Queen's official birthday marked with new military ceremony at Windsor Castle

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent
The Queen smiles as she watches the ceremony at Windsor Castle. (Getty Images)

The Queen’s official birthday has been marked with a new military ceremony held at Windsor Castle for the first time in more than 100 years.

Trooping the Colour usually takes place in London, where the Mall, Horse Guards Parade and Buckingham Palace form the focal points for the history tradition.

But this year a small, socially distanced parade was held in Windsor Castle, which hasn’t played host to a Trooping the Colour since 1895.

The parade was carried out by soldiers who have been stationed with Her Majesty and who have been involved in the testing sites across the UK.

Read more: Queen's mini Trooping the Colour revealed as official birthday marked in lockdown

The Queen arriving at her scaled down birthday celebrations. (Getty Images)
Guardsmen keep social distance as they stand in formation for a ceremony to mark Queen Elizabeth II's official birthday, at Windsor Castle. (Getty Images)

Soldiers from the Welsh Guards and musicians from the Massed Band of the Household Division marched from the parade area, outside the Chapel, to the quadrangle.

While the parade was meticulously planned to ensure there were no places for the public to gather and watch, castle staff could be spotted peering out of windows to watch.

The Queen arrived at 11am and the ceremony opened with the national anthem.

Read more: Trooping the Colour: How the Queen's annual birthday parade will differ in 2020

Her Majesty wore a jade Stewart Parvin outfit, a floral silk dress with pleated hem detail, in jade grey and pink and a hat by Rachel Trevor-Morgan. She wore a leek pin in a mark to the Welsh Guard.

She stood alone as she watched the parade, a far cry from the usual crowd of royals, close and extended, who would surround her on the Buckingham Palace balcony.

She smiled as she watched the soldiers maintain social distancing.

Trooping the Colour is usually the culmination of months of practice - but this time they had just two weeks.

The normal Trooping could not go ahead this year because of COVID-19. (Getty Images)
It's the first time it's been held at Windsor since 1895. (Getty Images)
Members of the Welsh Guards marking the Queen's official birthday. (Getty Images)

Lance Corporal Chusa Siwale, 29, originally from Zambia, had a central role and said it was a “huge privilege” to perform the Drummer’s Call.

He said: “Only four weeks ago I was involved with testing key workers for COVID-19 as part of the Welsh Guards’ contribution to the battle against the virus; now I am on parade performing in front of Her Majesty.

“This is a very proud day for me.”

The ceremony made history in more than one way, as Rhian Morgan became the first ever female guardsman to parade on the Queen’s birthday parade.

The Queen was without family members as she watched the ceremony. (Getty Images)
The Queen was spotted smiling as she watched the unusual event. (Getty Images)

Ahead of the ceremony, Major General Christopher Ghika explained the pandemic gave a “unique opportunity” for the Welsh Guardsmen.

Maj Gen Ghika, who commands the Household Division and all military support for London’s civil response to coronavirus, said: “The circumstances of the requirement to perform the birthday tribute at Windsor Castle this year are clouded in tragedy.

“The effects of COVID-19 have been devastating in terms of loss of life and the threatening of livelihoods of so many across the country.

“People have had to endure separation from loved ones, great uncertainty and the suspension of so much of what is special about our national life.”

The Queen was not joined by family this year because of the pandemic. (Getty Images)
Members of the Household Division arrive in preparation for the Trooping ceremony. (Getty Images)

Read more: Why does the Queen have two birthdays?

The Welsh Guards are part of the Household Division which has been part of the COVID support force, carrying out coronavirus tests at regional and mobile sites.

Maj Gen Ghika said: “The Welsh Guards and many of those on parade have recently been deployed within the United Kingdom as part of the nation’s response to the virus and so the context of the ceremony is particularly poignant.”

Windsor Castle is said to be one of the Queen’s favourite homes, and was where she and her sister Princess Margaret spent much of their childhood.

She and Prince Philip have been there since the middle of March where the Queen’s engagements have been reduced and held over video or phone call.

Read more: Trooping the Colour fashion, from the Duchess of Cambridge to Princess Diana

As well as reduced engagements because of the pandemic, the Queen’s residences have been unable to open for summer viewings, and the ceremonial guard changings at the palaces have been stopped to prevent crowds gathering.

The castle’s grounds will be familiar to those who watched Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding in 2018, as well as Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank’s in the same year.

The last time the official birthday was marked at Windsor Castle was in 1895, Queen Victoria’s 76th, where she watched from a carriage.

Read more: Best photos of the Royal Family at Trooping the Colour through the years

On Friday it was announced that Prince Charles will be heading back to England with his wife Camilla where they will conduct a face-to-face engagement for the first time since March, as they host Emmanuel Macron and a delegation from France.