How does the Queen celebrate her birthday on April 21?
The Queen usually celebrates her real birthday in private with her family. While the fanfare is mostly saved for her official birthday in the summer, every year on April 21 there are several gun salutes in London at midday.
Last year, for the first time in her reign, the Queen’s birthday passed without a customary gun salute, in line with her wishes that no “special measures” were taken while the coronavirus pandemic continues.
A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said: “Her Majesty was keen that no special measures were put in place to allow gun salutes as she did not feel it appropriate in the current circumstances.”
It is not yet known if a gun salute will take place for the Queen’s 95th birthday this year.
What does ‘Trooping the Colour’ mean?
Acting as the personal bodyguards of the Queen, the Guards are one of the oldest regiments of the British Army. They have been a constant fixture of the monarchy since the English Civil War ended in 1660.
‘Colours’ were the regimental flags of the British Army which displayed the uniform colours and insignia of different units. They were designed to help troops quickly identify their unit on the battlefield and avoid confusion.
In order for troops to be familiar with their regiment’s Colours, it was necessary to display them regularly. So, young officers would march in between the ranks of troops stood in lines holding the Colours high.
This is where the word ‘trooping’ comes from. The Colour of the troops refers to the historical colour-coding of British regiments worn on their uniforms and represented in each regiment’s flag.
Why does the Queen have two birthdays?
Although the trooping of the colours was first performed for military purposes under King Charles II in the 1600s, the parade became an official part of the British calendar a century later.
It is a tradition that was started by George II in 1748 and it owes its origins to the ageless problem of the British weather.
George was born in November and felt the weather would be too cold at that time of year for a birthday parade. King George decided to combine his birthday celebration with an annual military parade.
It is a tradition that has continued to this day. All British sovereigns are given the option of having an ‘official’ birthday and, because the Queen’s real birthday is on April 21, she chose to to hold her celebration in June each year.
When she first ascended the throne, the Queen chose to hold her Official Birthday on the second Thursday of June; this was the day her father, King George VI, chose to celebrate his official birthday.
However in 1959 the Queen decided her official birthday should be held two days later, on the second Saturday of June, instead – and it has been ever since.