Trooping the Colour marks the Queen's official birthday

The Royal Family watched an RAF flypast from a Balcony at Buckingham Palace, as Nicholas Witchell reports

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A spectacular Trooping the Colour ceremony in honour of the Queen's official birthday has taken place.

The Queen attended the annual parade but her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, missed the event as he remained in hospital recovering from surgery.

It ended with a 41-gun salute and RAF flypast, watched by the Royal Family from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

The Duchess of Cambridge also attended, making her final public appearance before the birth of her first child.

The Queen later visited Prince Philip at the private London clinic where he has been since an exploratory operation on his abdomen on 7 June.

The monarch arrived alone as she made the visit "quietly and privately", a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry during the annual Trooping the Colour Ceremony at Buckingham Palace Thousands of people lined the streets to watch the royals, including the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge, go by
Prince Harry Prince Harry travelled to the parade with the duchesses of Cambridge and Cornwall
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Princess Anne, Princess Royal on horseback during the annual Trooping the Colour Ceremony at Buckingham Palace The Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal were on horseback for the parade
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Prince Harry, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge stand on the balcony at Buckingham Palace during the annual Trooping the Colour Ceremony The Royal Family watched as the Red Arrows completed the flypast - leaving a trail of red, white and blue

The military parade comes after the Queen's Birthday Honours list was published.

Earlier this month, the monarch and other members of the Royal Family attended a service at Westminster Abbey marking the 60th anniversary of her Coronation.

Glass coach

The Queen was cheered by the crowds as she travelled to Horse Guards Parade in a vintage carriage along The Mall, leaving Buckingham Palace shortly after 11:00 BST.

The glass coach was built in 1881 as a town coach for the Lord Mayor of London and was purchased for King George V's coronation in 1911. It has been used in many royal weddings, including the Queen's marriage to Prince Philip in 1947 when she was still Princess Elizabeth.

There was a royal absentee and a royal who will now disappear from public view.

Prince Philip was not at his wife's side for Trooping the Colour because he continues to recover from an operation on his abdomen.

After nine nights away from his palace bed, Prince Philip, a reluctant patient at the best of times, is likely to be itching for an early discharge date.

But even when he secures that, the prince, who is never keen to "take it easy", faces months of rest and time spent inside royal residences.

While he was recuperating, several members of his family were watching and taking part in the annual pageant, including the Duchess of Cambridge.

It was her last public appearance before she gives birth to a future king or a future queen.

In place of Prince Philip, the monarch invited her cousin, the Duke of Kent, to make the short journey with her.

Thousands gathered to watch the Queen take the royal salute and more than 1,000 soldiers and horses take part in the traditional parade.

The Duke of Cambridge, Colonel of the Irish Guards, the Prince of Wales, Colonel of the Welsh Guards, and the Princess Royal, Colonel of the Blues and Royals, also took part on horseback.

Other royals watching included Prince Harry, the Duke of York and his daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex with their daughter Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor.

The Colour paraded this year was that of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, who recently returned from service in Afghanistan.

The pomp and pageantry ended with a 41-gun salute, fired by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery in Green Park, to mark the Queen's official birthday.

Thousands of spectators then crowded in front of the palace, cheering as the royals appeared on the balcony for the RAF flypast.

Eyes turned skyward as aircraft, including a Lancaster bomber and Typhoon fighter, roared overheard.

A Spitfire and Hurricane from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight were grounded by bad weather and did not take part.

The Red Arrows completed the spectacle, leaving a trail of red, white and blue smoke across the sky.

Royal salutes were also fired at both Edinburgh and Stirling Castles.

Traditional preparations

The Trooping the Colour originated from traditional preparations for battle.

Prince Philip is expected to remain in hospital for another week, as Emily Unia reports

Colours were carried or "trooped" down the rank so that they could be seen and recognised by the soldiers.

In the 18th Century, guards from the royal palaces assembled daily on Horse Guards to "troop the colours" and in 1748 it was announced that the parade would also mark the sovereign's official birthday.

The Queen's actual birthday was on 21 April, when she turned 87.

Prince Philip, 92, is expected to remain at the London Clinic for a further week, followed by a period of convalescence of about two months.

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