Gun salutes and music marked the first formal birthday salute for Her Majesty The Queen (formerly HRH The Duchess of Cornwall). They were fired at locations across the UK – Edinburgh, York, Hillsborough, Cardiff, and London.
In London, The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and The Honourable Artillery Company each fired celebratory Royal Salutes at 12 noon and 1pm respectively. The Bands of the Coldstream Guards and the Irish Guards performed music marking The Queen’s special anniversary.
In York, a 21 Gun Royal Salute was fired at midday at the Museum Gardens. This was a saluting troop of three light guns fired by 4 Regiment Royal Artillery, while music was provided by the British Army Band Catterick. The event was hosted by the Reserve Forces and Cadets Associations for the North of England and Yorkshire and The Humber.
Meanwhile, further midday gun salutes took place in Cardiff Bay by 104 Regiment Royal Artillery; at Edinburgh Castle; and at Hillsborough – Northern Ireland’s royal residence.
More details now on how events unfolded in London:
Changing of the Buckingham Palace Guard
At 11am, Number 9 Company Irish Guards, distinguished by their blue plumed bearskin caps and embroidered shamrock on their collars, handed over Buckingham Palace Guard duties to Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards. The Coldstream Guards are distinguished by their red plumed bearskin caps and buttons arranged in pairs.
After the two respective Captains of the King’s Guard had shaken hands, The Band of the Irish Guards performed ‘Happy Birthday’ on the Palace forecourt, in celebration of Her Majesty The Queen’s 76th birthday.
The remainder of the changing of the guard ceremony followed, and a detachment of the new King’s guard from the Coldstream Guards then marched down The Mall to lodge the Colour (flag) and took up their Guard duties at St James’s Palace.
41 Gun Royal Salute
The soldiers, horses and Guns of The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery rode out from their forward mounting base to position their guns for the salute in The Green Park. The Gunners wear full dress uniform which includes gold braided jackets and busby hats. The guns are the Regiment’s colours and so are afforded due respect throughout the route.
Shortly before midday, riding at speed from the Hyde Park Corner end of The Green Park, parallel to Constitution Hill, 71 horses pulling six First World War era 13-pounder Field Guns over the grass, quickly placed the guns into position for the Royal Salute beside the six pre-positioned ammunition boxes. The guns were quickly detached, the horses escorted to a safe area, and, on the word of command, each of the six guns fired blank artillery rounds at ten-second intervals until forty-one shots had been fired, each sending a puff of white smoke into the air. The horses and riders then collected the guns and escorted them back to barracks. Throughout, the Band of the Coldstream Guards, conducted by Major Stewart Halliday, provided musical accompaniment around the Salute.
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery is commanded by Major Fran Sykes, and this was her final ceremonial duty before handing over command and moving on to her next military appointment as a senior staff officer in the Army HQ in Aldershot. The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery was formed and named by The King’s Grandfather, King George VI in 1947.
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery is a British Army mounted ceremonial unit that fires Royal Salutes on Royal Anniversaries and State Occasions, such as State Visits and Royal birthdays, and they provide a gun carriage and a team of black horses for State and Military Funerals. Permanently based in Woolwich, The King’s Troop soldiers, famous throughout the world for their ceremonial excellence, will also serve operationally throughout their careers in the Royal Artillery, and in support of UK military operations when the need arises.
62 Gun Royal Salute
Shortly after Midday, four 105mm Light Guns were drawn by the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) Regiment’s liveried Pinzgauer vehicles through The City, from Armoury House in Artillery Gardens (which has been the Regiment’s home since 1641), to The Tower of London. The Guns were placed into position on Tower Wharf facing the River Thames, by Army Reserve soldiers from the HAC.
At precisely 1pm, on the word of command, a 62 Gun Royal Salute was fired, each round firing from one of the four Guns in turn, at ten second intervals, filling the wharf with white smoke, the sound reverberating from the Tower battlements, until 62 rounds had been fired. The Regiment then recovered the Guns and drove back to barracks.
Although the Army’s oldest Regiment with a wealth of traditions, today, the HAC has a demanding operational reconnaissance role in addition to its ceremonial responsibilities. It has the good fortune to attract the highest caliber recruits with its City location and long history, finding the sort of people who have both the aptitude and the physical and mental stamina to pass the demanding Surveillance and Target Acquisition Patrol course and become a Special Observer.