This year, King Charles will have two birthdays for the first time in his life. The Trooping the Colour parade on June 17 is traditionally seen as the public birthday of the reigning monarch, though Charles was born on November 14.
The King will take the Salute as Colonel in Chief of the seven regiments of the Household Division at the Birthday Parade on Horse Guards Parade, Buckingham Palace has announced. For the first time in 30 years, Charles will reinstate the tradition of the reigning monarch riding on horseback.
Yet there might be one considerable risk for Charles. As he’s experienced problems with his back – ironically as a result of riding a horse – the public celebration might leave him with a significant health issue in the long run.
Trooping the Colour has been a beloved royal tradition for hundreds of years. The Royal Museums Greenwich states that the tradition was first started by King George II in 1748.
What is Trooping the Colour? – history, origin
As his birthday in November was said to have been too cold to celebrate outside with a parade, they decided to have his military parade – Trooping the Colour – alongside the public celebration in the summer instead. Therefore, unless they happen to be born on the same day, Britain’s reigning monarch celebrates two birthdays a year. Trooping the Colour typically takes place every year on the second Saturday in June.
According to the Royal Museums Greenwich, Trooping the Colour has its origins on the battlefield. A regiment’s flag, also known as “colors,” was ever an important rallying point for soldiers in battle.
“To ensure that every soldier would be able to recognize their colors, the flag would be marched or ‘trooped’ regularly around the ranks. A regiment’s colors came to have huge significance for serving soldiers, and the gain or loss of colors were seen as decisive moments in battle,” the Royal Museums Greenwich shares on its website.
“This military function gained royal significance during the reign of George II, the first monarch to tie his birthday celebrations into the summer ceremony – even though his actual birthday was in November.
“[King] Edward VII also had a November birthday, and it was during his reign that the summer ‘official’ birthday celebrations were standardized. It was also under [King] Edward VII that the inspection of the troops by the monarch became part of the celebration.”
Over 1,400 soldiers, 400 horses, and 400 musicians participate in Trooping the Colour celebrations. Tradition holds that the monarch will receive a royal salute as he arrives and inspects the troops. The soldiers will wear traditional and classic red ceremonial uniforms, as well as bearskin hats.
King Charles to revive the tradition of riding on horseback for the Trooping the Colour procession
Usually, Royal Family members travel in carriages drawn by horses or horseback, though the monarch has historically been on horseback. The late Queen Elizabeth rode in the parade for the last time in 1986 due to her advanced years. Not so surprising considering that she was 60 years old at the time.
As for this year, though, Buckingham Palace has announced that King Charles will revive the tradition of the monarch riding on horseback. Buckingham Palace confirmed that the 74-year-old will jump in the saddle and lead the troops and his family for the parade.
“His Majesty The King will take the Salute as Colonel in Chief of the seven regiments of the Household Division, at the Birthday Parade on Horse Guards Parade, on Saturday, June 17, 2023,” the palace wrote in a statement.
“Marking the first time that the reigning Monarch has ridden at Trooping the Colour since 1986, when Queen Elizabeth II last rode, The King will join His Majesty’s Birthday Parade on horseback.”
King Charles has attended the Trooping the Colour event since he was a child. He first witnessed his grandfather, King George VI, on horseback and then his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
The procession will take the royals from Buckingham Palace to the Horse Guards Parade by way of the Mall. They will then return to the Palace, walk onto the balcony and watch the Royal Air Force end the day with a colorful flypast. There will also be a 41-gun salute in Green Park, a short distance away.
It’s important to remember that the Royal Family doesn’t only hold royal titles such as King/Queen, Prince/Princess, and Duke/Duchess. They also hold various honorary ranks in the Armed Forces, as do their horses.
Riding on horseback could harm King Charles’ back
King Charles became the colonel-in-chief of the seven regiments of the household division when his mother passed away. Shortly after, the King announced that Prince William had taken over as colonel of the Welsh Guards.
Meanwhile, Kate Middleton became honorary colonel of the Irish Guards, and Queen Camilla became colonel of the Grenadier Guards. Princess Anne still serves as colonel of the Blues and Royals, and Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, continues to serve as colonel of the Scots Guards.
On Saturday, eight days before the big celebration, Prince William was seen leading the rehearsal for the big Trooping the Colour parade with The Welsh Guards to ensure they were ready for the historic day. The regiment has the honor of Trooping the Colour at the parade this year, and their flag will be presented in front of the king.
“The purpose of the Colonel’s review is to decide that they are ready for the monarch,” an army source told People Magazine.
The fact that King Charles will be riding in the Trooping the Colour procession is, of course, a wonderful thing. But in reality, his being on horseback could negatively impact his back. The King has had problems with his back for many years – and several accidents while playing polo hardly made things better.
In Prince Harry’s memoir Spare – released earlier this year – he revealed many things about the royals, especially his father. The Duke of Sussex claimed that he didn’t even get a hug from King Charles after he received the news that his mother, Princess Diana, had died. Harry alleged his father was largely absent while he and his brother William were grieving.
“Constant pain” after polo accident
Indeed, Harry didn’t hold back when discussing his father in Spare. He also broke royal protocol after revealing how King Charles was in “constant pain” due to an old polo accident.
Polo has always been a traditional royal sport. Naturally, charging around on horseback after a ball can be highly dangerous.
In 1991, then-Prince Charles was in a polo accident that saw him kicked by a horse, suffering two fractures in his right arm. As per reports, the injury didn’t heal properly, and the arm was reset three months later.
He then aggravated his back injury three years later when he fell off a horse at Windsor.
“Prescribed by his physio, these exercises were the only effective remedy for the constant pain in Pa’s neck, and back,” Harry wrote.
Explaining how King Charles hurt his back, the Duke of Sussex noted: “Old polo injuries, mostly.” In a passage in Spare, Harry wrote about the scary incident that saw King Charles wounded during a polo match.
“As a boy, I’d seen Pa take [a hard] fall, the horse giving way, the ground simultaneously smacking and swallowing him. I remembered thinking: ‘Why’s Pa snoring?’ And then someone yelling: ‘He’s swallowed his tongue!” Harry wrote, “A quick-thinking player jumped from his horse and saved Pa’s life.”
Sadly, Charles’ ill fortune on horseback didn’t end there.
In 1998, he broke a rib after falling from his horse while fox hunting. In 2021, Charles reportedly fractured a bone in his shoulder when he fell off another horse during another hunt. And even that wasn’t the end of it!
King Charles was unconscious after falling off his horse
Later the same year, he was forced to spend the night at the hospital after falling off his horse while playing polo.
Charles was participating in a charity match in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, at the time of the accident. He briefly lost consciousness but luckily didn’t break any bones in the fall.
“He was unconscious for a very brief time, was taken to the local hospital, and is now being transferred to Cheltenham General Hospital where he will stay for a precautionary overnight stay,” spokesman Patrick Harrison said at the time.
The Royal Family has never confirmed or denied what Harry claimed in Spare. It’s likely Buckingham Palace will never release a statement on the Duke’s tell-all memoir and its allegations against the Royal Family. However, the fact that Charles has had problems with his back has been confirmed in the past by the man himself.
In August 2021, during a conversation with Poet laureate Simon Armitage, King Charles admitted that he has struggled with back issues. He explained how he’s enthusiastic about growing flowers and planting trees. However, the process of gardening isn’t as enjoyable as it once was, as he struggles with pain in his back.
“I’d give anything to be more hands-on. But it’s the time that’s always the problem,” King Charles said.
“I love planting trees and plants, but my problem now is my back’s not so good. So I spend my life trying to do it on my knees. Which is all very well but digging on your knees is an interesting business.”
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