In Brief

Why does Queen Elizabeth have two birthdays?

Muted private celebrations mark monarch’s 95th birthday today

The Queen’s 95th birthday today will not feature the traditional gun salutes and festivities following the death of Prince Philip.

Coming just four days after the funeral of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, this year’s events are expected to be “more muted” than in other years, The Telegraph says. 

Following consultations with the government, June’s Trooping the Colour, which usually marks the Queen's official birthday with “thousands of well-wishers lining the streets” of London, will not go ahead. It will be the second time the event has been cancelled in two years due to the Covid pandemic, the paper adds.

Why does the Queen have two birthdays?

Strange as it may seem, the reason is not rooted in an obscure tradition or a quirk of royal protocol. It's simply to do with the weather.

The practice began in 1748, when George II decided to move his birthday parade from 9 November to a day in summer when the grand procession was less likely to be a washout.

Since then, the reigning king or queen or their parliament decides an appropriate summer date to mark the occasion, no matter how far it is from the monarch's real birthday.

This also explains why the Queen actually has more than two birthdays – some Commonwealth nations in the southern hemisphere follow the same logic when it comes to saluting their head of state while the sun shines.

Consequently, the Falkland Islands celebrates on 21 April, the Queen's actual birthday, because June is one of the coldest months of the year in the South Atlantic, while in Australia, where most of the country observes the official June birthday, Queensland and Western Australia both hold their tributes in sunny October.

Canadians mark the Queen's official birthday on the last Monday before 25 May, which is also Victoria Day, a public holiday honouring the Queen's great-great-grandmother.

In New Zealand, there have been calls in recent years to replace the Queen's birthday, which they mark on the first Monday in June, with an official recognition of Matariki, the Maori new year.

Prince Charles’s birthday is 14 November so it is likely that he will continue the tradition when he ascends the throne. Prince William, however, was born on 21 June so he might opt for just one celebration.

How will the event be marked?

The cancellation of the Trooping the Colour has given rise to suggestions that an “alternative parade” in the “quadrangle at Windsor Castle are being considered”, The Telegraph reports.

Last summer, a “mini Trooping” was staged at Windsor, where the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were shielding during the first coronavirus lockdown.

The Queen is today “expected to have a quiet lunch with close family members”, the paper adds. The monarch is still in her period of mourning following the death of her husband, which will continue until Friday.

Prince Harry will not attend the lunch. He is believed to have travelled back to California to be with his pregnant wife, Meghan Markle, and his son, Archie, shortly after the funeral for his grandfather.

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