Review of Trooping The Colour - 2019
Women Making History at Trooping The Colour - The last full Trooping the Colour in 2019 was more than the Queen’s birthday parade, it was a significant moment in history for women
If there was ever a time when we needed an injection of national pride, it’s now. With only a few weeks until another unelected Prime Minister takes office, and with Brexit uncertainty still hanging over our heads, it’s fair to say the collective national mood is low.
Step forward the British Army and its annual Trooping the Colour event. Trooping the Colour is a celebration of Her Majesty The Queen’s official birthday and has marked the official birthday of the British Sovereign for over 260 years since King Edward VII created it in 1748. It’s a grand occasion attended by almost every member of the Royal Family and each year a different regiment of the army’s world famous Foot Guards ‘troops’ its colour. On the battlefield, a regiment’s colours (regimental flags) were used as rallying points for soldiers to recognise.
Twin Mum was invited by The British Army to attend this year’s stunning event not only to review one of the nation’s most impressive and iconic occasions but also to witness a piece of history. For the first time ever, a female member of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment took part in the ceremony.
This is a huge step forward for the British Army in terms of diversity and inclusion in a ceremony that has, for almost 300 years, been dominated by men. It’s also the first year the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, based in Knightsbridge, has been open to women to join and it took its first recruits this year.
Their Royal Highnesses The Duchesses of Cornwall and Cambridge ride down the Mall at the start of The Queen’s Birthday Parade. MoD Crown Copyright Sgt Randall RLCOnly last year the Army announced that all British Army roles are now open to women, meaning women can serve in close combat on the front line.
Some may say it’s been a long time coming, and this could be endlessly debated but for us, any move away from gender-based discrimination is a positive move. In terms of the female to male split in other regiments, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, a mounted unit, is the only Regiment in the British Army made up of 50 per cent female, 50 per cent male soldiers. This year the Regiment “trooping” its colour was the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards. It’s amazing to think that the Grenadier Guards have taken part in 78 battles throughout history, including the Napoleonic, Crimean, Boer, First and Second World Wars. Also in the second half of 2018, the very same soldiers on parade were deployed on three separate operational tours to Iraq, Afghanistan and South Sudan. So until recently, these ceremonial soldiers were serving overseas on behalf of the UK, in an operational capacity. King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, a mounted unit, is the only Regiment in the British Army made up of 50 per cent female, 50 per cent male soldiers.Trooping the Colour is certainly an event for dressing up. The Royals are famed for their outfits at this event, with huge attention on Meghan’s first ‘trooping’ outfit last year – a nude off the shoulder dress.
Then there are the Guards’ uniforms – the immaculate and bespoke-fit red tunics. My guest and I decided to co-ordinate in blue and I opted for a dress from everyone’s favourite designer of the moment – Rixo – from the new collection.
Trooping is attended by a much more of a diverse mix of people than we expected – there were families with young children, older generations who had travelled from across the country, and indeed the world, and there was also a young glamorous set. There are also a number of Army family guests attending. “It’s an opportunity for the soldiers to give something back to their family and friends that have supported us throughout our deployments” said Major Ed Paintin, of the Grenadier Guards. It’s impossible to be over dressed and there were hats a-plenty.
After being seated in the majestic Horse Guards Parade, we could hear the faint noise of a drumbeat and brass band which got louder and louder until the first marching troops appeared on the pristine square.
This huge area of prime Central London real-estate was actually created for this event hundreds of years ago. It was at this moment when the significance of this event really hit home. More troops marched onto the square in front of the packed crowd the and the spectacle began.
And what a spectacle it was. Once the soldiers were in their precise positions the Royal Family entered by horse-drawn carriages. This year we saw Meghan make her first appearance since the birth of her son Archie. Then The Queen arrived on her own to the glorious sound of the band in a horse drawn carriage.
The Queen’s carriage makes several rounds of the square, enabling everyone to wave and see her before she was seated for the ceremony. In total one thousand four hundred soldiers took part. The parade is a feat of physical, mental and emotional endurance. The soldiers make the drill moves look effortless, but the physical resilience required to complete them requires months of strength and core training.In preparing for this moment the soldiers have covered more ground than any Premier League footballer covers in a complete season and did so while carrying a 5kg weapon or musical instrument and memorizing thousands of steps and 113 verbal commands. In fact we were told that each Guardsman marched more than 270 miles in rehearsals and took more than half a million steps in total.
The effort is worth it. The parade is hugely impressive. Soldiers march perfectly in time and the horse riders in The Cavalry and The Kings Troop manage the seemingly impossible task of ensuring even the utterly pristine Queen’s horses move together as one as they trot. It was impossible not to notice how proud the first female Cavalry members were as they took their place in the ceremony.
Running for approximately an hour and a half, the parade is followed by a march down The Mall in front of more than 100,000 spectators, gun salutes and a flypast by Royal Air Force aircraft including the Red Arrows trailing red, white and blue smoke in patriotic tribute. Trooping the Colour is modern Britain at its best. Despite being a traditional event, it’s clear the British Army, with its world class skills and drills, is changing and embracing diversity and representation by women in its front line regiments.
Forget the Disneyland parade, Trooping the Colour is as close as you get to the real-life version. The horse drawn carriages, the impeccable marching, the sheer history of the event, the huge Army band playing a classical music set to rival the Last Night Of The Proms and at the centre of it all, our Queen and the British Royal family.
And judging by the roar of the crowds as the troops and Royals passed down the Mall, it’s a celebration that is restoring well-needed faith and pride in our country.