Page last updated at 15:30 GMT, Saturday, 14 June 2008 16:30 UK

Queen watches Trooping the Colour

The Queen, Duke of Edinburgh and family watching the flypast
The Queen watched the flypast of 55 aircraft from Buckingham Palace

The Queen has celebrated her official birthday with the Trooping the Colour parade in central London.

More than 1,100 soldiers took part in the display of military pomp and pageantry on Horse Guards Parade.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh also watched one of the biggest flypasts in recent years to mark the 90th anniversary of the RAF.

They were joined by other senior royals including Prince Charles, the Princess Royal and Princes William and Harry.

The Queen's actual birthday was on 21 April, when she turned 82.

The tradition of two birthdays dates back to the time when, if monarchs were born in winter, the weather was deemed unsuitable for outdoor events.

Welsh Guards

Traditionally, before battle, Colours - or flags - were carried, or "trooped", along the rank of soldiers so they could be seen and recognised.

In 1748, it was decided the trooping would also be used to honour the sovereign's birthday.


The Queen watched from Buckingham Palace balcony as the flypast took place

The Colour paraded this year was that of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards.

Prince Charles, as Colonel of the Welsh Guards, was joined by the Princess Royal, who is Colonel of the Blues and Royals, and the Duke of Kent, Colonel of the Scots Guards.

Trooping the Colour
The Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, first appeared in 1947
In 1955, Trooping the Colour was cancelled because of a national rail strike
In 1981, six blank shots were fired during the parade

The Royal twenty-one gun salute, which traditionally takes place in the UK's capital cities, was fired in Bristol for the first time.

The thousands of spectators in London also saw William and Harry both appear in the uniform of their regiment, the Blues and Royals. They rode to the parade in a carriage with their stepmother, the Duchess of Cornwall.

After the Queen took the salute on Horse Guards, the royals headed back to Buckingham Palace to gather on the balcony.

There they watched the annual flypast. Involving 55 aircraft of 14 different types, this year's was longer than usual to mark the RAF's anniversary.

The planes taking part ranged from a 68-year-old Spitfire to the RAF's very latest aircraft, the Typhoon.

But there has been some criticism of the decision to include a Nimrod aircraft in the flypast, after a coroner ruled three weeks ago that the fleet was un-airworthy.

Fourteen men were killed when their Nimrod exploded over Afghanistan two years ago, and the father of one of them, Graham Knight, said it was "like sticking two fingers up at the coroner".

First woman

The route along The Mall was lined by members of four of the five Foot Guards regiments of the Household Division - the Welsh Guards, Grenadier Guards, Scots Guards and the Coldstream Guards - wearing bearskin hats and red tunics.

The Massed Bands and the Mounted Bands of the Household Cavalry also took part, as did the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery.

Trooping the Colour
The Queen's actual birthday was on 21 April - she turned 82

For the first time, the King's Troops was led by a female commanding officer - Major Erica Bridge.

Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah were among those watching, as was 112-year-old Henry Allingham, thought to be one of three remaining UK survivors of the First World War.

In an interview with the BBC, Prince Charles said Trooping the Colour was a "stirring and moving occasion".

"It's splendidly British and I hope it will go on for as long as possible because I think the world would be a sadder, drearier and greyer place without it," he said.

Many of the soldiers involved in the event have either served in Iraq or Afghanistan or will be deployed there in the coming months.

This year's parade came shortly after the deaths of five British soldiers in Afghanistan, bringing the total killed there to 102.

In pictures: Trooping the Colour
14 Jun 08 |  In Pictures
MoD criticised for Nimrod flypast
14 Jun 08 |  Scotland

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