Trooping the Colour: Incredible Vintage Photos of the Queen’s Annual Parade
Since the 18th century, Trooping the Colour has been the birthday celebration of the British monarch, but it's also a military exercise—and it brings the royals together in all their spring finery.
The day on which the birthday of the monarch is celebrated
“The Trooping of the Colour has marked the official birthday of the British Sovereign for over 260 years,” according to the official website of the royal family. Regardless of when a monarch’s actual birthday is, the Trooping of the Colour takes place on a Saturday in June (because the weather tends to be pleasant in June in Britain), but Queen Victoria, whose birthday is being celebrated here in this photo from 1899, was born on May 24, so the event closely coincided with her actual birthday. Here are more fascinating Queen Victoria facts most people don’t know.
First, it was a military tradition
Trooping the Colour was already a longstanding military tradition when King George II decided to double up on it to celebrate his own birthday in 1748. “Colours” refers to the flags of the regiments of the British army. “Trooping” refers to displaying them for the benefit of the regiment members (so they’ll recognize them in battle). Britain was in between World Wars during the 1931 celebration, at which the future Queen Elizabeth II is pictured. At the time, the monarch was the Princess Elizabeth of York’s grandfather, King George V.
Don’t miss this adorable gallery of royals turning one.
Three generations of royalty
In this photo, taken at the 1933 Trooping the Colour, in celebration of King George V’s 68th birthday, we see then-Princess Elizabeth riding in a horse-drawn carriage beside her grandmother, Queen Mary, and across from her mother, the then-Duchess of York.
Check out these rarely seen photos of Queen Elizabeth with her father, King George VI.
The future Queen’s signature royal wave
In 1935, the future Queen, Princess Elizabeth, is shown perfecting the wave for which she will one day become famous.
Take a look at more vintage photos of Elizabeth before she became Queen.
Her first official appearance on horseback
The 1947 Trooping the Colour was also the occasion of 21-year-old Princess Elizabeth making her first appearance on horseback at an official royal ceremony. She’s riding behind King George V, wearing the uniform of a Colonel in the Grenadier Guards, and she’s riding side-saddle, which is how she was trained to ride as a little girl. When she goes riding in a non-ceremonial capacity, however, Her Majesty always rides astride.
A decade later
In 1957, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, now a wife of ten years and a mother of two, had been Queen for five years (since February 6, 1952).
Nowadays, this is the royal residence where the Queen is “most happy.”
The Queen and her second Prince
At the 1962 Trooping the Colour, Her Majesty The Queen was now the mother of three, the youngest of whom Prince Andrew stands beside her, looking adorable, as the Royal Air Force flies overhead.
Saluting the First Battalion
Queen Elizabeth II, now a mother of four (Prince Edward was born just 12 weeks earlier), salutes the First Battalion of the Coldstream Guards at her 38th Trooping the Colour in 1964, her 12th as Queen.
Here are more rarely seen candid photos of the British royal family.
Trooping the new Prince
Here, also at the 1964 Trooping the Colour, Queen Elizabeth holds up her 12-week-old son, Prince Edward, to an enthralled crowd outside Buckingham Palace.
Check out this incredible profile of Prince Philip from 1966, straight from the Reader’s Digest archives!
The scarlet tunic of the Grenadier Guards
Her Majesty The Queen always wore the scarlet tunic of the Grenadier Guards to the Trooping the Colour ceremony when she arrived on horseback (which she did until 1987). Here she’s seen saluting at the 1969 ceremony.
Find out eight British laws the Queen doesn’t have to follow.
Princess Diana and Prince William
Pictured here at the 1984 Trooping the Colour, is Princess Diana with Prince William. Diana was pregnant with Prince Harry at the time.
Don’t miss these rarely seen photos of Princess Diana and Prince William.
Cheeky baby Harry
Prince Harry was born in September 1984. Here he is at nearly four years old, sticking his tongue out for the cameras as his mum, Diana, holds him at her hip. Prince William stands directly in front of Harry.
Here are more heartwarming photos of Princess Diana and Prince Harry.
A couple of galpals
Looking up at the air show at the 1991 Trooping the Colour ceremony, Diana stands with her sister-in-law, Sarah Ferguson, the then-wife of Prince Andrew.
Extended Royal Family
At the 1993 Trooping of Colour, the Queen and her husband, the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, are seen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with their niece-in-law, Serena, then-Viscountess Linley and the Duchess of Kent.
Take a look back at Prince Philip’s life.
Lovely in lavender
Her Majesty looks lovely in a lavender suit and matching hat at the 1996 Trooping of Colour, her 70th.
In a glorious green suit with matching hat, Her Majesty arrives at Buckingham Palace for her 76th Trooping the Colour in 2002.
Find out exactly what will happen when the Queen dies.
The Royal Heart-throbs
At the 2003 Trooping of Colour, Princes William and Harry, both still single and in their early 20s, look dashing as they ride in their carriage to Buckingham Palace.
Five of the first six in line for the throne
The 2018 Trooping the Colour was Meghan Markle’s first as Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex. Her wedding to Prince Harry was less than one month earlier. Standing on the Buckingham Palace balcony with the newlyweds are Prince Charles, Prince William and Kate Middleton with Prince George and Princess Charlotte, and Savanna Phillips (the young girl in pink), granddaughter of Princess Anne.
Read up on 20+ fascinating Queen Elizabeth II facts most people don’t know.
What everyone’s looking up at
You know how everyone’s staring up at the sky as they stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Trooping the Colour celebrations? Here’s a quick flash of the airshow they’re watching.
Next, check out the top 10 most memorable royal tours of Canada.