The Queen’s birthday has been marked by the Trooping the Colour for over 260 years but the occasion has been cancelled for a second time this year due to coronavirus restrictions.

Last year, the celebration was instead marked by the first ever socially-distanced military parade, with the Queen stepping out in Windsor Castle’s quadrangle to watch the ceremony of the Welsh Guards. 

Described as a "mini Trooping the Colour", the June 12 event will, for a second time, feature scaled-back pomp to mark the Queen’s 95th birthday.

What is Trooping the Colour?

Trooping the Colour is the official celebration of the Queen’s birthday – usually taking place each June. During the parade, held on Horse Guards Parade behind Whitehall, the Queen inspects soldiers from the Household Division.

Each year sees a different regiment’s Colours trooped, with the Queen always attending and taking the salute.

Before 1987, she used to arrive riding side-saddle and wearing the uniform of the regiment being trooped – but since has left Buckingham Palace in a carriage with an escort.

During the parade, the Queen inspects soldiers from the Household Division. The inspection takes place on Horse Guards Parade behind Whitehall.

The Queen arrived at Trooping of the Colour in 1963 on horseback

When is the Queen’s real birthday?

The Queen was born on April 21, 1926 and turned 95 earlier this year, celebrating her actual birthday in private with her family.

In previous years, several gun salutes went off at midday in London – although last year marked the first time without this traditional gun salute. Her Majesty had instructed that no "special measures" be taken during the pandemic.

This year saw the Queen’s birthday pass without a gun salute once again, as she remained in mourning for her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh until April 23.

Read more:  How the Queen has celebrated her birthday over the years

Why does the Queen have two birthdays?

Why was the ceremony cancelled?

Buckingham Palace announced that the annual ceremony would not go ahead for a second year running because of restrictions from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

What’s planned instead this year?

The Queen’s official birthday will be celebrated with a revised version of the Trooping the Colour ceremony staged at Windsor Castle.

The display of military pomp and pageantry will be held in the castle’s quadrangle, and will be similar to last year’s event at the Berkshire residence dubbed "mini trooping".

The Duke of Kent, Colonel, Scots Guards, will join the head of state for the ceremony and the Queen’s Colour of F Company Scots Guards will be trooped through the ranks of guardsmen on parade.

Covid guidelines will be followed during the event which will feature troops who have played an integral role in the NHS’ Covid-19 response and those who have been serving on military operations overseas.


The Queen smiling with the Duke of Edinburgh on Horse Guards Parade during the annual Trooping the Colour parade in 2009 

Credit: Lewis Whyld 

Buckingham Palace said in a statement: "The parade will be led by the Foot Guards, who will be joined in the Quadrangle by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.

"Music will be played by a Massed Band of the Household Division, which will include 1st Battalion Scots Guards Pipes and Drums.

"Upon the Queen and the Duke of Kent’s arrival in the Quadrangle, Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will be greeted by a royal salute, and the National Anthem.

"The parade will commence with the Musical Troop as the band plays. The Colour will then be trooped through the ranks, and the parade will conclude with a second royal salute."

It is set to be an emotional day for the Queen – who will be spending her first birthday alone since the death of her husband, Prince Philip. The Duke of Edinburgh passed away on April 9 this year.

Who will attend?

Traditionally, the full ceremony involves more than 1,400 soldiers and 200 horses – attracting thousands of spectators too. Usually, under normal circumstances, members of the public wishing to watch the event live stand on The Mall or on the edge of St James’s Park.

However, this year will see a scaled-down celebration and the Queen will be joined only by her cousin, the Duke of Kent.

Trooping the Colour usually saw the members of the Royal Family attend from Buckingham Palace's balcony

Prince Andrew had been due to be replaced by Maj Gen Roland "Roly" Walker, the unit’s former commanding officer – despite the Duke’s honorary title of Colonel of the Grenadier Guards.

This downsizing of the event, due to the ongoing pandemic, will also remove any speculation regarding the Duke of York. 

What happened last year?

2020 marked the first year that the Trooping of the Colour did not take place during the Queen’s 68-year reign. A socially-distanced procession took place in Windsor Castle to mark the occasion. 

The Queen watching from a dais was a stark contrast to the familiar appearance from the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Despite standing alone, Her Majesty seemed pleased at the efforts of the soldiers  – which featured the first ever female guardsman to take part in the annual ceremonial parade.

Only 20 soldiers from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards were involved – commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Llewelyn-Usher. Social distancing measures saw each solider stand 2.2 metres apart – to fully satisfy the new Covid-19 guidelines.

Despite the altered annual royal events in 2020 and 2021, Buckingham Palace has announced plans for Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee next summer. The celebration will mark 70 years of Her Majesty’s reign – she is the first British monarch to achieve this.