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Trooping the Colour is a ceremony performed by regiments of the Commonwealth and the British Army. It has been a tradition of British infantry regiments since the 17th century, although the roots go back much earlier. On battlefields, a regiment's colours, or flags, were used as rallying points. Consequently, regiments would have their ensign slowly march with their colours between the soldiers' ranks to enable soldiers to recognise their regiments' colours.

Since 1748 Trooping the Colour has also marked the official birthday of the British Sovereign. It is held in London annually on the second Saturday in June.

A regiment's colours embody its spirit and service, as well as its fallen soldiers. The loss of a colour, or the capture of an enemy colour, were respectively considered the greatest shame, or the greatest glory on a battlefield. Consequently, regimental colours are venerated by officers and soldiers of all ranks, second only to the sovereign.

Only battalions of infantry regiments of the line carry colours; the Royal Artillery's colours, for example, are their guns. Rifle regiments did not form a line and thus never carried colours. Their battle honours are carried on their drums. The exception to this is the Honourable Artillery Company who have both a stand of colours and guns.

Trooping the Colour is an old ceremony whereby the battalion would fall in by companies and the colour-party would "troop" or march the colours through the ranks so that every man would see that the colours were intact. This was done before and after every battle. This ceremony has been retained through time and is today largely ceremonial.

The Sovereign's Official Birthday

In the United Kingdom, Trooping the Colour is also known as the Queen's Birthday Parade. It has marked the official birthday of the Sovereign since 1748, and has occurred annually since 1820 (except in bad weather, periods of mourning and other exceptional circumstances). From the reign of King Edward VII, the Sovereign has taken the salute in person. It was Edward VII who moved Trooping the Colour to its June date, because of the vagaries of British weather.

Trooping the Colour allows the Household Division (i.e., the Foot Guards and the Household Cavalry) and King's Troop to pay a personal tribute to the Sovereign with great pomp and pageantry. It takes place on Horse Guards Parademarker. Crowds lining the route listen to music performed by Massed and Mounted Bands of around 400 musicians in total. Events at Buckingham Palace after the Queen's return include another march past by the entire Household Division, a 41-gun salute in the adjacent Green Parkmarker, and a flypast by the Royal Air Force. This is followed by the usual Changing of the Guard.

The Queen has attended Trooping the Colour in every year of her reign except when prevented by a rail strike in 1955, and survived the firing of six blank shots towards her in 1981. Her Majesty started riding in a carriage in 1987.

Her 80th birthday in 2006 was marked by a large flypast of 40 planes led by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and culminating with the Red Arrowsmarker. It was followed by the only feu de joie ("fire of joy") fired in her presence during her reign. In 2008, a flypast of 55 aircraft commemorated the RAF's 90th anniversary.


The Major General's Review and the Colonel's Review are scheduled on the Saturdays two and one weeks preceding the Queen's Birthday Parade respectively. During these, commanding officers and occasionally the Prince of Wales take the salute.

Trooping the Colour

On the day of Trooping the Colour, the Royal Standard is flown from Buckingham Palacemarker, while the Union Flag (colloquially known as the Union Jack), is flown from public buildings.

Participants and positioning

Foot Guards

Nos 1-6 Guards - six companies of Foot Guards, each comprising 70 men and 3 officers - line two sides of the perimeter of Horse Guards Parademarker in a distinctive extended "L" shape. (In 2009, to reflect the successful recruitment efforts of the Irish Guards, there were seven companies of Guards on the field.)

Each year a battalion of one of the five Foot Guards regiments is selected to troop its colour through the ranks of the other in the ceremony. During the parade, the selected battalion is no. 1 Guard. They are referred to as Escort For the Colour (and, once they have collected their colour during the ceremony, as Escort TO the Colour.)

The colour is borne by an Ensign of no. 1 Guard. It is a great honour for a young officer to be selected to carry the colour in this ceremony, as historically only the most courageous Ensign were assigned to carry the regiment's colours in battle. Nowadays the honour is normally given to Second Lieutenants who excel at drill and ceremonial and who are physically fit.

Mounted Troops

Lining the edge of St James's Parkmarker are the two regiments of Household Cavalry - the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals - as well as the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery (commonly called "King's Troop").

In the Royal Procession which brings the Sovereign to Horse Guards Parademarker the Household Cavalry are known as the Sovereign's Escort.

Military Bands

The music forms an integral part of the day and is provided by the Massed Bands of the Foot Guards, numbering over 200 musicians, and the Mounted Bands of the Household Cavalry. (The total number of musicians approaches 400). There is also a Corps of Drums and during 2009 there were also pipers.

Summary of the parade design

The entire Parade can be viewed as an exercise of several elements carried out in slow and quick march time, with the Trooping the Colour phase forming the centrepiece.

  • The Sovereign carries out Inspection of the Line - scrutinizing first the Foot Guards and then the Household Cavalry and King's Troop, to slow and quick march music respectively.
  • Then the Massed Bands "troop" before the Sovereign, marching in slow and quick time. A lone drummer breaks away.
  • Drummer's Call signals No. 1 Guard - the Escort for the Colour - to march to the centre of the field and obtain their colour from the Colour Party. The Massed Bands execute their legendary "Spin Wheel".
  • As "Escort TO the Colour" No. 1 Guard then slowly troops their regimental colour through the ranks of nos 6-2 Guards.
  • Nos 1-6 Guards march past the Sovereign completing two circuits of Horse Guards Parademarker, one each in slow and quick time respectively.
  • Then, to music from the Mounted Bands, the Household Cavalry with the King's Troop ride past the Queen, first in walk march and then in sitting trot (i.e., slow and quick time for the horses). The Mounted Bands then salute the Queen.
  • Finally, led by the Sovereign's Escort, the Massed Bands play the Queen back to Buckingham Palace, the Foot Guards following.

The Queen's Birthday Parade in detail

The entire parade is supervised by the Field Officer in Brigade Waiting, known as the Field Officer, with the assistance of the Major of the Parade, both mounted on horses.

March On

Part of the Marker Detail marching at end of parade.

A detail of Guardsmen bearing marker flags marches onto the parade ground and marks the positions of nos 1-6 Guards. These marker flags are the respective company colours from each regiment.

Led by their regimental bands, Nos 1-6 Guards march into position . It is No. 1 Guard whose colour will be trooped. Importantly, No. 1 Guard are known at this point as "Escort For the Colour."

Nos 1-5 Guards align in ranks of two on the west side of the parade ground facing Horse Guards Building; No. 6 Guard lines up perpendicular to them on the north side, thus making an "L" shape. The Massed Bands are on the south side, by the gardens of 10 Downing Streetmarker. Adjacent to No. 6 Guard is the Colour Party (a Colour Sergeant holding the Colour which will be trooped, accompanied by two other guardsmen). The King's Troop, the Household Cavalry, and their Mounted Bands, form up behind Nos 1-5 Guards on the edge of St. James's Parkmarker.

With the Foot Guards in their full dress and the Mounted Bands in state dress uniform, the assembled ranks of Household Troops make a colourful spectacle.

Arrival of the Sovereign

Senior members of the Royal Family arrive in two barouche carriages. No. 3 Guard opens ranks to allow the carriages to pass.

Preceded by the Sovereign's Escort (Mounted Bands and Household Cavalry), the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh (Colonel of the Grenadier Guards) drive down The Mallmarker in the Royal Procession. They are seated in Queen Victoria's 1842 ivory-mounted phaeton drawn by two Windsor Grey horses. Directly behind them ride the Royal Colonels: the Prince of Wales (Welsh Guards), Duke of Kent (Scots Guards) and Princess Royal (Blues and Royals). Other officers complete the Royal Procession.

As the phaeton arrives on Horse Guards Parade, the Royal Standard is released and flown from the roof of Horse Guardsmarker. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh dismount at the Saluting Base and the Queen receives a Royal Salute.

Inspection of the Line

The Queen inspects the Foot Guards, the Royal Colonels following her.
Foreground: backs of No.
6 Guard.
Background: garden of 10 Downing Street, and Massed Bands.
To music from the Massed Bands, the Queen re-enters the phaeton and is driven before and behind the long line of assembled guards. As she passes in front of the L-formation of Guards Nos. 1 to 6 a slow air is played.

When the carriage turns around the rear of No. 6 Guard, the music changes to a quick march. The carriage conveys the Queen back up the line while she inspects the Household Cavalry and King's Troop stationed on her right, along the edge of St James's Park.

BBC television commentaries every year emphasise the Queen's knowledge of the attributes of her Guards, and single out "steadiness" as a highly prized quality for a guardsman.

The marches played by the Massed Bands always carry a flavour of the regiment whose colour is being trooped in any given year and therefore lend the Royal inspection a unique atmosphere.

Massed Bands Troop

With the Queen once more seated at the Saluting Base, the command "Troop!" is given. (This is not to be confused with the trooping of the colour itself, which occurs later in the ceremony.) Under the command of the Senior Drum Major, the Massed Bands march and countermarch the length of Horse Guards Parade in slow and quick time.

The slow march is traditionally a waltz from Giacomo Meyerbeer's opera, Les Huguenots. During the quick march, a lone drummer breaks away from the Massed Bands, marching to two paces to the right of No. 1 Guard.

Now the Trooping of the Colour phase starts. The lone drummer plays eight bars - Drummer's Call - signalling the Captain of No. 1 Guard to cede his command to the Subaltern. No. 1 Guard then moves into close order in preparation for their duties as Escort For the Colour.

Escort for the Colour obtains the Colour

As Escort For the Colour, No. 1 Guard performs the centrepiece of the parade.

An orderly takes the pace stick from the Regimental Sergeant-Major, who is standing behind the Escort For the Colour. This allows the Sergeant-Major to draw his sword (the only time a British warrant officer ever does so on parade). Led by the Subaltern with the Ensign behind him, and the Regimental Sergeant-Major at the rear of the company, the Escort For the Colour quick marches towards the Colour Party, to the tune of "The British Grenadiers". Twenty steps away from the Colour Party, the music halts and four paces later, the 'Escort for the Colour' halts.

The Sergeant-Major marches around from the rear to the front of the Escort and, followed by the Ensign, approaches the Colour Party. Having saluted the colour with his sword, the Sergeant-Major takes it from the Colour Sergeant, freeing him to slope arms. The Sergeant-Major turns, marches to the Ensign, and presents the colour to him. The Ensign salutes the colour with his sword, sheathes the sword without taking his eyes off the colour, and takes possession of it.

No. 1 Guard, formerly known as "Escort FOR the Colour," is now termed "Escort TO the Colour."

The Escort positions itself to troop their Colour

The Escort To the Colour presents arms and the four NCOs at either end of No. 1 Guard turn outward and port arms as symbolic maximum protection for the colour. The Massed Bands play the first six bars of "God save the Queen".

The Escort To the Colour now slopes arms, as does the Colour Party. The Colour Sergeant takes position to the right and to the rear of the Escort. The Colour Party, the Ensign, and the Sergeant-Major march back to the Escort; the Sergeant-Major takes position to the left and to the rear of the Escort.

The Escort To the Colour slow marches down towards no. 6 Guard to the position for starting the Trooping. Simultaneously, the Massed Bands execute a unique anti-clockwise "spinwheel" manoeuvre to reorient themselves in restricted space, while playing the slow march, "Escort To the Colour". Once the Escort is in place, the Field Officer in Brigade Waiting (a Lieutenant-Colonel) orders the entire parade (excepting the Escort) to present arms.

Trooping the Colour through the ranks

To the strains of "The Grenadiers' Slow March," the Escort To the Colour then troops the colour down the entire length of Nos 6-2 Guards. The colour itself is borne by the Ensign in front of the line of Guards, but the ranks of the Escort interweave with their ranks. For Nos 6-2 Guards, who maintain the 'present arms' position, the long trooping, especially on a hot day, requires stamina.

Eventually the Escort arrives back at its original position as no. 1 Guard - from where it first marched off in quick time. The Captain, who had temporarily ceded his command to the Subaltern, resumes his command over No. 1 Guard by ordering them to present arms, thus bringing the Escort back in line with Nos 2-6 Guards. The entire parade is now ordered by the Field Officer to slope arms, thus concluding the Trooping phase.

The Trooping phase is followed by the March Past in Slow and Quick Time of the Foot Guards and then the Household Cavalry with King's Troop.

Form Divisions to prepare for March Past

The Field Officer gives the command, "Officers, take post." Nos 1 to 5 Guard then "retire", about-turning and right-forming into review formation. Nos 1 to 5 Guard then about-turn again as the Corps of Drums play. (Since No. 6 Guard is already standing at right angles to the other five companies it does not need to execute this movement.)

Once intervals are established, the Field Officer salutes the Queen and informs her that the Foot Guards are ready to slow-march, then commands, "Guards will march past in slow and quick time!"

Foot Guards march past in slow and quick time

Footguards march past in Slow Time at the Colonel's Review in 2008
No. 1 Guard - the Escort - leads the six companies for two circuits of Horse Guards Parade, during which each company salutes the Queen to its Regimental March and with eyes right.

Slow March Past

A neutral slow march (i.e. a march that is not affiliated to one of the Guards regiments), begins the slow circuit of Nos 1-6 Guards around Horse Guards Parade. The Guards are preceded past the Saluting Base by the Field Officer and the Major of the Parade, who salute the Queen with their swords and eyes right.

Similarly, to the strains of their Regimental Marches, each of Nos 1-6 Guards passes before the Queen with their eyes right, their regimental officers saluting with swords. The leading company, No. 1 Guard - the Escort to the Colour - has a particular honour. The Ensign lowers the colour - the 'flourish'. The Queen acknowledges it with a bow of the head, and the Royal Colonels salute the regiment. Once past the Saluting Base, the Colour is raised again - the 'recovery' - and an "eyes front" is ordered.

Each company's salute is acknowledged by the Queen and the Royal Colonels. Once No. 6 Guard has passed the Saluting Base, a neutral slow march concludes the slow march past.

Quick March Past

Nos 1-6 Guards now complete a circuit of Horse Guards Parade in quick time, again led past the Saluting Base by the Field Officer and the Major of the Parade. This time the colour is at the rear of the Escort (No. 1 Guard), protected by the Colour Party. As before, their regimental marches are played as each Guard passes before the Queen with eyes right. However, this being a quick march, the officers do not salute with swords. As with the slow march past, neutral marches start and conclude this section.

The Massed Bands, led by the Corps of Drums, march away to allow the Mounted Bands on to the ground.

Mounted troops ride past

Blues and Royals, one of the two regiments of the Household Cavalry, in their characteristic red plumes and dark blue uniforms.
The Mounted Bands of the Household Cavalry, in state dress uniform, led by two drum horses, (in 2009, the venerable Spartacus and Achilles) ride slowly onto the field, traditionally to the tune "Preobrajensky."

It is the turn of the Household Cavalry and King's Troop to complete two circuits of Horse Guards Parade. For the horses, slow and quick time correspond to a walk march and a sitting trot, respectively.

Slow march past (walk march)

As with the Foot Guards, neutral marches bracket the regimental slow marches of the King's Troop and Household Cavalry. Salutes are again given to the Queen, and returned by her and the Royal Colonels to the colours as they pass by.

The King's Troop lead the Household Cavalry (Life Guards [who also carry a standard] and Blues and Royals), because the Royal Horse Artillery takes precedence over all other units when on parade with its guns. When the King's Troop passes the Saluting Base, the Queen acknowledges their leading gun as their colour.

The Life Guards, wearing red jackets and white plumes, are next, followed by the Blues and Royals, in blue jackets and red plumes.

Riding at the rear of the Household Cavalry are the farriers, one for each regiment, carrying their glinting axes and flanked by a soldier of each regiment. The Life Guards farrier wears a black plume rather than the usual regimental white.

Quick march past (sitting trot)

"The Keel Row" is traditionally played for the sitting trot, and much dust is raised by the horses.

After the slow and quick circuits are completed, the Mounted Bands perform their salute to the Queen, the drum horse riders with crossed sticks above their heads.

Preparing for March Off

Their Director of Music turns inwards on his horse as a signal to inform the Field Officer that the Household Cavalry are in position.

The Field Officer rides towards the Saluting Base, informing the Queen that the Guards are ready to march off. During the final Royal Salute, the colour of No. 1 Guard is lowered to the ground by the Ensign.

Forming divisions once more, accompanied by the Corps of Drums, the Guards prepare to march off, and the Household Cavalry leave the field.

Marching off

Led by the Massed Bands, the Queen places herself at the head of her Foot Guards. The entire parade of 1,000 soldiers and 400 musicians marches up the Mall towards Buckingham Palace.The Markers march off.

After the ceremony

The Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the ceremony, 16 June, 2007
Each year when the Queen returns to Buckingham Palacemarker, two detachments of the new Queen's Guard enter the forecourt, forming up opposite the old Queen's Guard. Standing with the Duke of Edinburgh on a Saluting Base in the central gateway she receives the salute as the remainder of the Guards and then the mounted troops file past to their regimental marches, played by the Massed and Mounted Bands respectively. This spectacle is appreciated by crowds in front of the Palace and by the Royal Family from the balcony.

The Queen is then driven in the phaeton carriage into the palace, passing between the Old and New Queen's Guards. The usual semi-daily ceremony of Changing of the Guard continues on the forecourt.

The King's Troop fire a 41-gun salute in Green Parkmarker. Another gun salute is also fired at the Tower of Londonmarker by the Honourable Artillery Company.

Finally The Queen appears together with the Royal Family on Buckingham Palace balcony for a flypast.

Regimental marches of the Foot Guards

Slow Marches

Quick marches

Definition list

Since 1993, the 2nd Battalions of the Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards and Scots Guards have been in "suspended animation" - they are represented in the parade by the three incremental companies.

The number of soldiers participating in Trooping the Colour in London has declined over the years due to defence budget cuts in Household Division battalions as well as the battalions' commitments to military and peacekeeping operations overseas. For example, the Welsh Guards, prior to trooping their colour in 2006 had returned from Iraq and were scheduled to redeploy to Bosnia later that year. This gives some of the units little time to practice ceremonial functions. However, the format of the ceremony has remained the same over the centuries following routines of old battle formations used in the era of musket warfare.

Definition List
Guards nos 1-6: 6 Guards of the Foot Guards are lined up in L-shape along two sides of Horse Guards Parademarker. Each "Guard" consists of around 70 non-commissioned Officers and Guardsmen, and 3 Officers (Captain, Subaltern, Ensign).
Escort For The Colour: denotes no. 1 Guard, whose Colour is being trooped. Later in the ceremony, they become Escort TO the Colour.
Colour Party: the Colour Sergeant and two other Guardsmen of no. 1 Guard who are holding the Colour at the start of the ceremony.
Sovereign's Escort: the Household Cavalry who escort the Queen to Horse Guards Parade.
Saluting Base: where the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh stand to take the salute.
Neutral March: march music which is not associated with any particular regiment. It is used at the beginning and end of each March Past in the ceremony.
Regimental March: each regiment has its own signature Quick and Slow March.
Foot Guards: the five Foot Guards Regiments, in order of seniority, are: Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish, Welsh.
Massed Bands: all five Foot Guards regimental bands, corps of drums and occasionally pipes and drums
Corps of Drums: in the UK, denotes a military band of fifes, drums and sometimes also bugles. (except Royal Marines where fifes are no longer used)
Household Cavalry: Life Guards and Blues and Royals.
Mounted Bands of the Household Cavalry: the combined musicians of the two Household Cavalry regiments, mounted on horses, wearing state dress, and led by two drumhorses.
Royal Salute: includes the playing of the National Anthem, "God Save the Queen".
Spin Wheel: a complicated manoeuvre by the Massed Bands to turn 90° while retaining formation. The instructions, are apparently unwritten and passed down by oral tradition. BBC television commentaries every year emphasise the mystery of the Spinwheel. At one time during the manoeuvre, no two bandsmen are executing the same movement.

List of regiments trooping the colour

Since only one colour can be trooped down the ranks at a time, each year a battalion of one of the five Foot Guards regiments is selected to troop its colours.

2009: 1st Battalion, Irish Guards. The Welsh Guards did not appear in this Trooping.

2008: 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards.

2007: No. 7 Company, Coldstream Guards The Irish Guards did not appear in this Trooping. In addition, the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards was originally scheduled to troop their Colour but an operational deployment prevented this.

2006: 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards. The Irish Guards did not appear in this Trooping.

2005: 1st Battalion, Irish Guards. The Welsh Guards did not appear in this Trooping.

2004: 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards

2003: 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards

2002: 1st Battalion, Scots Guards. The Welsh Guards and Irish Guards did not appear in this Trooping.

2001: Nijmegen Company, Grenadier Guards

2000: No. 7 Company, Coldstream Guards

1999: 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards

1998: 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards

1997: F Company, Scots Guards. The Welsh Guards did not appear in this Trooping.

1996: 1st Battalion, Irish Guards

1995: 1st Battalion, Scots Guards

1994: Nijmegen Company, Grenadier Guards

1993: 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards

1992: 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards

1991: 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards

1990: 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards


In Canada the Trooping the Colour ceremony takes place, with a trooping of the Queen's Colour, only for the Queen, members of the Royal Family, the Governor General, or a Lieutenant-Governor, on Remembrance Day, or in honour of the Queen's Birthday, on Victoria Day.

List of regiments trooping the colour in Canada

See also




  • Her Majesty The Queen's Birthday Parade. Saturday 17 June 2006 and 16 June 2007. Official programme.
  • n.a. The Guards : Changing of the Guard, Trooping the Colour, The Regiments. Norwich: Jarrold Publishing, 2005. A Pitkin Guide. (This revised edition published 1990. Originally published by Macmillan Press Ltd., 1972) ISBN 0-85372-476-8
  • Trooping the Colour. BBC 1 and 2 television coverage, 11 June 2005, 17 June 2006 and 16 June 2007.

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