Trooping the Colour: 19 Vintage Photos of the Queen’s Annual Parade
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. The Trooping of the Colour is one of 10 royal birthday traditions you never knew existed.
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 recognize 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.
Three generations of royalty
In this photo, taken at the 1933 Trooping the Colour, in celebration of King George V’s 68th birthday, we see then-Princess Elizabeth riding in a horse-drawn carriage beside her grandmother, Queen Mary, and across from her mother, the then-Duchess of York.
The future Queen’s signature royal wave
In 1935, the future Queen, Princess Elizabeth, is shown perfecting the wave for which she will one day become famous. Practicing the royal wave is one of many rules royal children must follow.
Her first official appearance on horseback
The 1947 Trooping the Colour was also the occasion of 21-year-old Princess Elizabeth making her first appearance on horseback at an official royal ceremony. She’s riding behind King George V, wearing the uniform of a Colonel in the Grenadier Guards, and she’s riding side-saddle, which is how she was trained to ride as a little girl. When she goes riding in a non-ceremonial capacity, however, Her Majesty always rides astride.
A decade later
In 1957, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, now a wife of ten years and a mother of two, had been Queen for five years (since February 6, 1952).
The Queen and her second Prince
At the 1962 Trooping the Colour, Her Majesty The Queen was now the mother of three, the youngest of whom Prince Andrew stands beside her, looking adorable, as the Royal Air Force flies overhead.
Trooping the new Prince
Here, also at the 1964 Trooping the Colour, Queen Elizabeth holds up her 12-week-old son, Prince Edward, to an enthralled crowd outside Buckingham Palace. We can’t get enough of these 21 adorable royal baby photos.