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British pageantry on parade for Queen's official birthday

By Chris Peterson in London (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2016-06-11 21:18 Comments

British pageantry on parade for Queen's official birthday

Members of the royal family, including Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge holding Princess Charlotte, Prince George, Prince William, Queen Elizabeth, and Prince Philip stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony on Horseguards Parade in central London, Britain June 11, 2016. Trooping the Colour is a ceremony to honour Queen Elizabeth's official birthday. The Queen celebrates her 90th birthday this year. [Photo/Agencies]

All the pomp and pageantry of Britain was on display today for the annual ceremony of Trooping the Colour, a parade in central London held each year to honor the monarch's official birthday, timed to coincide with the better weather of May and June. This monarch’s real birthday falls on April 21, the date on which she was born in 1926.

She has now ruled for 64 years, becoming Britain's longest reigning monarch, exceeding the reign of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

Royal guardsmen in their distinctive bright red tunics and tall bearskin helmets, known as busbies, wheeled and marched on the Horse Guards Parade in the heart of London as Queen Elizabeth II, dressed in a striking neon green coat, dress and hat, took the salute.

Until 1987 the Queen, a keen horsewoman, would take the salute on horseback, riding sidesaddle and wearing the uniform of the Colonel-in-Chief of whatever Guards regiment was heading the parade on the day.

Tens of thousands of tourists, many from China, crowded the streets to watch the ceremonies, which involved 1,000 soldiers, 200 horses and 200 musicians, some of them mounted.

The ceremony dates back to 1760, when whichever regiment was guarding the monarch – it is done in rotation – presented its colours, or regimental flag. The ritual of presenting, or trooping, the flag, dates back to the various wars British soldiers were involved in in Europe, when at the start of each day each unit’s flag was paraded in front of the troops so they would recognize them as a rallying point in the heat of battle.

A couple of things to note – the Queen always dresses in bright colours when attending official functions such as today's event to allow the crowd to spot her easily.

And the bearskin headgear worn by the Brigade of Guards, charged with protecting the Monarch and guarding her official residences, dates back to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when British forces under the Duke of Wellington defeated the Grand Armee of Napoleon Bonaparte. They were originally part of the uniform in battle of Napoleon's Imperial Guard, many of whom perished in a desperate last minute charge against British lines.

The British guardsmen were so impressed by their bravery that they adopted the headgear as a tribute that lasts until today.

After today's display of marching and music, the Royal Air Force staged a flypast, with fighters, transport aircraft, helicopters and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which includes a Supermarine Spitfire and a Hawker Hurricane, both of which saw service in World War II.

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