Trooping The Colour 2024: When Is It? What's It About? And Other Questions Answered

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Last Updated 03 June 2024

Trooping The Colour 2024: When Is It? What's It About? And Other Questions Answered

Trooping the Colour is a regal slice of London pomp and ceremony that harks back to the time of Charles II. Though not for everyone, it's a well-known London tradition and a big draw for tourists. If it's up your alley, here's what you need to know.

A regimental ceremony taking place at Horseguards Parade
Atten-shun! Image: Corporal Paul Shaw/MOD via creative commons

What are these colours you speak of and why are they being trooped?

Two excellent questions. The 'colours' in this case are the various flags or standards held aloft by military regiments. Back in the days of hand-to-hand battlefield combat, these colours were a proud proclamation of who was fighting and also a useful visual aid for soldiers prone to losing their way in the melee.

For a long time now, Trooping the Colour has been a ceremony to mark the Sovereign's birthday (the one they all celebrate in June, rather than Charles' human birthday which is on 14 November). The five regiments of Foot Guards (Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards) take it in turns to parade in front of the monarch in a highly-orchestrated inspection on Horse Guards Parade.

Each ceremony entails around 1,200-2,350 soldiers plus hundreds of horses and musicians.

The Queen riding a horse next to her husband
Queen Elizabeth II doing her last Trooping the Colour on horseback, in 1986. Image: Sandpiper via creative commons

When did Trooping the Colour first take place?

Charles II was the first monarch to preside over it, although it wasn't until 1748 that Trooping the Colour was used to mark the sovereign's (i.e. George II) birthday. In 1760, the year King George III acceded to the throne, it became an annual thing.

Queen Elizabeth attended almost all of her Trooping the Colours, missing just 1955 (rail strikes) and 2020 (you-know-what).

Soldiers in red and bearskin hats lined up with rifles
1,350+ troops take part in the spectacle. Image: Jon via creative commons

When is Trooping the Colour 2024?

There are actually three:

  • The Major General's Review (Saturday 1 June 2024). It's a first rehearsal. (Tickets appear to now be sold out.)
  • The Colonel's Review (Saturday 8 June 2024). The second rehearsal — and the one that Kate Middleton was rumoured to appear at, before news of her cancer diagnosis broke.
  • The King's Birthday Parade (Saturday 15 June 2024). This is the biggie, which sees the King ride on horseback from Buckingham Palace, down The Mall to Horse Guards Parade, where the troops march slowly past the King, while he inspects the colours. The King then rides back up The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where he and family traditionally assemble on the balcony. 250 soldiers from the Foot Guards line the processional route along The Mall on 15 June too, and the special birthday ceremony is rounded off with a flyover from the RAF at 1pm. Spiffing. (Tickets are now sold out.)
Troops lining up in Horse Guards Parade
There are actually three Trooping the Colour ceremonies. Image: Ibagli via creative commons

What time is Trooping the Colour?

For each of the above, the parade begins at Horse Guards at 10.30am and finishes by 12.25pm. (Just make sure you stick around for that flyover on 15 June.)

How do I get tickets for Trooping the Colour?

You can buy tickets for Trooping the Colour for £5-£30 depending on which one you attend, and if you're sitting or standing. However, there are a couple of catches:

  • Tickets for 2024's Major General's Review appear to now be sold out.
  • Tickets for the King's Birthday Parade are available via ballot only, and you can apply for a maximum of four tickets per person. The 2024 ballot is now closed.

Is there a free option?

Absolutely. Just turn up to The Mall/the north east corner of St James's Park on any of the three dates, and you can watch for free. While you might struggle to get a good view of the actual Trooping the Colour, you should be able to catch some of the parading up and down The Mall. If you're tall enough/get there early enough.

And is it on TV?

Yes, the King's Birthday Parade on 15 June 2024 is broadcast on the BBC from about 10am.

Kate, Camilla, Harry and Meghan in a carriage
Kate probably won't be at any of the 2024 ceremonies. Image: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Washington D.C, United States via creative commons

Will the King be at Trooping the Colour?

A headshot of Charles
The guy whose benefit this is all for. Image: public domain

Despite his cancer diagnosis, the King has said that he plans to be at the 15 June Birthday Parade, although some tweaks may be made to the ceremony to make it more comfortable for him.