Happy Birthday your Majesty!
A number of events will take place to celebrate The Queen's 80th birthday in 2006, both around Her Majesty's actual birthday on 21 April and her official birthday on 17 June.
The Queen will spend her actual birthday, 21 April, at Windsor Castle as usual, and the official birthday will be marked by the annual Trooping the Colour on 17 June.
The Queen celebrates her actual birthday on 21 April. She also celebrates her official birthday on either the first or the second, and sometimes the third, Saturday in June. This year's official birthday will be celebrated on 17 June 2006.
The tradition of having an official birthday for the Sovereign was begun for practical reasons. Monarchs who had their birthdays in the winter months often encountered problems due to cold, wet weather spoiling parades and other outdoor celebrations.
King Edward VII, who was born on 9 November, was the first Sovereign to mark his official birthday on a separate day to his actual birthday throughout his reign, holding celebrations in either May or June.
Subsequent Monarchs had birthdays which fell at convenient times of the year, but the tradition was revived by The Queen's father, King George VI. He was born in mid-December, and so also 'moved' his birthday to June, when fine weather was more likely, and thus the tradition of the official birthday was established.
The Queen continues the tradition by celebrating her official birthday in June each year. Her Majesty usually spends her actual birthday privately at Windsor with friends and family whilst her official birthday is always marked in the same way with the Trooping of the Colour ceremony and a fly-past over Buckingham Palace.
In addition, The Queen's Birthday Honours List is announced, the Union flag is flown from government buildings and gun salutes are fired at noon.