Queen’s official birthday marked with military parade at Windsor
A military parade at Windsor marked the Queen's official birthday, the second year in a row events have been scaled back due to the pandemic.
The Queen arrived on Saturday morning with the Duke of Kent joining her on a dais in the castle's quadrangle in his role as Colonel of the Scots Guards.
Soldiers and musicians from the Massed Band of the Household Division marched onto the parade area at Windsor Castle.
From her dais, the Queen watched the ceremony unfold with Guardsmen in their scarlet tunics and bearskins and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment in their breast plates and plumed helmets.
The birthday parade is a gift from the Household Division – the Army’s most prestigious regiments – which has a close affinity with the monarch and is keen to show its loyalty to the Crown.
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The traditional Trooping the Colour ceremony, which is normally staged in London and features hundreds of servicemen and women and thousands of spectators, was ruled out for the second successive year because of the threat of coronavirus.
The pandemic has meant the military commemoration of the Queen’s official birthday is being staged in the quadrangle of her Berkshire home, but its scope has increased from last year.
The senior military officer who has planned the celebrations said his aim is to create a “memorable and uplifting day” for the monarch.
Lieutenant Colonel Guy Stone and his team have been working for months to stage the event at Windsor Castle - which has been dubbed a mini Trooping the Colour.
The Guardsmen taking part have been supporting local communities and the NHS across the UK during the pandemic or been serving overseas on military operations.
The Queen’s cousin the Duke of Kent joined her on the dais in his role as Colonel of the Scots Guards.
The Colour or ceremonial flag being trooped past the soldiers was the Colour of the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards with the regiment’s F Company given the task of performing the honour.
In front of the Queen during the parade was an array of socially distanced Guardsmen, mounted Troopers and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
They were joined by a massed band of the Household Division – musicians from all of the five Foot Guards Bands and the 1st Battalion Scots Guards Pipes and Drums.
The servicemen and women on parade numbered almost 275, with 70 horses, compared with the 85 soldiers who took part in the ceremony last summer.
Lt Col Stone was asked about planning the Queen’s official birthday celebrations: “It’s been extremely demanding; we’ve had to tackle Covid like everybody else, with some people needing to isolate and therefore not being able to be on parade.”
He explained there was the added issue of a lack of daily practice of ceremonial duties, as the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace has been stopped since March 2020 to avoid crowds gathering.
The senior officer added: "So from a skillset perspective it’s been very difficult to achieve what I hope will be a good standard because we’re not doing the Changing of the Guard ceremony every day due to the pandemic – that applies to horses, the musicians and the Guardsmen with their foot drill and rifle drill."
“Last year we had 85 on parade, this year we’ve got 274, plus 70 horses, so we’re really excited about the event having grown and getting us back to normal for next year we hope," he added.
He said: "It’s been very challenging, but we like a challenge. Covid has got a lot to answer for in so many ways, it’s made this difficult but what we want to do more than anything is give the Queen a memorable and uplifting day.”
Lt Col Stone, who serves with the Welsh Guards, is Brigade Major Household Division and was in overall charge of the military arrangements for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.
He was made a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order by the Queen in recognition of his efforts.