Trooping the Colour 2023


On the 17th of June, there is a very special ceremony taking place at Horse Guards’ Parade in the centre of London. Trooping the Colour celebrates the monarch’s ‘official’ birthday which has been a tradition for hundreds of years. There are actually three parades of Trooping the Colour, two are rehearsals in front of The Major General and the Prince of Wales and then the actual parade is attended by the King. But what exactly is Trooping of the Colour and why is it so important an event? We’re going to take a look at the history behind it all, what happens and when and where you can watch it while it takes place.

History of The Trooping of the Colour

Hundreds of years ago, the British Army would take their regimental flags into battle so soldiers from that regiment knew where to head if they got disoriented or swept away during the battle. These are known as ‘Colours’ and everyone from that particular regiment had the colours and insignia for their regiment on their uniform. It was important for soldiers to be able to identify other soldiers on their side especially without radios, modern communication technology and when cannon and gunfire were such a large part of the battlefield that smoke made it almost impossible to see anything.

Young officers would march in between the ranks of troops with the flags of their regiment’s colours held high for all to see. This is known as ‘trooping’, and what is now a fantastic parade and spectacle was once a vital part of battle to help with recognition of units.

The Horse Guards are one of the oldest regiments of the British Army and are the personal bodyguards of the monarch. They have been since the Restoration of the Monarchy after the English Civil War of 1660. Charles II is possibly the first monarch to have had the Trooping of the Colour parade but in 1748, just over 60 years later, it was put into place that this parade would mark the official birthday of the Sovereign. In 1760, once George III had become king, it became an annual event.

However, due to the different birthdays of the monarchs, it often changed date until Edward VII decided to keep it in May or June due to the British weather. Most of the British Monarchy have their actual birthday and their ‘official’ birthday which can be anywhere between 3 to 6 months after their birthday. It is usually held in June around the 11th to 17th of June and always on the Saturday.

It is now a huge ceremonial celebration and is quite breath taking for the viewer, even if only seen from a big screen.

Photo by Roberto Catarinicchia

Can I watch the parade at Horse Guards?

Unfortunately, not unless you enter the ballot to view the actual parade. This takes place between March and April and is a highly sought after ticket. You could watch the rehearsals for the Major General and the Prince of Wales with tickets starting from £10 – tickets go on sale from March, so definitely one to look out for in 2024.

If you enter the ballot and manage to get a ticket, there are strict rules for how to dress which you should get yourself acquainted with well in advance.

The parade is followed by a 41-gun salute at noon from Green Park and a flypast at Buckingham Palace where the Royal Family will be on the Palace Balcony. If you wish to be at either of those places, you can be and see the whole event for yourself.

The Royal Horse Guards, photo by M. Leishman

Is the Parade televised?

Yes, it will be shown live on the BBC with extensive coverage before, during and after the event. As this is King Charles III first Trooping of the Colour, we expect it will be even more of an event than ever before. There will be big screens showing the event around some of the major parks in London.

Who is involved?

There are plenty of troops, regiments and even bands involved, and the rehearsals are extensive to ensure that everyone is where they need to be at all times. However, without an intimate knowledge of the British Army, it can be difficult to know who everyone is.

Foot Guards, including Escort to the Colour

Six companies of Foot Guards, with 3 officers and 71 other ranks line the perimeter in an L shape known as the ‘Hollow Square’ defence formation. One battalion is picked to troop their colour and they are known as ‘Escort FOR the Colour’ and when they have collected their colour they are ‘Escort TO the Colour’.

Mounted Troops and Sovereign’s Escort

These line the edge of St James’ Park, The King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment – The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals.

Commanding Officers and Parade Co-ordination

Drill commands throughout the parade are given by three mounted officers from No. 1 Guard. The Field Officer in Brigade Waiting is the most senior and is assisted by the Major of the Parade. The Garrison Sergeant Major of London District, unmounted, coordinates everything from the parade ground.

Military Bands

Finally, there are around 400 musicians that take part in the parade, who are led by the Massed Bands of the Household Division. There will be the massed bands of the Foot Guards, the Mounted Band of the Household Cavalry all of whom are members of the Royal Corps of Army Music. The Corps of Drums, Pipe Bands from the Scots Guards and Irish Guards will also take part in the monumental event.

Book your stay at The Belgrave today

We hope you enjoy this historic parade, and the first one for a King in over 70 years. It will be an incredible moment and well worth coming to London for to take part in the celebrations. To stay at the Belgrave during this time, you can book your room now.

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