By Rob Picheta and Max Foster, CNN
London (CNN) — The role of Britain’s monarch comes with quite a long list of perks – but perhaps one of the most enviable is the ability to celebrate your birthday not once, but twice a year.
King Charles enjoyed his first real birthday as monarch on November 14. But this weekend he’ll celebrate his big day all over again – the first time he’s enjoyed an “official” birthday since ascending to the throne.
Britain’s Kings and Queens have doubled up on their festivities since the 18th century, holding both a public celebration – the official birthday – and a more private event on the real date.
And the reason is fairly simple: No-one wants the rain to ruin their parade, so ever since the 1740s, monarchs have scheduled their pomp-filled parties for the summer.
The tradition is believed to have started with the party-mad King George II in 1748.
That is the year that Britain’s annual Trooping the Colour celebration was first associated with the sovereign’s birthday. Like Charles III, George was born in November, when British weather is often far from ideal.
Trooping the Colour – a military parade in London – previously existed as a standalone event. It was officially and permanently re-purposed as a birthday celebration after George III became King in 1760.
Edward VII, who succeeded Queen Victoria and reigned through the first decade of the 20th century, is believed to have been the first monarch to receive the salute in person.
The annual tradition returns on Saturday morning, and like every year, it’s expected to draw huge crowds to the Mall outside Buckingham Palace. And for his first trooping parade as sovereign, Charles will be making an appearance riding on horseback.
Charles will join 1,500 parading soldiers, as well as 300 horses, taking part in the ceremony in his honor. The Household Cavalry and and the five regiments of foot guards – Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards – are involved. It’s the first time a reigning monarch has joined the parade since Queen Elizabeth II in 1986.
He’ll be greeted at Horse Guards Parade with a royal salute, after which he’ll inspect the Welsh Guards in their famous bearskin hats.
Prince William, in his capacity as Colonel of the Welsh Guards, did a final review of preparations last Saturday to make sure everything was perfect for his father’s first big parade. The rehearsal saw the regiment carry out intricate battlefield drill maneuvers to music. Kensington Palace has said this year’s musical program will have “a distinctly Welsh theme,” with new compositions from the band specially for the occasion.
William praised troops after the practice session for “a really good job” in “difficult conditions,” after several guardsmen fainted amid the sweltering summer temperatures in London.
Queen Camilla will join her husband as they watch the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards troop their color. And after the performances, the King – like his late mother before him – will return to the palace and be joined by other royals on the balcony, to watch a flypast of the Royal Air Force.
It’s a different schedule to his real November birthday – though that wasn’t short on festivities last year, either.
On his first birthday as King, Charles enjoyed a special rendition of “Happy Birthday” by the band of the Household Cavalry at Buckingham Palace. That performance was followed at midday by a 41-gun royal salute in nearby Green Park, and a 62-gun salute over at the Tower of London.
But while the real party – and one of the most defining images of Britain’s monarchy – takes place on Saturday, the celebration is likely to feel poignant, marking the first Trooping for someone other than Queen Elizabeth II in seven decades.
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