Trooping The Colour

Jun 12, 2011, 2:28 PM |

   Yesterday (Sat 11 June) the sun shone down on Horse Guards Parade at the foot of The Mall for the Trooping of the Colour, a military exercise dating back nearly 300 years. A regiment's Colours (their flag) has, throughout history, been used as a rallying point in battle (and to be safe-guarded with your life if necessary) and the exercise of Trooping the Colour was a practice started back in the days of Charles II, it's purpose to parade the colours, a revered object and memorial to fallen comrades, through the ranks regularly in order that all would instantly recognise it in battle. The colours be always trooped at the mounting and dismounting of the guard, except in exceptionally bad weather. 


   When George III succeeded to the throne it was ordered that parades should mark the King's birthday, and from the accession of George IV, with the exception of the two World Wars it has gone on yearly ever since.


   The Trooping takes place on Horse Guards Parade in front of the Old Admiralty Buildings at the bottom of the Mall, the other end of which of course is the Queen’s primary residence, Buckingham Palace and she is escorted back there, via the Mall, as an end to the Parade.


   The only significant difference of Trooping the Colour on the Queen's birthday from any other military Trooping is that it is the Queen's own Colour that is trooped rather than the Colour of the regiment performing and the regiments take turns for this honour.


   The Queen's birthday is actually the day before my own on 21 April, but she has long since celebrated her birthday (known as her official birthday) on a Saturday in June in order to guarantee the likelihood of better weather for the celebration and the Trooping. 


   This year it was exceptionally good; the weather yesterday was perfect and there was a BIG sun in the sky over England and over London. The honour of Trooping the Colour this year fell to the Scots Guards and it is truly magical to watch as the world's most highly regarded and disciplined military carry out their impeccable manoeuvres to, without doubt, the music of, unequivocally, the best regimental massed bands the world over.


   All this is controlled by just one man and his horse. That man, this year, is Lieutenant Colonel (correctly pronounced, apart from one corner of the globe, LEFTenant-Colonel) Lincoln Jopp MC, and he is the commanding officer of the Scots Guards. His horse, Burniston (who you will meet if you view the videos) is a 19 year old bay mare who performed her duties admirably ~ just take a look at video 7, and particularly seven minutes in when she proudly carrries her bonded rider LC Lincoln Jopp to ask the Queen's permission for he and his Brigade to march off. On receiving permission, he has to, in respect of her majesty, ask Burliston to reign back (reverse) a few steps before turning on her own circle to rejoin his Brigade. Certainly, a daunting and nerve-racking manouevre to carry out under any circumstances, never mind in front of Queen and Country. He quietly asks this of Burliston and horse and rider elegantly take their leave! Top notch! Take a look at that video if nothing else.


   There is much much more to see in this series of course and it is well worth the time ~ in the words of Carly Simon. . . Nobody does it Better. It’s centuries of practice, training, discipline and good breeding.


   There are close on 1500 officers and men, 200 horses and more than 400 musicians from 10 regimental bands and corps of drums here on parade, and playing and marching as one. I leave you with the knowledge that to carry something like this off, horses and riders have to know each other extremely well and have a very special bond. Nearly all, when they are retired, are bought by their riders to enjoy retirement. The few that aren't bought by their riders are found homes on farms by their regiments, mostly down here in the south-west, where they live their lives out in comfort and safety. They never go to slaughter for pet food. Ask Hugh Grant of Horse and Hound fame J he’ll tell you!


   The Trooping of the Colour this year celebrates the Queen’s 85th birthday and celebrates too the 90th birthday of Prince Philip which was just the day previous on 10 June.


   The Queen these days,, due to her age, attends and inspects her troops in her Phaeton carriage and has done so since 1987.


   Prior to this time, she rode on horseback, in 1986 and the previous 17 years on her horse Burmese, a black mare given to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.


   O, and yes, Prince William was there too riding in his first Trooping of The Colour.  


   One final point of note is that there is, annually, a Queen’s birthday honours list in recognition of public service and it is worthy of note here that it has been announced that Colin Firth, 16 years after achieving heart-throb status as Jane Austen’s brooding hero Mr Darcy, is to receive a CBE in recognition of his performance as the Queen’s father George VI in The King’s Speech. It was reported a while back that she was suitably impressed and moved by his performance, and one must have been taken, otherwise this would not be happening, and one would not be bestowing this honour upon him. If you have not seen the film yet then you’re missing out ~ you can glean a little more on it in my King’s Speech blog here


   I will lay odds that she will want to make that presentation personally. 






Indubitably the best of the best.


~ m8ed ~