1st Battalion Grenadier Guards Troop their Colour in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen on 8 June 2019. Taking part will be up to 1450 soldiers of the Household Division and The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, along with up to 400 musicians from the Massed Bands. Over 240 soldiers from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards will line The Mall.
The ceremony of Trooping the Colour is believed to have been first performed during the reign of King Charles II (1660–1685). In 1748 it was decided that this parade would be used to mark the official birthday of The Sovereign. It became an annual event after George III became King in 1760. Guards taking part are drawn from the Regiments of The Sovereign’s Household Troops. It has become the practice for them to troop their Colours in turn.
Her Majesty The Queen has taken the salute at every parade since her accession to the throne in 1952 other than in 1955 when there was a national rail strike. Her Majesty‘s actual birthday is 21st April. The Sovereign’s official birthday is marked by the ceremony of Trooping the Colour, which this year falls on the 8th June 2019.
Origin of The Trooping the Colour
In the Middle Ages, each lord or baron flew his banner as a sign by which his followers could distinguish him in battle. As more flags were created they assumed a diversity of hues and came to be called ‘Colours’. By the Civil War, 1642–60, Colours were in use for individual Companies and a Battalion would have had ten or more. The Regulations of 1661 established order and in 1707, during Queen Anne’s reign, the number of Colours was reduced to two per regiment.
The principal role of a regiment’s Colours was to provide a rallying point on the battlefield. This was essential because, without modern communications, it was all too easy for troops to become disoriented and separated from their unit during conflict. But if troops were to be able to find their Colours in the chaos of the battlefield they needed to be able to recognise them, and therefore it became the practice to display them regularly. This was achieved by parading the troops
and having an officer march along the ranks with the Colours held high. Colours were last carried into action by the 58th Foot in South Africa in 1881, but ‘trooping’ ceremonies continue to this day.
The Colours also carry battle honours – the names of places where a regiment has fought with courage and distinction. As such, they serve as a reminder of hard-won victories, great sacrifice, and the loss of comrades. Before being presented by The Sovereign, a regiment’s Colours are consecrated in a religious ceremony. For all these reasons, Colours have become icons that symbolise a regiment’s history and traditions. For Guards regiments, our Colours also symbolise our direct and enduring link to our Sovereign.
Read more about Trooping the Colour at the Household Division website.