Trooping the Colour: How the Queen's annual birthday parade will differ in 2020

The second Saturday in June marks the Queen’s official birthday, and is usually when the Trooping the Colour ceremony takes place in London.

The Royal Family would be out in force, enjoying a carriage ride and military spectacle before watching a fly past from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

But like many things in 2020, coronavirus has impacted usual plans. This year, there won’t be a large parade, and it won’t even be held in London.

Instead, a much smaller version of the event will take place on 13 June in the quadrangle at Windsor Castle, where the Queen and Prince Philip have been in isolation since the middle of March.

The Queen turned 94 on 21 April, but her official celebrations continue a tradition set by King George II who took the military parade to mark his birthday when his November birthday was often blighted by rain.

What happens at Trooping the Colour?

The Household Division’s website explains: “Regimental flags of the British Army were historically described as ‘Colours’ because they displayed the uniform Colours and insignia worn by the soldiers of different units.

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“If Troops were to know what their Regiment’s Colours looked like, it was necessary to display them regularly.

“The way in which this was done was for young officers to march in between the ranks of troops formed up in lines with the Colours held high.

“This is the origin of the word ‘trooping’.”

The Household Division march down the Mall, ahead of the Trooping the Colour ceremony [Photo: PA]
The Household Division march down the Mall, ahead of the Trooping the Colour ceremony. (PA Images)

More than 1400 parading soldiers, almost 300 horses and 400 musicians take part in the event.

The parade starts at Buckingham Palace and progresses down The Mall to Horse Guard's Parade. Members of the Royal Family travel alongside the parade on horseback and in carriages.

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The Queen on horseback in the 1980s during Trooping the Colour [Photo: PA]
The Queen on horseback in the 1980s during Trooping the Colour (PA Images)

The Queen used to attend on horseback herself, but in recent years has travelled by carriage. She last rode on horseback in 1986.

Once the Queen has arrived at Horse Guard's Parade, Her Majesty is greeted by a royal salute and carries out an inspection of the troops.

The display closes with an RAF fly-past, watched by members of the Royal Family from the Buckingham Palace balcony.

What’s happening in 2020?

The Queen will view a small military ceremony in the quadrangle of the castle on 13 June, the same day the event would have been held in London.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “The ceremony will be executed by soldiers from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, who are currently on Guard at Windsor Castle, and feature music performed by a Band of the Household Division.

“Upon Her Majesty’s arrival in the Quadrangle, The Queen will be greeted by a Royal Salute. A series of military drills will then be carried out as the Band plays, and the ceremony will conclude with a second Salute before The Queen’s departure.”

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (C) and US President Donald Trump (CR) and US First Lady Melania Trump (CL) stand on the dias facing an honour guard formed of soldiers of the Coldstream Guards during a ceremonial welcome in the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle in Windsor, west of London, on July 13, 2018 on the second day of Trump's UK visit. - US President Donald Trump launched an extraordinary attack on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit strategy, plunging the transatlantic "special relationship" to a new low as they prepared to meet Friday on the second day of his tumultuous trip to Britain. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / various sources / AFP)        (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
The Quadrangle was used for a ceremonial welcome for Donald Trump and Melania Trump during the 2018 state visit. (Getty Images)

The ceremony will use the guards already at the castle to help with social distancing and to prevent any unnecessary journeys.

A colour will still be paraded as part of the military drills.

The ceremony will take place entirely in the confines of the castle, and there won’t be any viewing spots for the public.

It’s therefore highly unlikely that there will be any other members of the Royal Family present.

Who attends?

This year, 2020, it’s thought the Queen won’t have anyone with her, with her family scattered far and wide, and the ceremony purposefully held somewhere where it won’t be possible to allow others in to view.

It all has to be run in a way that adheres to social distancing rules, to keep the Queen safe.

Most years, the Queen is joined by members of the Royal Family during the parade and later on the balcony to watch the RAF fly-past.

The Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children have all previously been among the attendees. Prince Louis made his balcony debut in 2019, and his older sister Princess Charlotte was one when she first attended.

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Meghan, pictured at last year's parade, is expected to make her first public appearance since having her baby [Photo: PA]
Meghan, pictured at 2018's parade, her first after marrying Prince Harry. (PA Images)

In 2019, the Duchess of Sussex made her first public appearance since the birth of her son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. It was thought she and Prince Harry were planning to fly back to the UK for the event this year.

The Queen’s large extended family also joins the close family on the balcony.

How to watch

The ceremony will also be broadcast live on BBC One from 10:15am in the UK. It will be hosted by Huw Edwards and Sonali Shah.

Usually, members of the public can watch the parade from The Mall or on the edge of St James's Park overlooking Horse Guards..

If you want to attend in 2021, applications for Trooping the Colour are to be made via the Army website early next year. Up to a maximum of four tickets can be applied.

Anyone with a ticket for this year can expect a refund, but the Army has asked for patience as they deal with the refund procedure.