Have a quick look at our Top 10 list of annual events and you'll see that Trooping the Colour is at number one. That's because this parade has absolutely everything that a tourist could wish for: marching soldiers, military bands, the Royal Family in their carriages, the Queen on the balcony, and a deafening flypast by the RAF. Unfortunately it also has a colossal crowd of thousands, and several hours of waiting around doing nothing, but hey... we think it's worth it!
Trooping the Colour marks the second of the Queen's two birthdays. (Her real birthday is on the 21st April, but tradition dictates that we celebrate it again during the summer, when there's a better chance of nice weather.)
The parade begins at 10 AM when a never-ending parade of foot soldiers, mounted soldiers and marching bands progress from Buckingham Palace, down The Mall, and into Horse Guards parade ground. The Queen and other leading members of the Royal Family will then follow along in open-top carriages. You need to keep your eyes open for this bit, because some of the Royals might choose to go on horseback (Prince William, Princess Anne and Harry usually do this). They'll be wearing full military uniform as well, so if you're not paying careful attention then you might dismiss them as guards.
Whilst all of this is going on the Mall will be lined with 10-foot tall soldiers in bearskins and tunics (6-feet for the soldiers themselves, plus another 4-feet for their bearskins on top!). Thousands of people will be crammed around you waving their Union Jack flags and shouting for Harry and Princess Kate (they seem to be the most popular Royals these days).
Once the parade reaches Horse Guards the Queen will get out watch the soldiers marching up and down, and the Colours (their flags) will be trooped past the Queen by the Household Division, comprising the Foot Guards and Household Cavalry. Only the people who applied for a ticket in January and February will be able to see this bit (and they would have had to have been very lucky -- because all the entries are entered into a random ballot) -- everyone else will have to stay where they are for the parade to come back again.
After the military drill on Horse Guards is over, the parade will then return up the Mall to the Palace again, and the Royal Family will disappear inside. The Queen, meanwhile, will likely exit her carriage in front of the main gates, to give another inspection before disappearing inside.
The entire Royal Family will then appear on the balcony and watch a thundering flypast by the RAF at approximately 1 PM.
Craig has been to see this parade several times, and we definitely recommend reading his review of Trooping the Colour before you go, because he gives details about the crowd-size, the best place to stand, and what time you need to arrive for the best view. Feel free to ask him a question about Trooping the Colour.
Note: If you want to enter the ballot for a seat inside Horse Guards then applications need to be made in January or February only. The ballot is then drawn in March (there is a maximum of three tickets per person). If you're successful then you'll be asked to pay a £30 fee. See householddivision.org.uk for more details about how to apply.
If you can't make the day of the actual parade (or you don't fancy the crowd size), then you can always try the two rehearsals. The first one is called The Major General's Review, and takes place two weeks before Trooping the Colour. That is followed by The Colonel's Review, which takes place one week later. Or maybe you'd like to try the State Opening of Parliament instead? You'll get a brief glimpse of the Queen there as well, but nowhere near as many soldiers. Have a read of our military parades page, and our Royal events in London page, because there is plenty more pomp and pageantry throughout the year.
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