In Brief

Why the Queen has two birthdays

Buckingham Palace announces cancellation of festivities amid pandemic

There will be no public celebration to mark the Queen’s 94th birthday on Tuesday because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

A Buckingham Palace official said the monarch had decided it would “not be appropriate at this time” to hold a celebration for the occasion - the first time in her 68-year reign that no gun salutes will take place, says the BBC.

A palace spokesperson said: “Her Majesty was keen that no special measures were put in place to allow gun salutes as she did not feel it appropriate in the current circumstances.”

Town & Country magazine adds that there will also be no requirement for government buildings to fly the Union Jack on her birthday as they usually would. The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has advised: “In the current circumstances we are not expecting everyone to be able to follow this advice and you should continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines as set out by the government.”

There are also doubts about the second round of celebrations to mark the Queen’s birthday, due to take place in June. The monarch’s official public birthday is when the famous Trooping the Colour parade takes place, in keeping with a 260-year-old tradition, which involves more than 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians, with the Royal Air Force performing an aerial display above Buckingham Palace.

But why does the Queen have two birthdays, and how will coronavirus affect them?

So 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.

Will Trooping the Colour go ahead in June?

Those looking to celebrate the Queen’s second birthday in June by witnessing the famed Trooping the Colour parade in central London will be left disappointed this year.

In line with UK government advice, it has been agreed that the event - also known as The Queen’s Birthday Parade - will not take place as planned.

The parade had been scheduled for 13 June, but in a statement, Buckingham Palace explained that: “In line with government advice, it has been agreed that the queen’s birthday parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, will not go ahead in its traditional form.”

The official British Army website says that a “number of other options are being considered, in line with relevant guidance”, but adds that it is “currently working closely with our ticketing partner to arrange refunds and we will be in contact with everyone who has purchased a ticket or has been successful in the Ballot soon”.

“We extend our sincere apologies to everyone who was looking forward to these Parades as much as we were,” it says.

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