How The Royal Family Celebrates Birthdays

Most of us love birthdays — who doesn't like an excuse to enjoy good food, delicious cake, and the company of those they care about most? The royal family is no different, except for the fact that the whole world is very interested in how they choose to celebrate their birthdays. For all their royalty, many might be surprised to learn that, aside from the reigning monarch, most of them don't usually go all out on their birthdays. The rest of Britain, however, enjoys celebrating a royal's birthday in one way or another.

The Royal Mint, for instance, would sometimes release new coins in honor of a royal family member's birthday. Westminster Abbey loves to let those beautiful bells ring, and gun salutes are fired, reminding anyone who might have forgotten that a royal is celebrating their birthday that day. All in all, the birthday of a royal gives the rest of Britain a reason to celebrate if they so wish, and quite honestly, we see a royal's birthday as the perfect excuse to enjoy some cake ourselves.

While Queen Elizabeth II's birthday was always celebrated with plenty of fanfare, it's not always as obvious how other members choose to celebrate. Read on to learn more about some royal family birthday traditions and what makes them special.

Gun salutes are fired to celebrate royal birthdays

The Brits are definitely more accustomed to the deafening boom of canons than the rest of the world population. Gun salutes occur on various special royal occasions, and the monarch's birthday is one of them. Typically, gun salutes consist of 21 rounds (yup, that's a lot of noise!) and while some gun salutes obviously take place in London, it's not limited to the city and takes place across other locations in the United Kingdom.

The Tower of London traditionally plays host to gun salutes, as well as Green Park or Hyde Park, depending on the occasion that's being celebrated. There's usually a ten-second interval between those loud booms, and if a salute is fired from a Royal Park (Green Park or Hyde Park), you can expect to hear a whopping 41 rounds being fired. The Tower of London typically fires 62 rounds for the monarch's birthday, while Windsor Great Park sticks to 21.

This very loud celebration runs on a tight schedule: Gun salutes from the royal parks are typically fired at noon and are overseen by The King's Troop Royal House Artillery. The Honourable Artillery Company oversees the salute from the London Tower, which typically occurs at 1 p.m. While this tradition is sure to set some people jumping throughout the day, it definitely adds to the celebratory air of the monarch's birthday.

Westminster Abbey's bells are rung for some royal birthdays

Before the 2020 pandemic hit, Westminster Abbey rang its bells for every senior member of the royal family's birthday. This included Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, as well as their children — King Charles III, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward. In addition, Queen Consort Camilla, Prince William, Princess Catherine, and their children all had the honor. The bells would typically start ringing at exactly 1 p.m. in honor of the royal's birthday.

Unfortunately, with all the financial difficulties that arose during and after the pandemic, the Abbey had to cut down on costs. This meant that the bells could no longer ring as often and as a result became silent on some royals' birthdays. "Due to the financial challenges posed to the Abbey by the Covid-19 pandemic, and in consultation with Buckingham Palace, the bells will now ring only for the birthdays of HM The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales," a spokesperson for Westminster Abbey told Hello! Magazine in 2021.

Flash forward to 2023, and things are changing again. The Abbey now rings its bells to honor the birthdays of the four senior royal members: King Charles III, Queen Consort Camilla, Princess Catherine, and Prince William. It's the equivalent of a very special rendition of "Happy Birthday," and we bet it makes the royals' day extra special.

There's plenty of cake involved

It turns out the royal family loves cake just as much as the rest of us. In 2016, the palace even approached the winner of "The Great British Bake Off," Nadiya Hussain, to bake Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday cake — no pressure!

Hussain admitted to NPR that her initial reaction was to say no. "I was so afraid of getting it horribly wrong," she said. "And then it dawned on me that I can't say no to the queen," Hussain continued, adding that she decided to give it a go after getting over her initial nervousness. Looking back at pictures of the day, it's very clear that Queen Elizabeth was absolutely thrilled with her birthday cake, which as Hussain explained, was an orange drizzle cake complete with orange buttercream and curd. Yum!

Not all royal cakes are as elegant as the queen's, however. Princess Diana surprised Prince William with a very quirky cake on his 13th birthday. Diana's former head chef Darren McGrady told Hello! what he found in the fridge on the day of the prince's party. "I came into work that morning and went down to the refrigerator, opened the door and I was just confronted with the biggest pair of boobs I've ever seen in my life," he told the outlet, adding, "The Princess had ordered a boobs cake for William's 13th birthday. I wish I'd taken a photograph of it!". Pity he didn't.

Queen Elizabeth II used to celebrate her birthday twice

When you're the monarch of England, you get to enjoy what every child wishes for — two birthdays. In case you're not in the know, all of the big public celebrations that used to accompany Queen Elizabeth II's birthday didn't take place on her actual birthday. Yup, the queen's birthday was not in June but on April 21. This not only gave her a chance to celebrate her real birthday more privately, but it also ensured that any of the elaborate birthday celebrations we've become used to seeing in June didn't get rained out.

The tradition of two birthdays goes way back to King Edward VII's reign. Edward's birthday was on November 9, but the big celebrations were held in May or June when the weather in Britain tends to be more favorable for outside activities. As royal fans know all too well, it's tradition to celebrate the monarch's birthday with a birthday parade, better known as Trooping the Color. There's a lot of history behind this special tradition — it can be traced back to the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660. By the time 1748 rolled around, Trooping the Color became an event that celebrated both the military and the reigning monarch, and it continues to this day.

When they're able to, the royals like to keep things low-key

One might expect the royal family to celebrate their birthdays the same way Hollywood celebrities do: with big parties and hundreds of guests. But it turns out they often prefer to keep it in the family and don't find big, boisterous parties particularly appealing. When they do go all out, however, it's an elegant affair.

While the monarch's birthday (or second birthday, for that matter) is celebrated with a lot of fanfare, other members of the family tend to favor spending a quiet day with their loved ones. Prince William and Princess Catherine once spent his birthday in Cornwall, and ever since they started a family, the Prince has opted to spend the day with them whenever he can. "Kate and William are not the sort to go away to celebrate on their own and leave the kids at home," royal expert Duncan Larcombe told OK!.

Prince Harry has always had a little more leeway when it comes to celebrating his birthday, thanks to the fact that he's not next in line to the throne, but even he kept it low-key most of the time. In 2016, he hosted a shooting party at Balmoral that was attended by friends and family. Even Queen Consort Camilla likes to keep things simple. When British Vogue asked her how she planned on spending her 75th birthday, she answered, "There won't be much celebration. I shall spend it with my family and a few friends."

Even royal children have pretty low-key birthdays

Most children love birthday parties, and we bet little royals are no different. However, it appears that their parents groom them to appreciate low-key celebrations from the get-go. Royal children get to celebrate their special day, but they don't typically have big parties.

Prince William and Princess Catherine's children have had intimate birthday parties attended by friends and family. Kensington Palace reportedly celebrated Prince George's first birthday with a small tea party, for instance, and Princess Charlotte's was much of the same. The public doesn't really have any idea what these parties look like, but Catherine and William did start a tradition of their own where they would release a birthday portrait of their children on social media as a means to include the public in the celebration. We won't lie — we love seeing new snapshots of the royal children every year (which are usually taken by Catherine). They grow up so fast!

Milestone birthdays are a big deal

The royals might keep it simple most of the time, but when a milestone birthday comes around, they go all out. For instance, when King Charles III's 70th birthday was coming up in 2018, various events preceded the big day, starting in May. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle even postponed their honeymoon to attend a garden party Buckingham Palace hosted in honor of Charles — the first of many events to celebrate the future monarch's birthday. The British media also jumped in to celebrate, with ITV hosting a variety show titled "We Are Most Amused and Amazed," which featured performances from various comedians and magicians. It was a nod to Charles' fondness for magic tricks and the proceeds went to his charity, The Prince's Trust.

In addition to garden parties and TV specials, Charles was also treated to a fancy gala concert at Buckingham Palace in October of that year, which Queen Consort Camilla had a hand in organizing. For his actual birthday on November 14, Charles was treated to two parties: a tea party at St. James' Palace which, instead of being all about the future king, focused on celebrating 70 inspiring individuals selected by the Age UK charity. Finally, Charles got to enjoy a private party organized by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace to close out the big day. Milestone birthdays within the royal family are definitely elaborate, and we bet they're a tad exhausting too.

The Royal Mint celebrates some royal birthdays with commemorative coins

While Queen Elizabeth II was featured on various coins during her lifetime (the last commemorative coin the Royal Mint released in honor of the late monarch's birthday was in 2021 when she turned 95), other members of the family have also had the honor of receiving commemorative coins in celebration of their birthdays.

The Royal Mint issues £5 coins specifically for significant royal occasions, like a royal's birthday, and so far a couple of royal family members have had the honor. Prince William had to wait until his 40th birthday to get his first solo commemorative coin, and it was well worth the wait. He made history in the process — before him, no other royal family member second-in-line to the throne had ever had the honor of flying solo on one of these coins. His son, Prince George, was also honored by the Royal Mint on his fifth birthday. The coin did not feature an engraving of his face, however, but instead showcased an image of the legendary St. George slaying a dragon.

Commemorative coins have also been issued for King Charles III's birthday a couple of times, most notably when he turned 70 and again to celebrate his 75th birthday in 2023. The king got to approve this coin's design personally, which makes it extra special. This new design will appear on £2, £5, and 50 pence coins.

The palace posts birthday shout-outs on social media

While it's mostly senior members of the royal family who get to enjoy the more elaborate public celebrations on their birthdays, other members get a special shout-out from the palace on social media. Whenever a member of the royal family celebrates their birthday, the public can be assured that a picture of said family member will be posted to Instagram and Twitter with a short caption wishing them well. This is a fun way the palace allows the public to celebrate with them (and it also serves as a reminder to those of us who are absolutely terrible at remembering dates).

The comment section usually overflows with well-wishes from the public, so the single birthday shout-out ends up turning into a massive birthday card, so to speak. A previous birthday shout-out to Princess Eugenie on Instagram garnered over 2,000 comments wishing her well. Now, that's some birthday love right there.

Some royal family members celebrate their birthdays by donating to charities

The royals like to use their birthdays as an opportunity to give back to others, so you'll often see them making generous donations to charities and causes close to their hearts when their birthdays roll around. Back in 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle donated $130,000 to CAMFED, an organization that works to provide African girls with education. They had a little help, however. It turns out that fans of the royals have big hearts too, and a group dubbing themselves the Sussex Squad took the initiative to start raising funds for CAMFED in honor of the couple's respective birthdays.

Harry and Meghan learned of the campaign, and thrilled by the generosity of their fans, decided to match the amount they managed to raise. The couple also donates to other causes in honor of their children's birthdays. An animal charity in London received a kennel from the duchess, which she sponsored in her son's name, Archie. She and her son also appeared in a promotional video for the Save The Children literacy program to honor his birthday.

Queen Consort Camilla is also a woman who likes to give back when her birthday rolls around. For her 75th birthday, Camilla launched a couple of projects, including one that provided 75 elementary schools in need with mini-libraries. This project, officially known as the Duchess' Birthday Books Project, provided over 25,000 children with books to read. We suspect "go big or go home" is one of Camilla's mottos.

Some royals have worked as guest editors for Country Magazine in honor of their birthdays

The royals are no strangers to guest-editing a magazine or two; it's been done a few times, but King Charles III, Queen Consort Camilla, and Princess Anne have made it somewhat of a tradition to guest-edit an edition of Country Magazine to celebrate their birthdays.

Charles has served as a guest editor for the magazine three times in honor of his birthday. The king's 2020 issue focused on uplifting and encouraging people amid the global pandemic's many challenges. Charles also used the opportunity to create more awareness around climate change and ways to combat it. His sister, Princess Anne, also touched on this when she contributed as a guest editor for her 70th birthday. The princess shared her love of nature with readers and encouraged them to do their bit to help the planet, all while giving them a glimpse into her own life.

In celebration of her 75th birthday, Queen Consort Camilla followed in Charles and Anne's footsteps, guest editing her own issue of Country Magazine, in which she shared her love for the countryside and advocated for victims of domestic violence. The issue made waves, selling the most copies in Country Life's history. Impressive!