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Why does the Queen have two birthdays?

The Queen’s ‘official’ birthday is being celebrated this year on Thursday 2 June

Sabrina Barr
Thursday 02 June 2022 08:18 BST
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh sit in a carriage during the Trooping the Colour parade, 11 June 2016
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh sit in a carriage during the Trooping the Colour parade, 11 June 2016 (Getty Images)

On Thursday 21 April, Queen Elizabeth II marked her 96th birthday.

However, her “official” birthday will take place on Thursday 2 June this year.

While the Queen receives plenty of messages of goodwill from well-wishers across the globe, for some, her birthday can be a source of confusion.

This is due to the fact that the monarch’s birthday is celebrated on her actual date of birth in April, and also later on in the summer with a grand parade by Buckingham Palace.

This year, the Queen’s Birthday Parade, Trooping the Colour, will take place on 2 June to coincide with Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee weekend.

So why does the Queen celebrate two birthdays every year? Here’s everything you need to know:

When is the Queen’s actual birthday?

The Queen was born on 21 April 1926.

She was delivered at 2.40am by Caesarean section, at her maternal grandparents’ house in Mayfair.

How does the Queen celebrate her birthday?

The Queen usually celebrates her birthday privately, the royal family’s official website states.

However, the occasion is also marked with a series of gun salutes – a 41-gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21-gun salute in Windsor Great Park and a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London.

The gun salutes usually occur on the day of the monarch’s birthday. But for the last two years, due to the pandemic, the salute did not take place.

Why does the Queen have a second birthday?

The tradition of the British monarch celebrating two birthdays stems back to 1748, during the reign of King George II.

As the king’s birthday fell in late autumn, the weather wasn’t suitable for a large, public celebration in honour of his birthday.

Therefore, the monarch’s official birthday celebrations were combined with the Trooping the Colour parade in summer, a ceremony which had previously been a predominantly military affair.

When is the Queen’s second birthday?

The Queen’s second birthday, described as being her “official birthday”, usually takes place on the second Saturday of June. This year it is taking place on the first Thursday in June to coincide with the platinum jubilee.

The Queen used to mark her official birthday on the second Thursday of June, the same day her father, King George VI, used to celebrate his birthday during his reign.

However, this tradition was changed in 1959, seven years after the Queen ascended to the throne.

How does the Queen celebrate her official birthday?

The main event of the Queen’s official birthday in June is the Trooping the Colour parade.

The Trooping the Colour procession, which usually consists of more than 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians, traditionally moves from Buckingham Palace down The Mall towards the Horse Guard’s Parade.

Members of the royal family ride either on horseback or in carriages as part of the proceedings.

The parade ends with a fly-past by the RAF, which the Queen watches with the royal family from the Buckingham Palace balcony.

Last year, the event took place in Windsor instead of London and was not attended by many members of the royal family due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trooping the Colour will go ahead in its traditional form in London on Thursday 2 June instead of Saturday 11 June, which is the date of the Queen’s official birthday.

It forms part of a series of big events planned for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, to mark her 70th year on the throne.

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