Queens Celebration – Trooping the Colour
Trooping the Colour is a traditional ceremony performed by regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies with a long history that originates on the battlefield where a regiment slowly marches their colours between the soldiers’ ranks.
Since the early 18th century Trooping the Colour has also been used to celebrate the official birthday of the British sovereign and is held on the first or 2nd Saturday in June when the weather is likely to be stable. The actual Trooping the Colour with invited guests, dignitaries and ticket holders from the general public (which can be applied for in February through a ballot system) is held on Horse Guards Parade.
Each company of Foot Guards, the mounted bands of the Household Cavalry will all march and parade along The Mall. The Queen also travels down The Mall from Buckingham Palace in the royal procession with an escort of Household Cavalry and will return after the Trooping and inspection of the troops.
Once back at Buckingham Palace, the Queen observes a final march past which is followed by the Kings Troops 41-gun salute in Green Park conducted with their 13-pounder guns from the First World War. The celebrations are concluded with the Royal family observing the Royal Air Force flypast from the palace balcony in front of thousands of adoring fans.
Top Tip: Check the weather or bring a jacket and umbrella, the British summer time weather can be notoriously unstable!
Where is it held and how do I get there?
The Queens birthday celebrations and Trooping the Colour is held in Central London between Buckingham Palace and Horse Guards Parade with the guards, musicians, cavalry and carriages twice travelling along The Mall (adjacent to St James' Park) which connects the two main focal points. After leaving Horse Guards Parade the King's Troop and Royal Horse Artillery will enter Green Park (adjacent to Buckingham Palace) to commence the royal 41-gun salute before returning to their barracks near Buckingham Palace.
Depending where you are coming from, the best way to get to Central London is to either walk or use local public transport. The Tube rail system starts around 6am with many bus services running all night or starting around 0530hrs. Central London can get extremely busy at the best of times, however on the day of Trooping the Colour mean roads will be shut off for the celebrations, plus there is usually up to one million people who come to view the celebrations so bringing your own vehicle is not ideal.
Top Tip: Make sure you go to the toilet before leaving home as it can be a hassle to find, and wait in line, for the public ones once in Central London!
What time to arrive?
This is a commonly asked question and like any event, the earlier you arrive the better so that you can get closer to the barriers and get the best view (and photos!). By time the first company of foot soldiers march up The Mall at 10am the crowds will likely be 5-10 people deep leaving you with little chance of seeing much. Being my first time, I didn’t want to miss anything, so I arrived early at 7am (to what is considered one of the best spots) and there were already others there waiting! In hindsight, you don’t need to arrive this early as by 8am there still wasn’t anyone waiting behind me. I recommend arriving at 8am.
Top Tip: bring a fold up chair and a book to help pass the time while you wait!
Where should I stand?
There are a number of fantastic places to base yourself with various advantages of each. My personal favourite is on the corner of St James Park near the South African Royal Artillery Memorial or on The Mall opposite so you can look down the Horse Guards Road. This is because you get to see all the parading along The Mall, get to hear some of the music from Horse Guards Parade during the Trooping and you’re among the first to enter The Mall at the end to gain the best spot on the roundabout in front of Buckingham Palace! Some other spots are listed below.
- Near the Green Park gates where you’ll be able to watch parade and later the Kings Troop conduct their 41 gun salute.
- The perimeter of the roundabout near the Victoria Memorial.
- Any where behind the barriers along The Mall.
- On the steps below the Duke of York Column.
- Under the trees along Horse Guards Rd.
Top Tip: Bring some food and drink to enjoy while you wait as if you arrive at 8am you might be there for four and a half hours!
Best place to stand to see the royals on the balcony of Buckingham Palace
The best place to stand is directly in front of the main gates for the best close up views of the Royal family. If you want to see the Royals and the flybys approaching along The Mall, it’s best to stand next to the fence, to the side of the Palace’s main gate which will mean the Victoria Memorial won’t block your view of the approaching planes.
Approximate order of the day
Leave home with a chair, book, jacket, camera, food and drink.
8am: Arrive at your location of choice, I recommend anywhere close to the corner of Horse Guards Rd and The Mall i.e. near the South African Royal Artillery Memorial.
9am: The Police arrive and start to clear The Mall and man restrict cross walks across The Mall.
9:30am: The Foot Guards line The Mall spaced about 10m apart.
10am: The first of the regiments of guards and cavalry parade along The Mall.
11am: The Royal Procession culminating with Queen and Duke of Edinburgh pass along The Mall in their carriage.
11am-12am: Trooping the Colour on Horse Guards Parade
12pm: The regiments of guards, mounted musicians, cavalry and Royal Procession return to the Buckingham Palace end of The Mall.
12:45pm: Lead by the Police, the guests and ticket holders and then general public near the Artillery Memorial proceed down The Mall and fill the roundabout around the Victorian Memorial directly in front of Buckingham Palace.
1pm: The Royal Air Force commences the first of several flybys of various aircraft, concluding with the Red Arrows.