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Trooping the Colour
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Trooping the ColourThe History of the Ceremony

Every year, in June, on the day chosen as the Sovereign's Official Birthday, Horse Guards Parade witnesses a ceremony which has been described as the greatest parade of all. This is the Sovereign's Birthday Parade, or the ceremony of Trooping the Colour in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, the Colonel-in-Chief of all seven Regiments of the Household Division. However, few of the many millions of people who watch the ceremony annually fully appreciate the original purpose of a basically simple exercise, which has since become overlaid with the splendour of a major State occasion. In the early days of land warfare, flags or Colours were used by military leaders as rallying or assembly points for their followers in battle. As the organization of military forces became more complex, sub-units of the main force, such as the company, began to have their own distinguishing device, although, from about the beginning of the 18th century, battalion Colours mostly replaced company Colours.

Because of their importance in battle, it was necessary to ensure that every soldier could recognize his own unit's flag or Colour, and it became the practice to carry, or 'troop', the Colour down the ranks at the end of the day's march and to escort it to the place where it would be lodged for the night.

The following morning the Colour would be escorted from the billet to take its place within the ranks of the battalion. As a result of these ceremonies, known originally as 'Lodging the Colour', the Colour gradually began to lose its strictly operational associations and to become an object of reverence which embodies the spirit and traditions of the unit in question.

Following the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, every garrison town was the scene of a daily Guard-mounting parade which began with the main Guard parading through the principal streets. By the mid-18th century, whenever the Sovereign was in residence in the district, a Captain's Guard was mounted over him and the daily parade would include a ceremony of 'Trooping the Colour'. These parades were similar to those which still take place on certain days in May, when The Queen's Guard mounts from Horse Guards.

It eventually became the custom to find the Public Duties, or Guard, on the Sovereign's Birthday from the flank companies of the whole Brigade of Guards, so that every Regiment could share in the gratuity given by the Sovereign on that day to men on guard duties. Trooping the Colour on the Sovereign's Birthday grew out of these two customs.

Trooping the Colour Trooping the Colour

The Sovereign's Birthday Parade at which the Trooping the Colour ceremony takes place is held annually by the Household Division at Horse Guards Parade.

Trooping the Colour

A Scots Guards Officer at the Sovereign's Birthday Parade.

Trooping the Colour

Her Majesty The Queen watches the march past of Household troop from a dais.

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