This morning, Her Majesty the Queen marked her 84th official birthday at the Trooping the Colour parade in central London. More than 1,400 soldiers took part in the annual display of military pomp and pageantry on London's Horse Guards Parade. She was joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, her grandson Prince William and other members of the royal family.The 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards were parading their flag colour this year. Many of the battalion's soldiers returned from Afghanistan two months ago. After the Queen took the salute on Horse Guards, the royal family headed back to Buckingham Palace where they watched a 30-aircraft strong RAF flypast. Trooping the Colour has marked the official birthday of the sovereign since the 18th century but no monarch has attended as many birthday parades as Queen Elizabeth. On Horse Guards the colour being trooped this year was that of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards - the senior regiment of infantry in the British Army. Two months ago they were serving in Afghanistan. During the six month tour of duty they lost five members of the regiment, including their Regimental Sergeant Major Darren Chant. So amid all the ceremony on Horse Guards today, there was also an element of remembrance for comrades who gave their lives on the battlefield. The flypast was led by The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - one of the events staged to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the battle. A Hurricane and Spitfire were the first aircraft to fly over the members of the Royal Family as they gathered on the Buckingham Palace balcony. They were followed by Typhoons, Tornadoes, a Nimrod R1 and the Red Arrows - the RAF's aerobatic display team.
The Colonel of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, the Duke of Edinburgh, paid tribute to the armed forces. He said: "One of the great things that the services can do is that they take ordinary people and turn them into extraordinary people. “I think that's what happens, and once they're given the proper training and motivation that interests them, that really turns them around completely and they become very remarkable people."
The tradition of two birthdays dates back to the time when, if monarchs were born in winter, the weather was deemed unsuitable for outdoor events. Traditionally before battle, colours - or flags - were carried, or "trooped", along the rank of soldiers so they could be seen and recognised. In 1748, it was decided the trooping would also be used to honour the sovereign's birthday. The Queen first took the royal salute in 1951 when she deputised for her father King George VI when he was sick. She has attended every ceremony bar one in 1955 when there was a national rail strike.
Her Majesty's actual birthday is 21 April.
This is what we, as a Nation, do best. Trooping The Colour, Beating Retreat, The Festival of Remembrance, Remembrance Sunday ~ all were a regular part of my childhood, and one that I intend to share with my son.
(Images and info obtained from the BBC.)