On Thursday 21 April 2022, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 96th birthday.
Every year, the Queen celebrates her birthday twice, with her state birthday in June, being a large-scale public festival - led by the Trooping the Colour.
But why does Queen Elizabeth celebrate her birthday twice? Here’s what you need to know.
When is the Queen’s birthday?
Queen Elizabeth II was born on 21 April 1926 to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. This means, in 2022, she will be celebrating her 96th birthday.
The Queen spends her April birthday privately, as a more low key affair, and celebrations are mostly reserved for private celebrations with her family.
However, even though it is a low-key celebration, the occasion is marked publicly via gun salutes in central London at midday. Usually, there is a 21-gun salute in Windsor Great Park, a 41-gun salute in Hyde Park, and a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London.
21-gun salutes are an honour reserved for heads of state, stemming from a naval custom. But as Hyde Park is a Royal Park, an extra 20 are fired.
Last year, the Queen’s birthday fell a few days after the death of her husband, Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh. The gun salutes were cancelled and, she reportedly shared a quiet lunch with her closest family members at Windsor castle.
The Queen has a second ‘official’ state birthday occurring on the second Saturday in June. But, in 2022, it has been moved to Thursday 2 June to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend.
She has missed several high-profile events since spending a night in hospital last October, and also caught Covid-19 in February, which the monarch said left her “exhausted”.
Why does the Queen have two birthdays?
Delaying the official celebration of the monarch’s birthday is a tradition dating back to Georgian times, under George II.
He began the tradition in 1748 as his birthday, in November, meant he could not have the big public celebration he wanted.
King George II also decided to combine his celebration with Trooping the Colour, which is an annual military parade in the summer. Now, the Trooping the Colour has marked the official birthday of the British monarch for over 260 years.
Edward VII, the Queen’s great-great-grandfather, standardised the summer ‘official’ birthday celebrations during his reign.
The Queen originally observed her official birthday on the second Thursday of June, as that was the same day as her father, but she changed it in 1959, seven years after she became Queen, to the second Saturday of June.
However, some Commonwealth nations celebrate the Queen’s birthday on different dates.
In the majority of Australia, where the Queen is head of state, there is a public holiday on the second Monday in June, but Western Australia celebrates in September or October.
In New Zealand, it is the first Monday in June, and in Canada, it is in May.
What is Trooping the Colour?
Trooping the Colour is a military parade originating back to the 17th Century.
It is a ceremony performed by more than 1,400 parading soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians, who come together each June in one of the most joyous and esteemed military displays in the world.
The guards taking part in the parade form one of the oldest regiments of the British Army - the Household Division, who are like the Queen’s bodyguards or personal troops - and have been part of the monarchy since the English Civil War ended in 1660.
‘Colours’ was the name given to the flags representing the different regiments in the British Army.
The army used flags so soldiers could easily spot their unit on the battlefield.
Officers would march up and down in front of the troops (trooping), waving their flags (or colours), so they could see which flags belonged to which regiment.
The Trooping the Colour parade officially begins when the Queen leaves Buckingham Palace in a carriage.
She travels towards Horse Guards Parade at Whitehall, near Downing Street.
When the Queen arrives, she is greeted by a royal salute from the soldiers on parade, before inspecting the troops.
Then, the colours being trooped will be carried down the ranks and shown to the soldiers, just as the officers used to do in the past.
The Queen then leads the troops back down the Mall to Buckingham Palace for a second salute, and the official trooping is over.