London weekend: Trooping the colour

The weather forecast threatened rain over the weekend, but that wasn’t going to stop me heading into the city.

Today I enjoyed the celebrations and parade, which was part of the Trooping the Colour annual event.

Coldstream guards

A well known ceremony, performed by regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies, has been a tradition since the 17th century. Since 1748 Trooping the Colour has also marked the official birthday of the British sovereign. Queen Elizabeth’s actual birthday is in fact in April, but the official celebrations take place in June.

The highlight for many of the public who have not been able to obtain tickets through the ballot, will be the chance to see the parade as it travels down The Mall, as well as catch a glimpse of the Queen and other members of the royal family.

Queen Elizabeth

Disappointingly, the queen is not required to wear the full regalia, unlike for the opening of parliament, which takes place a few weeks before.

The public wishing to watch the parade in all its glory, are advised to stand on The Mall or on the edge of St James’s Park overlooking Horse Guards. Note that access to St James’s Park from the Westminster entrance, is restricted after around 9am.

It is also worth noting that the view at the edge of St James’s Park will be somewhat obscured by troops in this position, particularly those on horse back.

We arrived at St James park via the Westminster entrance, on Saturday, just after 9am and managed to get a spot to stand. Luckily we were behind the first row, joining those that had been there since 7am.

The line up

We had a reasonable view of the initial regiments as they arrived through the gates, from The Mall, at least until the Royal Fusiliers arrived on horseback, and blocked our line of sight.

We easily spotted the Queen arriving and caught a few glimpses through the gaps between the horses, of her inspecting her troops. Then enjoyed trying to get a few photographs of the Royal family, who were evidently just tiny ‘specs’ inside the window, from such a distance.

We could just see the queen… Can you?

After a fast walk across St James’s Park, we found a reasonably good spot along the Mall, just in front of Buckingham Palace, where we could grab a few photo opportunities of the returning parade and then the flyover.

Red arrows flyover

Trooping the Colour has to be something every member of the British public should attend at least one in a lifetime, but as a tourist at this time of year, it will be an absolute highlight of your visit.

How to apply for tickets:

1. Write to the Brigade Major at Horse Guards Parade in London (there is no email), include a stamped addressed envelope or international reply coupon so you can get a reply. Send your letter and the stamped, addressed envelope to:
     Brigade Major
     HQ Household Division
     Horse Guards
     London, SW1A 2AX
2.You should get a reply with a reference number and details about the Troop, which confirms that your application has been received, not that you have tickets.
3. In March/April, you may be sent another reply from the Brigade Major, this time allocating you tickets, you will then be given the option to buy tickets (yes, they’re not free!) – the average price is about £25 per-ticket. 
Note, they can only accept cheques in UK pounds sterling from a British Bank. Credit cards are not accepted.

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