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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.

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British Troops Saluting the Flag During the Queen's Birthday Celebrations in CairoHistoria/REX/Shutterstock

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.

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The Young Princess Elizabeth at the Trooping of the Colour 1931Historia/REX/Shutterstock

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.

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Queen Mary drives in her carriage with the duchess of YorkAP/REX/Shutterstock

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.

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Trooping The Colour - 1935ANL/REX/Shutterstock

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.

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Princess Elizabeth in her first appearance on horsebackJohn Rider/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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.

Here’s what The Crown gets wrong about the British royal family.

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Trooping The Colour 1957. Queen Elizabeth II On Horseback.ANL/REX/Shutterstock

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).

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Queen Elizabeth II Prince Andrew On The Balcony Of Buckingham Palace After Trooping The Colour Ceremony. 1962.Evening News/REX/Shutterstock

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.

Can you identify these other royal family members by their childhood photos?

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Queen Elizabeth II takes the salute at the traditional Trooping the ColorBippa/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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.

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Queen Elizabeth II holds up 12-week-old son Prince EdwardAP/REX/Shutterstock

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!

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1969 Queen Elizabeth II during the trooping of the colourJoan Williams/REX/Shutterstock

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.

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PRINCESS DIANA, PRINCE WILLIAM Trooping of the Colour, London, Britain - 1984REX/Shutterstock

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.

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Britain's Prince Harry sticks out his tongue for the cameras on the balcony of Buckingham PalaceSteve Holland/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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.

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TROOPING THE COLOUR, LONDON, BRITAIN - 1991REX/Shutterstock

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.

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TROOPING THE COLOUR, BUCKINGHAM PALACE, LONDON, BRITAIN - 1993REX/Shutterstock

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.

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QUEEN ELIZABETH IIREX/Shutterstock

Lovely in lavender

Her Majesty looks lovely in a lavender suit and matching hat at the 1996 Trooping of Colour, her 70th.

This is why Queen Elizabeth II will never give up the throne.

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Britain's Queen ElizabethMax Nash/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Glorious green

In a glorious green suit with matching hat, Her Majesty arrives at Buckingham Palace for her 76th Trooping the Colour in 2002.

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Prince Harry, left, and Prince William in a carriage return to Buckingham Palace from Horse Guards ParadeSang Tan/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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.

Here’s what a body language expert can tell from these photos of Harry and Meghan.

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Trooping the Colour ceremony, London, UK - 09 Jun 2018REX/Shutterstock

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.

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British Royal Air Force Red Arrows jets fly past over Buckingham Palace in central LondonLefteris Pitarakis/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest