What is Trooping the Colour? King Charles' birthday parade explained

Prince William during the Colonel's Review
Prince William during the Colonel's Review / Max Mumby/Indigo/GettyImages

For over 260 years, the Trooping the Colour parade has marked the official birthday of Britain's sovereign. King Charles doesn't turn 75 until November 15, but he gets to celebrate early this Saturday, June 17.

What is Trooping the Colour?

The Trooping the Colour parade is a long-held royal tradition. British monarchs celebrate their birthdays in an annual summer parade involving over 1400 parading soldiers, 200 horses, and 400 musicians coming together to display military precision, horsemanship, and fanfare (per the Royal Family).

The "Colours" refer to "the regimental flags and insignia displayed by British soldiers in order to provide a rallying point on the battlefield," USA Today writes. "This was important because, without modern communications, it was all too easy for troops to become disoriented and separated from their unit during conflict," reads the website for The Household Division, a unit of the British military.

"So, what today is a great tradition began life as a vital and practical parade designed to aid unit recognition before a battle commenced," The Household Division adds. The tradition of using the parade as the monarch's official birthday dates back to King George II's reign in 1748.

The procession moves from Buckingham Palace and down The Mall to Horse Guard's Parade. Members of the Royal Family follow on horseback and in carriages.

Once King Charles arrives, he will be greeted by a Royal salute and inspect the troops. After the military bands perform, the escorted Regimental Colour, or flag, is processed down the ranks of soldiers.

After the Foot Guards march past the Sovereign, they ride back to Buckingham Palace at the head of the soldiers. Then, they retake the salute at the Palace. The festivities conclude with an RAF fly-past, as members of the Royal Family watch from Buckingham Palace balcony.

Prince William thanked guardsmen for enduring high temperatures during rehearsals

On June 17, Prince William will lead the Colonel’s Review. In the rehearsals on June 10, William reviewed more than 1,400 soldiers of the Household Division and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.

Three soldiers fainted due to high temperatures. Afterward, William tweeted: "A big thank you to every soldier who took part in the Colonel’s Review this morning in the heat. Difficult conditions but you all did a really good job."

"Conducting the Colonel's Review of the King's Birthday Parade today," he added in another tweet. "The hard work and preparation that goes into an event like this is a credit to all involved, especially in today’s conditions."

King Charles will ride on horseback during the Trooping the Colour, something not seen since 1986

This year's Trooping the Colour will look different. Buckingham Palace has announced that King Charles will have a key role in the parade's proceedings. He plans to ride on horseback (per People).

This will be the first time the British monarch has rode on horseback for the annual event since 1986. Queen Elizabeth last rode in the procession on her horse Burmese. Following 1986's Trooping the Colour, the queen opted to take a carriage, and in 2003, her husband, Prince Philip, joined her.

Trooping the Colour will already feel different because of the queen's absence, but it's good to see that King Charles is willing to reinstate some old traditions.

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