What do you get when you mix Tradition, Pomp and Ceremony, a Queen, Princes, Princesses, Royal Artilleries, Horses, crowds of cheering people, and Red Arrows?
Trooping the Colour!
The Sovereign’s official birthday is marked with a colourful mix of military bands, precision marching, some 20,000 well-wishers, top hats and tails, flags and planes and a 41-gun salute, to create an exciting day of Pomp and Pagentry marking a tradition that goes back more than 4 centuries.
The event is an enactment of the traditional preparations for battle when the “colours”, or flags were “trooped” down the ranks so they would be recognised by the soldiers. This year’s celebration, marking her Majesty’s 84th birthday, saw the colour being paraded by the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.
This was the 58th ceremony at which the Queen has presided. Looking radiant and dressed prettily in lilac with a flambouyant matching hat, sitting in Queen Victoria’s 1842 ivory-mounted phaeton drawn by a pair of grey horses, with Prince Philip at her side, she rode daintily down The Mall. Preceded by first Prince William and The Duchess of Cornwall in a carriage, then Prince Andrew with Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie in a second carriage, she was accompanied by the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Kent and the Princess Royal on horseback.
The Royal Standard flew colourfully and cheerfully above the Palace, while below, the streets were cleared of traffic and detritus in preparation for the Queen’s appearance.
The day began at 10am with slightly overcast skies and proceeded with Military precision till the fly-past at 1.30pm. The British Military are renowned for their detail and each carefully choreographed display never missed a beat.
The enthusiasm of the crowds in front of Buckingham Palace, along The Mall and inside the Whitehall parade grounds was visibly palpable. A ripple of excitement swept through the crowds that had gathered, standing 10 deep, when the first of the Regiments made their appearance.
The Military Bands; 400 musicians, splendid in their colours of either red and black or black and gold, accessorised with enough bling to put any self-respecting Pop Star to shame, played a medley of military tunes and of course “God Save our Queen”.
The Troops; the different Regiments marked by their own particular colours and uniforms, marched past in snaking lines of Red, Black and Gold, boots shining, arms swinging jauntily in tandem as they made their way past the Palace to Horse Guards Parade.
The crowds watched in awe as the field guns, drawn by matching teams of horses rode past, and in admiration as wave after wave of colour swept along The Mall.
Once the Colour was trooped, the Guards in their poppy red tunics and well-brushed bearskin hats filled the arena with a display of precision marching, after which the Royal family then returned to the Palace, stepping out en-mass onto the balcony to welcome back the Queen and Prince Philip.
After riding out along the route of cheering citizens come from all corners of the earth, the Queen returned to the Palace and within minutes stepped onto the balcony to an enthusiastic wave of clapping, cheering and vigorous flag-waving!
We were then treated to a Royal Air Force fly past, featuring the old stalwarts of World War II – the Spitfire II and Hurricane, as well as fighter-jets and the Red Arrows which left a stream of blue, red and white plumes across the sky in their wake.
On the balcony the Queen waved enthusiastically, encouraged by the cheers of the crowd below.
And then….it was all over. The crowds milled about, not sure what to do with themselves after all the preceeding excitment, and slowly but surely they slipped away to spend the rest of the day enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of London.
I strolled into Green Park for a bit of rest and relaxation and to have a squizz at some of the delightful little elephants, part of the Elephant Parade, that are dotted about the city for the next few weeks.