What is Trooping the Colour?


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

Trooping the Colour, London, June 2013.

Since 1748, Trooping the Colour has marked the official birthday of the British sovereign. It is held annually on the second Saturday in June, coinciding with publication of the Birthday Honours List, and usually takes place at Horse Guards Parade by St James’s Park, London. Among the audience are the Royal family, invited guests, ticket holders and the general public.

The ceremony is broadcast live by the BBC within the UK and is also shown in Germany, Austria and Belgium and via live streaming on BritBox in both the United States and Canada. In the parade of 2018, Associated Press provided live streaming of the event to viewers across the world on the Time magazine YouTube channel and the Facebook page of the British newspaper The Telegraph. In 2019, the BBC took over the online broadcasts via its Youtube channel, providing a live feed of its television broadcasts for the second ever international broadcast of the event.

The Queen travels down the Mall from Buckingham Palace in a royal procession with a sovereign’s escort of Household Cavalry (mounted troops or horse guards). After receiving a royal salute, she inspects her troops of the Household Division – both foot guards and horse guards – and the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. Each year, one of the foot-guards regiments is selected to troop its colour through the ranks of guards. Then the entire Household Division assembly conducts a march past the Queen, who is saluted from the saluting base. Parading with its guns, the King’s Troop takes precedence as the mounted troops perform a walk-march and trot-past.

Music is provided by the massed bands of the foot guards and the mounted Band of the Household Cavalry, together with a Corps of Drums, and occasionally pipers, totalling approximately 400 musicians.

Returning to Buckingham Palace, the Queen watches a further march-past from outside the gates. Following a 41-gun salute by the King’s Troop in Green Park, she leads the Royal family on to the palace balcony for a Royal Air Force flypast.

In 2020 and 2021, a scaled-down ceremony, with no public audience, was held at Windsor Castle, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Look here for the costs of the ceremony.

Regimental Colours

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 to the sovereign.

Only battalions of infantry regiments of the line carry colours; the Royal Artillery’s colours, for example, are its 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, which has both a stand of colours and guns.

Trooping the Colour is an old ceremony whereby a 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.

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 (his actual birthday being in November). From 1979 to 2017 it was always held on the Saturday falling between 11 and 17 June; however, in 2018 it was held on 09 June and in 2019 on 08 June.

Trooping the Colour allows the troops of the Household Division to pay a personal tribute to the sovereign with great pomp and pageantry. Crowds lining the route and in St. James’s Park listen to music performed by both massed and mounted bands.

The Queen has attended Trooping the Colour in every year of her reign, except in 1955 when the event was cancelled due to a national rail strike. In 2020 and 2021, a modified ceremony took place at Windsor Castle due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Formerly riding a horse, The Queen has been riding in a carriage since 1987. On 13 June 1981, she and her horse were startled by an unemployed youth, Marcus Sarjeant, who fired six blank rounds from a starting revolver.

In her years attending on horseback, Her Majesty, as Colonel-in-Chief, wore a biretta and a Guards Regiment uniform with the medals she was awarded before becoming Queen (Order of the Crown of India; Defence Medal; War Medal 1939-1945; King George V Silver Jubilee Medal; King George VI Coronation Medal; Canadian Forces Decoration) and the riband and star of the Order of the Garter, the Order of the Thistle or a combination of those orders, depending which regiment was trooping its colour. Since 1987, she has not worn uniform, but wears the Brigade of Guards badge, a large brooch representing the different regiments that participate (Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Welsh Guards, Irish Guards, and Scots Guards).

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 Arrows. It was followed by the first feu de joie (“fire of joy”) fired in her presence during her reign, a second being fired at her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012. In 2008, a flypast of 55 aircraft commemorated the RAF’s 90th anniversary.


The unit presenting the Colours usually begins Troop practice in April provided that the company does not have other prior military operations. The entire parade will rehearse in full dress at Horse Guards Parade before the Major General’s Review, such rehearsals are referred to as Guard Mount from Horse Guards. 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. The salute is taken, respectively, by the Major General commanding the Household Division and the Colonel of the Regiment which is trooping its colour.

Participants and Parade Summary

On the day of Trooping the Colour, the Royal Standard is flown from Buckingham Palace and from Horse Guards Building, while the Union Flag (colloquially known as the Union Jack), is flown from public buildings as well as the flags of the British Commonwealth of Nations, especially in recent years.

Foot Guards, including Escort to the Colour (No. 1 Guard)

Nos. 1-6 Guards – six companies of Foot Guards, each comprising 3 officers and 71 other ranks – line two sides of the perimeter of Horse Guards Parade in an extended “L” shape. This recalls the defensive formation known as the “hollow square.”

All six companies are collectively commanded as “Guards…” and individually by company number, e.g. “No. 3 Guard…” Up to eight Guards have taken part, the number varying over the years: six in 1939, five in 1954, seven from 1963 to 1967, and then eight until the 1980s.

The battalion trooping its colour in any given year is No. 1 Guard. During the parade, they are referred to as ‘Escort for the Colour’ (and, once they have collected their colour during the ceremony, as ‘Escort to the Colour’).

At the outset, the colour is held by the Colour Party – a colour sergeant and two other guardsmen of No. 1 Guards, standing well-spaced on the northern side of Horse Guards Parade. Once obtained by the Regimental Sergeant Major of No. 1 Guard, the colour is borne through the ranks of Nos. 2-6 Guards by an Ensign of No. 1 Guard. It is a great honour for a young officer to carry the colour in this ceremony, as historically only the most courageous Ensigns 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 and Sovereign’s Escort

Lining the edge of St. James’s Park are the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment – the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals – as well as the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery.

In the Royal Procession, the Household Cavalry are termed Sovereign’s Escort. Two divisions ride ahead of the Queen’s carriage and two behind it, and the Life Guards and Blues and Royals alternate these positions each year.

Commanding Officers

Three mounted officers drawn from No. 1 Guard give drill commands during the parade. The most senior is the Field Officer in Brigade Waiting (rank of Lieutenant Colonel), assisted by the Major of the Parade. The Field Officer occupies a central position on the parade ground. The third mounted officer is the Adjutant.

The Garrison Sergeant Major of London District, who is not mounted, coordinates the whole event on the parade ground and the approach road from The Mall.

Military Bands

With almost 300 musicians on the field, led by the massed military bands of the Household Division, the music forms an integral part of the day. The massed bands of the Foot Guards number over 200 musicians. Joining them, since 2014, is the Mounted Band of the Household Cavalry, formed by the 2 merged Household Cavalry bands. The musicians of all these bands are all members of the Royal Corps of Army Music. There is also a Corps of Drums from several of the regiments and, on some occasions, pipe bands of the Scots Guards and Irish Guards.

Summary of the Parade Design

The entire parade is best understood as an exercise of several elements carried out in slow and quick march time, with the Trooping the Colour phase forming the centrepiece.

  • The Queen inspects 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 Queen 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 the “Spin Wheel” manoeuvre.
  • As “Escort to the Colour”, No. 1 Guard then slowly troops its regimental colour through the ranks of Guards Nos. 6-2.
  • After forming divisions, Nos. 1-6 Guards march past the Queen in slow and quick time.
  • To music from the mounted band, the King’s Troop leads the Household Cavalry past the Queen, first in walk-march and then in sitting-trot (i.e. slow and quick time for the horses). The mounted band then salute the Queen as they walk off.
  • Finally, led by the Sovereign’s Escort, the massed bands play the Queen back to Buckingham Palace, the foot guards following.

Ceremonial Commands and Troop Movements

The entire parade is supervised by the Field Officer in Brigade Waiting (sometimes shortened to “Field Officer”), with the assistance of the Brigade Major and the Adjutant, all on horseback, and joined by the London District Garrison Sergeant Major, who is unmounted and coordinates the proceedings of the ceremony.

March On

A detail of guardsmen bearing marker flags marches on, to mark the positions of Nos. 1-6 Guards (These marker flags are the respective company colours from each regiment).

Preceded by their regimental bands, Nos. 1-6 Guards march into position. No. 1 Guard is “Escort for the Colour.”

  • Nos. 1-5 Guards align in two ranks 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 Street.
  • Adjacent to No. 6 Guard is the Colour Party made up of 3 soldiers. A snare drummer joins them in the march on. As the party takes its place the drummer marches off and the colour’s casing is removed, revealing the colour to be trooped.
  • The King’s Troop, the Household Cavalry, and their mounted band form up behind Nos. 1-5 Guards.

With the foot guards in their home service order and the mounted band in state dress uniform, the assembled ranks of Household Division make a colourful spectacle.

Guards half-companies line up on the road to Horse Guards Parade to provide security to the Royal Family that will arrive later and to the marching and mounted contingents.

Arrival of the Sovereign

Preceding the sovereign, senior members of the Royal Family, in attendance but not on parade, arrive in barouches to view the ceremony from a central first floor window in the Duke of Wellington’s former office in Horse Guards Building. This procession turns at the Guards Memorial, and No. 3 Guard has opened ranks to allow their carriages to pass.

Preceded by the Sovereign’s Escort, the Queen (Colonel-in-Chief) journeys from Buckingham Palace down the Mall, in a carriage. Directly behind the Queen in the Royal Procession ride the Royal Colonels – the Prince of Wales (Welsh Guards), Duke of Kent (Scots Guards), Princess Royal (Blues and Royals), Duke of York (Grenadier Guards), and the Duke of Cambridge (Irish Guards) – who are followed by the non-royal Colonels of Regiments (those of the Coldstream Guards and the Life Guards). Other officers of the Household Division and of the Royal Household follow, all mounted, including the Master of the Horse, the Major-General commanding the Household Division with his Chief of staff and Aide-de-camp, Silver Stick-in-Waiting, the regimental Adjutants and a number of the Queen’s Equerries.

As the carriage arrives on Horse Guards Parade, the Royal Standard is prepared to be released and flown from the roof of Horse Guards. As the carriage passes behind the colour to the trooped, the head coachman, whip in hand, renders honours to it. The Queen alights at the Saluting Base to start the ceremonies.

The Field Officer commences the Parade with the command: “Guards – Royal Salute – Present Arms!” and the national anthem (God Save The Queen) is played by the Household Division’s Foot Guards Massed Bands, led by the Senior Director of Music of the Household Division. Simultaneously, the Royal Standard is formally released and flies from the Horse Guards flagpole. This tradition was broken in the 2015 parade, as the salute and the playing of the National Anthem happened as the Queen approached the Saluting Base together with the Duke of Edinburgh, while the Royal Standard was released at the same time.

Inspection of the Line

The Queen re-enters the carriage and is driven before and behind the long line of assembled guards, with the Royal Colonels following, in parades wherein the National Anthem is played at her arrival on the field, the carriage only passes by the base as it moves forward to the line. 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 accompanying marches always carry a flavour of the regiment whose colour is being trooped, lending the royal inspection a unique atmosphere. For example, if the Welsh Guards are trooping their colour, the music will include their traditional regimental march, Men of Harlech. While the Queen passes the six companies of foot guards on her left, a slow march or air is played. Once the phaeton turns around the rear of No. 6 Guard, the music changes to a quick march. The Queen is conveyed back up the line, passing the Household Cavalry and King’s Troop stationed on her right, with the head coachman saluting the Sovereign’s Standard of the Household Cavalry and the lead gun of the King’s Troop in quick succession with a whip. The inspection completed, the music ceases, and she is conveyed back to the saluting base.

Massed Bands Troop

With the Queen once more seated at the saluting base, the command “Troop!” is given by the Field Officer. This is not to be confused with the trooping of the colour itself, which occurs later in the ceremony. Three strikes on a bass drum give the signal for the Massed Bands to start their march.

The Guards, after standing at attention, change arms. Under the command of the Senior Drum Major, the Massed Bands march and countermarch on Horse Guards Parade in slow and quick time. The slow march music is traditionally the Waltz from Les Huguenots. During the quick march, a lone drummer from the Corps of Drums breaks away from the massed bands, marching to two paces to the right of No. 1 Guard to take his post while the band marches on, stopping just near the colour party.

The Trooping of the Colour phase of the ceremony is initiated by the lone drummer’s eight-bar “Drummer’s Call”, signalling the Captain of No. 1 Guard to cede his command to the Subaltern of No.1 Guard and move to take his new position at the right of No.2 Guard. It slopes arms, while the Field Officer directs the other companies present to change arms and stand at ease. The call having been sounded, the lone drummer returns to the Massed Bands.

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 (RSM), positioned behind the Escort for the Colour, thus freeing the RSM to draw his sword – the only time a British Army infantry warrant officer ever does so on parade. The Subaltern then commands No. 1 Guard to move into close order, and then dresses it. Then, led by the Subaltern with the Ensign following, and with the Regimental Sergeant-Major marching behind the company, the Escort for the Colour quick marches onto the field to “The British Grenadiers”. (This tune is always used irrespective of which regiment’s colour is being trooped, because the right flank of every battalion used to be a grenadier company.) A guardsman behind the colour party marches forward towards the Colour Sergeant of the colour party at the same time during the Escort approaching then hands over the rifle to the Colour Sergeant, salutes the colour and leaves the parade ground. The Escort marks time while the Massed Bands “clear the line of march” and move to the front of the Guards and mark time. Fifteen steps away from the Colour Party, the music halts and four paces later, the ‘Escort for the Colour’ halts in place, and is ordered to open ranks and dressed, followed by the Massed Bands making an about turn.

The guards are then called to attention and then change and slope arms under the direction of the Field Officer, while the Household Cavalry are also called to attention by the commander of the Sovereign’s Escort.

The RSM marches around 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 change and then slope arms. The RSM 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.

Having obtained their colour, No. 1 Guard (formerly known as “Escort for the Colour”) is now termed “Escort to the Colour.” By then, the massed bands, now with the line cleared, face front, with the Corps of Drums, pipe bands and the senior director of music leading.

The Escort Positions Itself to Troop its Colour

To the first six bars of “God Save the Queen”, the Escort to the Colour presents arms; simultaneously, turning outward at an angle of 45°, the NCOs (non-commissioned officers) at the four corners (or flanks) of the Escort port arms, as symbolic maximum protection for the colour.

The Escort to the Colour and Colour Party slope arms. The Colour Sergeant marches to the right and to the rear of the Escort. Once the Colour Party, Ensign and Regimental Sergeant-Major have joined the Escort, the RSM repositions himself to the left of and behind the Escort. The Subaltern then orders the Escort to change arms and orders the slow march.

Spinwheel of the Massed Bands

As the Escort to the Colour slow-marches down the field towards No. 6 Guard to begin their colour trooping, the massed bands perform their unique anti-clockwise “spinwheel” manoeuvre. This, a 90° turn in restricted space, is performed while playing the slow march “Escort to the Colour.”

Prime responsibility for the celebrated spinwheel, which is largely individual and instinctive, rests with the Garrison Sergeant Major.

A ‘wheel’ is not an easy manoeuvre with even a small body of troops, and with a block of 400 men the normal wheel is impossible. The massed band therefore pivots on its own centre, so that certain outer ranks and files march long distances in a hurry while the centre and inner ranks loiter with extreme intent, or merely mark time. Yet others not only step sideways but backwards as well. This highly complex movement is called a ‘spin-wheel’, the details of which can be found in no drill book or manual of ceremonial. Its complexity defies description, and if the truth were known, many of the participants know not whither they go or, on arrival, how they got there. The spin-wheel is almost an art form and each performance of it, although similar in essentials, is different in detail. Most of the performers are adjusting their actions to suit the needs of the spin-wheel of the moment, having adjusted their movements quite otherwise on other occasions.

Once the Escort reaches the edge of No. 6 Guard, the music stops, and the Field Officer in Brigade Waiting orders the entire parade (except the Escort) to present arms as the trooping proper starts. The music changes to “The Grenadiers’ Slow March.”

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 long line 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. As this is done the Massed Bands move back in slow time to their original places.

Eventually the Escort arrives back at its original position as No. 1 Guard – from where it first marched off in quick time. Their 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 and King’s Troop, also in slow and quick time.

Preparing for the 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, following which the Adjutant commands “Guides, steady”, giving signal to the company guides to resume their positions. 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, but instead it moves close-order position then to the right in threes after Nos. 1 to 5 Guards turn back to advance position.

Once intervals are established, the Field Officer salutes the Queen and informs her that the foot guards are ready to march past, then commands, “Guards will march past in slow and quick time. Slow march.” No. 6 Guard will left turn to be advance and then form two ranks on marching after the parade has started to execute the slow march.

Foot Guards March Past in Slow and Quick Time

No. 1 Guard – the Escort – leads the six companies for two circuits of Horse Guards Parade, saluting the Queen as they pass. The corners of the field are negotiated with the complex Left Form manoeuvre. Commands of “Change direction – left!” are then followed by the Left Guide (or Right Guide) of each Guard signalling “Right Sir!” to the Captain that the company has reached the position, the Captain will immediately orders “Left…Form!”

At the end of both the slow and quick march-past, the Field Officer rides out to salute the Queen with his sword, telling her that her Majesty’s Guards have ended their march-past.

Slow March-Past

Neutral slow marches start and conclude this section as the Massed Bands march into the centre of the field to take their places. 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.

To the strains of their distinctive regimental slow 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 colour. Once past the saluting base, the colour is raised again – the ‘recover’ – and “eyes front” is ordered.

Each company’s salute is acknowledged by the Queen and the Royal Colonels.

Quick March-Past

For this circuit, the colour is at the rear of the Escort (No. 1 Guard), protected by the Colour Party. Their regimental quick 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, but only with the eyes right instead. As with the slow march-past, neutral marches start and conclude this section, and the Colour is marched on past the saluting base as the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh (during his lifetime prior to his death in 2021) and Royal Colonels salute it.

The massed bands, led by the Corps of Drums and the pipes and drums, march away to allow the mounted bands on to the ground. By then, the foot guards have ended their march, and are now back in place and dressed.

Mounted Troops Ride Past

The now sole Mounted Band of the Household Cavalry in state dress, led by the two drum horses representing the two constituent regiments of the Household Cavalry, and the Director of Music of the Household Cavalry, ride slowly on to the field, traditionally to the tune “Preobrajensky.”

It is the turn of 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. Since 1997, the mounted contingent is led by the commander of the King’s Troop and then by the Sovereign’s Escort commander.

In both turns of the ride past the Foot Guards present arms as per the Field Officer’s orders.


Salutes are again given to the Queen, and returned by her and the Royal Colonels to the colours as they pass by.

The Royal Horse Artillery, marching to the “Royal Artillery Slow March” and then the “March from Aida”, is first, taking precedence over all other units when on parade with its guns. When the King’s Troop passes the saluting base, the Queen acknowledges the leading gun as the colour.

The Life Guards, in red jackets and white plumes, are next, followed by the Blues and Royals, in blue jackets and red plumes. The sequence of regimental marches is: “Life Guards’ Slow March”, followed by “Blues and Royals’ Slow March”, and then “The Royals.”

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).

The two Household Cavalry regiments take turns to parade and the job of parading the Queen’s Cavalry Standard of either of the two regiments alternates yearly between the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals. As the standard passes by, it is flourished (dipped), in the presence of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh (pre-2021) and the Royal Colonels and after walking past them is recovered.


A state trumpeter of either of the two Household Cavalry regiments plays “The Trot” to signal the beginning of the sitting trot-past. “The Keel Row” is traditionally played, and much dust is raised by the horses. Both the King’s Troop’s lead gun and the Queen’s Cavalry Standard (not dipped) are trotted in the presence of the Queen and the Royal Colonels as they salute them.

As the trot-past ends the mounted band salutes the Queen, the drumhorse riders crossing their drumsticks above their heads. They then proceed back to the east side of Horse Guards Parade and halt in place.

Preparing for March-Off

Their director of music turns inwards on his horse as a signal to the Field Officer that the Household Cavalry and the King’s Troop are now in position to formally end the proceedings under the command of the Field Officer.

During the final Royal Salute, as the parade renders their birthday wishes from all 7 regiments of the Household Division to their colonel-in-chief, the colour of No. 1 Guard is lowered to the ground by the Ensign while “God Save the Queen” is played by the Massed Bands. Forming divisions once more, accompanied by the Corps of Drums, the guards prepare to march off, and the Household Cavalry and the King’s Troop leave the field. The Field Officer, after forming the parade for the march-off, then rides towards the saluting base, informing the Queen that the guards are ready to march off the field while the RSM of the Escort returns his sword into his scabbard as an orderly returns to him his pace stick.

The King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery leaves Horse Guards Parade and proceeds to Green Park (adjacent to Buckingham Palace) to formally commence the royal 41-gun salute. At the same time in the Tower of London, the Honourable Artillery Company takes its positions in the tower grounds for the special 62-gun salute that will be happen when the Queen arrives. This gun salute is only done by the HAC during royal anniversaries.

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 then march off the grounds carrying the regimental company colours on the marker flags. The King’s Troop and the HAC, now in place, get ready to commence firing their respective gun salutes during the Royal Family’s arrival at the palace. At the same time, the old and new Queen’s Guards, now performing the Changing of the Guard in the palace forecourt at the same time as the ceremony being done, also prepare for the royal carriages’ arrival and to salute the Queen on her carriage when she arrives.

After the Ceremony

When the Queen returns to Buckingham Palace, the first division of the Escort to the Colour forms into two detachments of the new guard and enters the forecourt, opposite the old guard; but unlike the usual Changing of the Guard, the Regimental Sergeant Major participates in the ceremony. The remainder of the guards perform a march-past outside the gateway, in quick time instead of the usual slow time, with the Queen, positioned before the central gateway, receiving their salute. As the guards march past, their regimental marches are played by the massed and mounted bands respectively. The rest of the Royal Family observes the march-past from the balcony.

The Queen’s carriage passes into the palace between the Old and New Guards, with both guards saluting her. The usual semi-daily Changing of the Guard continues on the forecourt of the palace.

The gun salutes begin on the arrival of the Queen at Buckingham Palace, with the King’s Troop firing a 41-gun royal salute in Green Park and the Honourable Artillery Company firing a 62-gun royal salute from the Tower of London grounds.

Finally, the Queen and the Royal Family on the palace balcony witness a flypast by the Royal Air Force, often featuring the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Red Arrows. This is once again followed by the National Anthem and in special years, a feu de joie followed by the shouting of the three cheers to the Queen on behalf of the entire Household Division.

Regimental Marches of the Foot Guards

Below are links to words and music of the regimental marches of the five foot guards regiments.

  • Slow marches:
    • Grenadier Guards: “The March from Scipio”, composed for the First Guards (Grenadier Guards) by Handel. It was presented by Handel to the Regiment before its inclusion in his opera Scipione which was first performed in 1726 (The title and composer’s name are anglicised by the Regiment).
    • Coldstream Guards: “Figaro” (the tune is “Non piu andrai” from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro).
    • Scots Guards: “The Garb of Old Gaul” Lyrics and Music.
    • Irish Guards: “Let Erin Remember” Lyrics and Music.
    • Welsh Guards: “Men of Harlech” Lyrics and Music.
  • Quick marches (music for all five regiments’ quick marches):
    • Grenadier Guards: “The British Grenadiers” Lyrics and melody-notation and Music
    • Coldstream Guards: “Milanollo.” This march was composed by J V Hamm in honour of a pair of violin-playing child prodigy sisters, Teresa and Maria Milanollo, who performed in England in the mid-19th century during their extensive European tours.
    • Scots Guards: “Hielan’ Laddie” (Listen).
    • Irish Guards: “Saint Patrick’s Day” (Listen) whose lyrics were the poem “Pulse of an Irishman” (Beethoven composed an arrangement of the march as part of a song cycle of Scots and Irish tunes).
    • Welsh Guards: “The Rising of the Lark” (Listen) Lyrics and Music.

Regiments Trooping the Colour

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

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. No. incremental companies, however, serve for their respective 3rd Battalions, as well as for the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Irish and Welsh Guards.

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. This gives some of the units little time to practise 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.

Trooping the Colour in Other Countries and Territories


In Australia the Trooping the Queen’s Colour takes place annually on the Queen’s Birthday Holiday by the staff cadets of Royal Military College, Duntroon in Canberra, formerly at the RMC parade grounds and now at Rod Point at the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. The Queen’s colour was trooped there for the first time on the Queen’s Birthday Parade in 1956, a practice which has continued since then. Colours were first presented to the Corps of Staff Cadets by His Majesty King George VI when, as Duke of York, he visited Australia in 1927. These colours are now lodged in the college’s Patterson Hall. Colours were again presented by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 10 May 1988 and most recently on 22 October 2011 during a brief visit to Australia, coinciding with RMC Duntroon’s centenary year.

The Champion Company of the Corps of Staff Cadets is named after the Sovereign’s Company and it carries the Queen Elizabeth II’s banner, which was first presented to the Corps of Staff Cadets by Her Majesty the Queen Mother on February 26, 1958. The Sovereign’s Company is entitled to carry the banner on all ceremonial parades as well as escorting the Queen’s colour during the Trooping the Colour. The Governor-General of Australia, being Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth, is the reviewing officer of the parade, and since the move to Rod Field, has been attended by the public as well.


The Trooping of the Colour in Hamilton is held on Front Street by troops of the Royal Bermuda Regiment (who make up No. 1 Guard), as well as supporting units of the Bermuda Police Service and the Bermuda Junior Leaders (RBR). The presiding officer of the ceremony is the Governor of Bermuda, who inspects the units at the start. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the guards conduct a Feu de joie, followed by a 21-gun salute and three cheers to the Sovereign.


In Canada the Trooping the Colour ceremony on Parliament Hill 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. Trooping the Colour ceremonies have also taken place at Rideau Hall. New colours may also be trooped when they are presented. Colours are also trooped during unit anniversaries. In Ottawa, should any of the above be absent for the ceremony, the salute is taken by the Minister of National Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff, and the Regimental Colour is trooped instead. The ceremony was first performed on a national scale in Canada in 1939, during the royal tour that year. Earlier versions of the event were held in relation to the regiment, with one of the first to occur since the Confederation of Canada taking place over two weeks later on 18 July 1867, with The Royal Canadian Regiment trooping on the Champ de Mars in Montreal. The first major ceremony since 1939 took place in 1953 during the coronation day ceremonies in front of Centre Block that included the Trooping of the Colour in front of Governor-General Vincent Massey. In 1958, it became a regular event on Dominion Day.


In Ghana, the traditional Trooping the Colour ceremony is held annually during the Independence Day celebrations on 06 March. The escort for the colour is mounted by the Ghana Army and has the task of retrieving the ceremonial colours of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, alongside the Flag of Ghana. After the escort presents arms to God Bless Our Homeland Ghana, the escort for the colour then marches off to the tune of the British grenadier guards in slow time. The ceremony takes place on Black Star Square, where the national salute is taken by the President of Ghana in his, or her, position as commander in chief of the Ghana Armed Forces. Musical accompaniment is provided by the combined massed bands of the Ghana Armed Forces Central Band and school marching bands.


Jordan hosted its first Trooping the Colour – the first in the Middle East – in June 2016 celebrating the centenary of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The Parade was the official celebrations of the centennial of the Great Arab Revolt (Arabic: الاحتفالات الرسمية لمئوية الثورة العربية الكبرى‎) or Arab Revolt Parade on coverage online. In 2017, the Trooping of the Colour (officially known as the Flag Parade) was moved to September and is held annually. Around 1,000 troops take part in the parade, which is held yearly in Amman, the national capital. Al Rayah Square (Square of the Emblem) was specially built for this occasion near the royal court. It stands on an area of 6,300 square metres and can host up to 5,000 people. In the parade, the King awards the Colours of the Arab Revolt to one of the army’s battalions which holds it until the next Trooping the Colour.

In 2016, the colours went to the 28th Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II Rangers Brigade. In 2017, the colours were awarded to the 39th Ja’far bin Abi Talib Infantry Battalion. In 2018, the colours were in the possession of the 9th Prince Mohammed Mechanised Battalion.


Kenya is one of three African countries that still practises the traditional British ceremony of Trooping the Colour.

This takes place every 12 December on Jamhuri Day (the day when Kenya became an independent nation and later a republic), but unlike the British one all the three services of the Kenya Defence Forces takes part in the Trooping the colour. The service branch whose battalion is trooping the colour provides number one and number two guards.

The ceremony normally begins at 11:30 after the arrival of the President of Kenya, who takes the national salute as the national anthem and the anthem of the East African Community are played by the massed bands. After finishing his inspection of the parade, the bands play a slow march followed with a quick march, during which the lone drummer then breaks away to take his position beside number one guard to play the drummers call, signalling the officers of No.1 Guard to take positions to receive the colour and the Guard’s RSM removing his pace stick and then unsheathing his sword. The escort for the colour then marches off to collect the colour as the massed KDF band play either The British Grenadiers or a locally composed march, after which the escort halts in position. After the hand over and as the Escort presents arms the first verse of the Kenya national anthem is played, then the escort to the colour marches off in a slow march to the tune of The Grenadiers’ Slow March. The first tune normally played during the march in slow time is always ‘By land and sea’.


Also part of the Commonwealth, Malaysia performs Trooping the Colours every first Saturday in June, the official birthday of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the elected Malaysian King, in front of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the Raja Permaisuri Agong, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Deputy Prime Minister, and other officials of the Government, and officers of the Malaysian Armed Forces, of which the King is the Commander-in-Chief as prescribed by the Malaysian Constitution of 1957 as amended.

The Malaysian trooping coincides with the publication of an Honours List for the King’s Birthday on the same day. It also incorporates many elements of the British Trooping ceremony, including a Royal Procession before and after the parade, The Sovereign’s Escort, Saluting Base at Merdeka Square or at the Merdeka Stadium, Royal Inspection, the duties of Field Officer, Major of the Parade and Adjutant officers and the NCO duties of Regt. Sergeant Majors and Colour Sergeants, the Royal Salute, 21-gun salutes by the Royal Regiment of Artillery, and flypasts (flying the Malaysian flag and the flags of the Armed forces). It is conducted in Malay and includes prayers, in the Islamic traditions of the Malaysian Armed Forces. Motorized vehicles are used in the Royal Procession from the Royal Malaysian Police. The main differences are that five colours are trooped, covering all three branches of the Armed Forces, and some of marches played are locally composed. This threefold representation is reflected in the composition of the Colours Party, the Escort for/to the Colours and the Massed Military Bands in attendance.

The 2014 event was held on Friday, 13 June, at Kem Perdana, Sungai Besi, which was a departure from normal tradition of the Saturday troopings. This was the very first time in Malaysian history that Trooping the Colour was held on the Friday in June closest to the King’s Birthday, rather than the traditional first Saturday of the month. In an old tradition which resumed in 2016 at the National Heroes’ Square, Putrajaya, if the celebrations fall on Ramadan, then the birthday parade is held on the Friday before 29 July, Heroes’ Day.

For the first time in history, the traditional Trooping the Colours was held on 19 September 2017, the Tuesday after Malaysia Day, in National Heroes’ Square, Putrajaya, given the decision to move the King’s Birthday to the Monday following Hari Merdeka. Thus, the Trooping the Colours in Putrajaya ends more than a month of national celebrations in honour of the anniversary of Malaysian independence in 1957 and the formation of the armed forces in 1932.


Given Malta’s history as a former British dominion, the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) performs Trooping the Colour every 13 December in celebration of Republic Day at St. George’s Square in Valletta, the national capital. The salute is taken by the President of Malta, who is the commander in chief of the AFM.

The units that provide the colour and official band are from the 1st Regiment, Armed Forces of Malta and the Armed Forces of Malta Band.


On 25 April 1954, a date which was later designated as Tanlwe Chaung Day, the Rhodesian African Rifles performed the first ever Trooping of the Colour in Southern Rhodesia in the presence of Governor General Lord Llewellin.

The Rhodesian Light Infantry trooped their Colour for the only time on 27 July 1970 at Cranborne Barracks, with the Mayor of Salisbury (now Harare), the Minister of Defence Jack Howman, Prime Minister Ian Smith and the commanding officer of the Rhodesian African Rifles in attendance. Regimental Sergeant Major Robin Tarr began the proceedings at 10:35, after which the Rhodesian African Rifles Band and Drums began playing the RLI’s slow march, The Incredibles, as the RLI troopers marched onto the parade square. The regimental colour was then trooped before finally the RLI men performed a march-past in slow and quick time.


The Singapore Armed Forces performs Trooping the Colours annually in the SAF Day Parade on 01 July. It is toned down as compared to the British version and is done after the awarding of the State Colours to the Best units of the Army, Navy and Air Force. If new Colours have been consecrated on SAF day, they are usually included in the Trooping, but if otherwise, are Trooped on a separate day. The Escorts to the Colour (No.1 Guard) are usually formed by the Singapore Armed Forces Military Police Command, while Nos. 2-4 Guards are composed of personnel from the SAF National Day Parade Guard of Honour Companies. Unlike the British parade, it has supporting contingents that march past as well.

The salute is taken by the President of Singapore, the Prime Minister of Singapore, and the Chief of Defence Force, while the band in attendance is either the SAF Central Band or the SAF Ceremonial Band A (both from the Singapore Armed Forces Bands).

The No.2 Guard is usually made up of personnel from the Singapore Army’s Best Army Unit Competition winner for the current year, typically the 1st Commando Battalion, Singapore Armed Forces Commando Formation. Of Nos. 3 and 4 Guards, these are, as of recent NDPs, formed up of the Naval Diving Unit and the Air Power Generation Command.


The Ugandan Armed Forces performs a Trooping the Colour on Independence Day on Kololo Ceremonial Grounds in the national capital, with salute being taken by the President of Uganda.


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