Here’s Why Queen Elizabeth Celebrates Two Birthdays Every Year

Two birthdays—just another perk of being Queen.

Although Queen Elizabeth II turned 96 on April 21 of this year, the official birthday of the monarch is celebrated on a different date altogether.

Like many British monarchs before her, the Queen commemorates the occasion on two separate days—once on the actual anniversary of the day she was born (April 21) and again on a Saturday in June (dubbed as the “official celebration,” scheduled for June 11 this year). The reason is rather simple and owes its origins to the timeless dilemma of fickle British weather. (Find out how the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee will be celebrated in Canada this year.)

Why Does the Queen Have Two Birthdays?

The established tradition dates back to 1748 with King George II, who was born in November. The royals (as expected) like to dabble in opulent outdoor festivities for hordes of people, so the frosty chill was rather inconvenient. Because he didn’t want to put his subjects at risk of catching colds, his birthday celebration was merged with the annual Trooping the Colour parade. Prior to that, it was strictly a military event in which regiments would display their flags or “colours” so that soldiers could familiarize themselves.

But because George was renowned for being a fierce general (in addition to being a royal) for his leadership involvement at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743, the celebration seemed appropriate for his stature. Edward VII, who followed George and also had a November birthday, officially standardized the practice, launching a plethora of onlookers that was able to connect the royal’s birth celebration with the equally respectable British troops.

This concept became a habit that still prospers to this day; British sovereigns are all granted the option of inheriting an “official” birthday. The spring day of April 21 was deemed too chilly for Queen Elizabeth’s sumptuous bash, so they decided to adhere to a safer (and warmer) June alternative. Although the date is technically associated with the Trooping the Colour in the U.K., several commonwealth nations around the world continue to recognize it as a public holiday.

As for the Saturday element, the royals decided to set the date so that more members of the public could enjoy the jubilee without having to worry about their conflicting work schedules. This was a change from the Thursdays that were previously established during the earlier part of her reign.

The Queen usually spends her actual birthday privately, but the day is certainly not what we would call a clandestine occasion. The anniversary is still commemorated with a round of gun salutes at noon: a 41-gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21-gun salute in Windsor Great Park, and a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London.

Now that you know why the Queen has two birthdays, take a look back at Her Majesty’s incredible life in 30 quotes.

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