Although Trooping the Colour is also known as the Queen’s Birthday Parade, this prime piece of pageantry doesn’t take place on Her Maj’s actual birthday (that’s on April 21) but on her official birthday (a Saturday in June being more likely to provide sunshine for the proceedings).
Carried out on Horse Guards by fully operational troops from the Household Division (Foot Guards and Household Cavalry), Trooping the Colour is a military tradition that dates back to the early eighteenth century. Originally it was all about helping soldiers to recognise their own standard in the chaos of battle. Now it’s an opportunity for some seriously impressive marching manoeuvres and an fantastic opportunity for royalty spotting (other members of the royal family attend, as well as the sovereign). For many years the Queen strutted her stuff on horseback but these days she travels by carriage. After the parade, the royals head back to Buckingham Palace for balcony photo shoots and there’s usually a fly-past at 1pm to wind things up.
You can watch along the Mall or from the edge of St James’s Park for free but you’ll need to arrive well before events begin at 10am to be far enough forward to get a good view. It will come as no surprise that the limited grandstand seating is highly sought after and needs to be applied for at the beginning of the year.
You can also watch the Colonel’s Review (Saturday June 2 2018). The scale and splendour of the event is the same but our Queen is not involved.