Here's Why Kate Middleton And Prince William Didn't Join The Queen At Trooping The Colour

A 95th birthday celebration is special for anyone, but even more so when the guest of honor is none other than the queen of England. Her Majesty marked the occasion, as monarchs have done for 260 years,  with an impressive military parade known as Trooping the Colour.

Normally, the parade is a public spectacle taking place at Buckingham Palace, with all the royal family present to admire it from the balcony. This year, however, such notable family members as Prince Charles, Prince William, Kate Middleton, and the Cambridges' three young children were absent from the event. Only the queen and her cousin Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, were in attendance on June 12, watching the parade from the grounds of Windsor Castle (via BBC). The queen was seen smiling and tapping her foot as the troops marched past.

The smaller event had nothing to do with the ongoing unpleasantness between the royals and Prince Harry, or the recent death of Prince Philip. Rather, it was yet another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.K. is still under strict protocols regarding gatherings, with only 30 people permitted to congregate outdoors. Still, that didn't stop passersby from pausing outside the castle grounds to watch a colorful flyby from the Royal Air Force's Red Arrows division. 

Last year's parade was an even smaller event, with only 85 soldiers marching to honor the birthday girl at Windsor. This year, the traditional mounted regiment and 41-gun salute were back in action along with the F Company Scots Guard.

Trooping the Colour is the queen's second birthday celebration

The pageant first began in 1748, when King Edward II decided to combine a traditional summer military parade with his birthday. The king was actually born in October, but felt that a warm-weather event would be a more pleasant way to celebrate. Since then, monarchs have had the two-birthday option (via Town & Country).

Queen Elizabeth's actual birthday is April 21, but she, too, prefers to have her larger celebration on or around the second weekend in June. Only once has the parade been canceled during the queen's reign; in 1955 a general strike in England shut down the event. For years, the queen and Prince Philip also participated in the parade, riding to inspect the troops on horseback.

The "Colour" in the title refers to a banner carried during the parade. Garrison Sergeant Major Andrew Stokes, who oversees the parade, explains that "it carries symbolic battle honors, of deeds of bravery from previous soldiers. And in years gone by, it would have been a rallying point on the battlefield, where soldiers would rally to. It's really important, it's really symbolic, and the soldiers look up to it with reverence" (via BBC).

While the royal family was absent from the parade, two members did join the queen for another birthday event. Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, were present at a reception honoring the organizers of next year's Big Lunch event, which will mark the queen's Platinum Jubilee (via People).