Trooping the Colour

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Elizabeth II in uniform as Colonel-in-Chief of the Coldstream Guards at the Trooping of the Colour ceremony.

Trooping the Colour is a military pageant or ceremony commonly performed by regiments of the Commonwealth and the British Army. It has been a tradition of British infantry regiments for centuries and it was first performed during the reign of Charles II of England. The origin of this ceremony can be traced to a time when a regiment's colours, or flags, were used as rally points for the regiment's soldiers in a the midst of chaotic battles. For this reason, regiments would frequently have their junior officers (or Ensign) march with their colours between the soldiers' ranks in slow pace during military parades so that they would recognize what their regiments' colours looked like. As regiments no longer carry their colours to battles nowadays, Trooping the Colour has become a ceremony for regiments to display their past military achievements to the general public.

British Army regiments of Foot Guards and Horse Guards, collectively known as the Household Division, still Troop the Colour at Horse Guards Parade in London as part of the Queen's Birthday celebration. Known also as the King's or Queen's Birthday Parade, Trooping the Colour by the Household Division has been performed annually since 1748 (except in bad weather, periods of mourning and other exceptional circumstances). While other regiments in the British Army and the Commonwealth still Troop the Colour, they do so much less frequently than the Household Division.

The Sovereign's Birthday Parade

Trooping the Colour in London is an important national occasion as Britain does not have a national day and many do see the Queen's Official Birthday and the Trooping ceremony as equivalent to the country's annual national celebration. There are currently five regiments of Foot Guards and one regiment of Horse Guards in the Household Division and each year one of the Foot Guard regiments will be selected to troop its colours in the ceremony. It is extremely honoured for a young officer to be selected to carry the colour in this ceremony as historically only the most courageous Ensigns were assigned to carry the regiment's colours in battles. Nowadays the honour is normally given to Foot Guards Ensigns who are good at military drill.

The number of military personnel who participate in the Trooping the Colour ceremony in London has declined over the years due to defence budget cuts in Household Division battalions as well as the battalions' requirements to commit themselves to military and peacekeeping operations overseas. However, the format of the ceremony has remained the same over the centuries following routines of old battle formations used in the Battle of Waterloo or earlier battles.

At the 1981 Trooping the Colour ceremony on 13 June, a teenager fired six blank shots in the direction of Queen Elizabeth II . Marcus Serjeant, a seventeen-year old former air cadet, had previously wished to assassinate the monarch, but could not obtain a suitable firearm. For the offence, Serjeant became the first person since 1966 to be prosecuted under the Treason Act (1842), under which he was sentenced for five years, serving three.

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