Today’s unofficial family portrait will offer a rare glimpse into the Royal Family’s whereabouts

Today is Queen Elizabeth II’s official birthday celebration, and it’s a party she has diligently attended throughout her 70-year reign.

Trooping the Color is the Sovereign’s personal inspection of British and Commonwealth regiments.

But the moment everyone will be waiting for is the Buckingham Palace balcony appearance at the end.

After two turbulent years, who shows up – and who doesn’t – will offer a rare insight into the state of the monarchy.

What is Trooping the Colour?

Trooping the Color is a ceremony that can literally be translated as “carrying the flag”.

To know who was who on the battlefield, soldiers had to be able to recognize each regiment’s color – a military term for flag.

As part of a military drill, the guards moved or wore the color in the ranks so that everyone could take a look.

It was first used to mark the Sovereign’s birthday in 1748 during the reign of King George II and became an annual event after the accession of King George III in 1760.

Since then, Trooping the Color has become a display of glitz and pageantry that is watched by millions.

Queen Elizabeth II has attended the event every year of her reign except in 1955 when it was canceled due to a national railway strike.

Princess Elizabeth rode side-saddle behind her father, King George VI, during his first Trooping the Color on June 12, 1947.(AFP)

As Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, Princess Elizabeth became the first woman since Queen Victoria to take part in the ceremony in 1947.

She rode a horse in the annual parade until 1987, when she began using a horse-drawn carriage.

A significantly reduced Trooping the Color took place at Windsor Castle in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What happens in Trooping the Colour?

The Trooping of Color begins at Buckingham Palace in London.

Members of the Royal Family are driven by horse-drawn carriage along the Mall to the Horse Guards Parade.

The Queen is the last to leave, in her own car, and is escorted by the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.

When she arrives at the parade, she is greeted with a royal salute and inspects the troops.

This year, the Irish Guards of the 1st Battalion will wear their colors.

The Queen then returns to the Palace, where she is joined on the balcony by members of the Royal Family to watch a Royal Air Force flyby.

Nine planes with colored smoke trails fly over Buckingham Palace.
The Royal Air Force flyby over Buckingham Palace marks the end of the event.(Reuters: Hannah McKay)

Who will appear on the balcony?

A lot has changed since the last happy family photo taken at Trooping of the Color in 2019.

At the time, the Queen appeared on the balcony with 41 royal relatives.

Notably absent was her husband Prince Philip, who had not appeared since retiring from public duties in 2017.

Instead, the Queen was flanked by her two eldest sons, Prince Charles, heir to the throne, and Prince Andrew.

Nearby were Prince Harry and his wife Meghan.

Members of the British royal family gather on a balcony at Buckingham Palace.
The appearance of the balcony is expected to be stripped down this year compared to 2019.(Reuters: Hannah McKay)

In January 2020, Harry and Meghan effectively stepped down as “senior royals” and subsequently moved to North America.

Their scathing interview with Oprah in March 2021 alleged royals and palace aides bullied Meghan and raised concerns about their son Archie’s dark skin.

When Harry returned to the UK in April 2021 for Prince Philip’s funeral, he appeared relatively friendly with his brother Prince William despite reports that their relationship had broken down.

Both Meghan and Harry are due to return to the UK with their young children Archie and Lillibet for Jubilee celebrations.

However, they will not appear on the balcony, which will be limited to “royal workers”.

This is partly due to Prince Charles’ wish to reduce the excess royals, but also to remove the family’s biggest problem – Prince Andrew.

Prince Andrew is seated on a horse.
Prince Andrew played a key role in Trooping the Color 2019.(Reuters: Clodagh Kilcoyne)

Prince Andrew was stripped of military affiliations and royal patronages in January as he faced a civil sexual assault case in the United States.

The case was dismissed in February after reaching a settlement with Virginia Giuffre, who alleged she was sexually abused when she was underage.

The the settlement included an undisclosed paymentPrince Andrew making a ‘substantial donation’ to Ms Giuffre’s victims’ rights charity.

The prince did not admit having committed a fault by agreeing to settle the civil lawsuit. He had not been charged with a criminal offence.

The Sun, a British tabloid, reported that Prince Charles funded most of the settlement, with the Queen contributing.

Prince Andrew’s first public appearance after colony was to escort his mother to Prince Philip’s memorial in March.

It has been reported that members of the Royal Family were “appalled” by Prince Andrew’s public involvement on the day, but it remains to be seen whether he plays a significant role in the Jubilee celebrations.

His role as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, which he succeeded his father in 2017, was returned to the Queen this year.

Prince William, as Colonel of the Irish Guards, oversaw responsibility for taking part in the dress rehearsal for Trooping the Color on Saturday.

Prince William salutes while riding a horse.
Prince William is the second in line to the throne, after his father, Prince Charles.(Reuters: Peter Nicholls)

When is Trooping the Colour?

This year Trooping the Color is back in London to launch the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

You can watch it live in Australia on Free TV on Channel 7 from 8:30 p.m. AEST on Thursday, June 2.

Queen Elizabeth II is the first British monarch to mark 70 years of service.

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