The Queen has received her official birthday present from the country’s armed forces – a ceremony full of pomp and splendor in her honor.
Windsor Castle was the setting for the spectacle known as Mini Trooping the Color, which features soldiers who supported communities and the NHS during the pandemic or who served in military operations overseas.
From her dais, the Queen watched the ceremony with guards in their scarlet tunics and bearskins and the Household Cavalry’s mounted regiment in their breastplates and feathered helmets.
The birthday parade is a gift from the Household Division – the most prestigious regiments in the army – which have close ties to the monarch and want to show their loyalty to the crown.
The traditional Trooping the Color ceremony, which normally takes place in London and is attended by hundreds of soldiers and thousands of spectators, has been ruled out for the second year in a row because of the coronavirus threat.
Lt. Col. Guy Stone, who planned the Queen’s official birthday celebrations in the Windsor Castle Quadrangle, said he wanted to create “a memorable and uplifting day” for the monarch.
After a year in which the Queen mourned her beloved husband, the Duke of Edinburgh and experienced family upheaval following the allegations made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the ceremony was a positive one.
Lt Col Stone, Brigade Major Household Division, who was also responsible for the military arrangements for Philip’s funeral, said: “It is the highlight of the year and a poignant way for the Household Division to thank Her Majesty for everything she does for the nation, especially in this challenging time. “
Guardsman stood in formation at Windsor Castle (Eddie Mulholland / The Daily Telegraph / PA)
Members of the Household Division’s Massed Band during the ceremony (Eddie Mulholland / The Daily Telegraph / PA)
The Queen’s cousin, the Duke of Kent, joined her on stage in his role as Colonel of the Scottish Guard.
The color or ceremonial flag that passed the soldiers was the color of the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards with the regiment’s F company tasked with performing the honor.
On parade in front of the Queen in the brilliant summer sunshine were a number of socially distant guardsmen, mounted soldiers and the Royal Horse Artillery of the King’s Troop.
They were joined by a large band from the Household Division – musicians from all five Foot Guards Bands and the 1st Battalion Scots Guards Pipes and Drums.
Nearly 275 soldiers and women with 70 horses were in attendance at the parade, compared to 85 soldiers who attended the ceremony last summer.
Members of the Household Cavalry set off for Windsor Castle (Andrew Matthews / PA) before the ceremony
A rare sight on the parade ground were two officers who were father and son.
Col. Jeremy Bagshaw, Army Headquarters London District Chief of Staff, stood near the Queen’s podium while his 18-year-old son, 2nd Lieutenant Henry Bagshaw, Coldstream Guards, stood before the monarch.
A small handful of seated guests lined part of the square – a change from last year when only the military was present.
The playing of the national anthem as a royal salute from soldiers signaled the beginning of the ceremony and the massed bands marched past slowly, then quickly.
They performed the feather technique, so named as it resembles the feathers of the Prince of Wales when viewed from above, and allowed the marching musicians to turn 180 degrees and keep individual distances.
A lone drummer played the drummer’s call, which signaled the group of soldiers and officers known as the Escort of Color to get into position.
Lieutenant Hugh Dingwall was given the honor of wearing the color, which has deep symbolic meaning, and it was carried through the ranks.
During the birthday parade, guardsmen from three regiments – Scots, Grenadiers and Coldstream Guards – marched past the Queen, who stood up to pay tribute to her.
The Queen during the ceremony at Windsor Castle (Chris Jackson / PA)
A few minutes later, the gravel path around the quadrangle of the castle was kicked up by the hooves of dozens of horses ridden by the Captain’s Escort – two divisions of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment – and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, which marched past the monarch were.
The Queen was also treated to the sight of the Red Arrows flying by as the ceremony drew to a close and nine jets roared over the town of Windsor, leaving red, white and blue smoke behind.
She was seen pointing up at the aerial view display in seconds as the planes passed overhead.
The Red Arrows fly over Windsor Castle to celebrate the Queen’s official birthday (Andrew Matthews / PA)
The assembled military units marched out of the square while music was played, and the Queen, wearing a matching Angela Kelly coat and hat with the teal rod brooch, waited for the whistle to stop before leaving her seat.
The King’s Troop later fired a 41-round royal salute with three of their WWI-era guns from the East Lawn of Castle to celebrate the Queen’s official birthday.