Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Trooping the Colour, or Happy Birthday, Your Majesty!

Today is Queen Victoria’s birthday! One hundred and ninety-two candles would make for a very bright cake, don’t you think?

We last celebrated Victoria’s birthday here, but did you know that for centuries, the Queen’s (or King’s) Birthday has been marked by a ceremonial parade known as Trooping the Colour? It was first celebrated in 1748 and periodically after that, and in 1820 became an annual event, cancelled only by bad weather or other extraordinary events (such as World Wars I and II)—leave it to Prinny to formalize the celebration of his birthday with an enormous parade!

Infantry regiments had “colours”—usually a standard or flag—which served as a rallying point for the members of regiments in battle. As such, they were of great symbolic importance; to lose one in battle was unthinkable, while to capture an enemy’s colours was the ultimate glory. When Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, three of his standards, or eagles, were sent post-haste to England, where they were presented to the Prince Regent at a dinner party to notify him of the Emperor’s final defeat.

So on the sovereign’s birthday, the Household infantry regiments who were permanently stationed in London to guard the royal family and perform other ceremonial functions, as well as any other regiments that happened to be in the vicinity, got gussied up and marched in procession on Horse Guards Parade near, flags waving, to be inspected by the King or Queen. As they still do--here's a clip from last year's Trooping:

If you'd like to know more, here's the official Trooping the Color website. This year's parade will take place on June 11, with the 1st Battalion Scots Guards. In the meanwhile, though, I'll be here celebrating another great Queen's birthday. Happy Birthday, Your Majesty!

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