REX/ShutterstockYou may be aware that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will now have had 92 birthdays of this April. But did you know she actually celebrates two birthdays a year?
Like many British monarchs before her, the Queen likes to commemorate the occasion on two separate days—once on the actual anniversary of the day she was born (April 21) and again on a Saturday in June (dubbed as the “official celebration”). The reason is rather simple and owes its origins to the timeless dilemma of fickle British weather. (Find out other fascinating facts—and a few scandals!—about Queen Elizabeth.)
The established tradition dates back to 1748 with King George II, who was born in November. The royals (as expected) like to dabble in lavish outdoor festivities for hordes of people, so the frosty chill was rather inconvenient. Because he didn’t want to put his subjects at risk of catching colds, his birthday celebration was merged with the annual Trooping the Colour parade. Before that, it was strictly a military event in which regiments would display their flags or “colors” so that soldiers could familiarize themselves.
REX/ShutterstockBut because George was renown for being a fierce general (in addition to being a royal) for his leadership involvement at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743, the celebration seemed appropriate for his stature. Edward VII, who followed George and also had a November birthday, officially standardized the practice, launching a plethora of onlookers that was able to connect the royal’s birth celebration with the equally respectable British troops.
This concept became a habit that still continues to this day; British sovereigns are all granted the option of inheriting an “official” birthday. The spring day of April 21 was deemed too chilly for Queen Elizabeth’s opulent bash, so they decided to adhere to a safer (and warmer) June alternative. Although the date is technically associated with the Trooping the Colour in the U.K., commonwealth nations around the world mandate its recognition as a public holiday.
As for the Saturday element, the royals decided to set the date so that more members of the public could enjoy the jubilee without having to worry about their conflicting work schedules. This was a change from the Thursdays that were previously established during the earlier part of her reign. (Find out why you should never call Queen Elizabeth by her name.)
The Queen usually spends her actual birthday privately, but the day is certainly not what we would call a clandestine occasion. The anniversary is still commemorated with a round of gun salutes at noon: a 41-gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21-gun salute in Windsor Great Park, and a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London. (Clearly, the Queen’s fashion statements are not the only conspicuous things about her lifestyle.)
Next, don’t miss the 12 times the royals broke their own protocol.