’ll recognise them in battle). Britain was in between World Wars during the 1931 celebration, at which the future Queen Elizabeth II is pictured. At the time, the monarch was the Princess Elizabeth of York’s grandfather, King George V.