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Royal traditions

The trooping of the colour
The changing of the guard
Maundy money
Swan Upping
The Queen’s telegram
The state opening of parliament
The Order of the Garter Ceremony
The Queen’s Christmas speech

The trooping of the colour

 The Queen is the only person in Britain with two birthdays. Her real birthday is on April 21st, but she has an "official" birthday, too. That's on the second Saturday in June. And on the Queen's official birthday, there is a traditional ceremony called the Trooping of the Colour. It's a big parade with brass bands and hundreds of soldiers at Horse Guards' Parade in London. A "regiment" of the Queen's soldiers, the Guards, march in front of her. At the front of the parade is the regiment's flag or "colour". The Guards are trooping the colour. Thousands of Londoners and visitors watch in Horse Guards' Parade. And millions of people at home watch it on television.

The changing of the guard

This happens every day at Buckingham Palace, the Queen's home in London. Soldiers stand in front of the palace. Each morning these soldiers (the "guard") change. One group leaves and another arrives. In summer and winter tourists stand outside the palace at 11.30 every morning and watch the Changing of the Guard.

Maundy money

Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday, at Easter. On that day the Queen gives Maundy money to a group of old people. This tradition is over 1,000 years old. At one time the king or queen washed the feet of poor, old people on Maundy Thursday. That stopped in 1754. 

Swan Upping

Here's a very different royal tradition. On the River Thames there are hundreds of swans. A lot of these beautiful white birds belong, traditionally, to the king or queen. In July the young swans on the Thames are about two months old. Then the Queen's swan keeper goes, in a boat, from London Bridge to Henley. He looks at all the young swans and marks the royal ones. The name of this strange but interesting custom is Swan Upping.

The Queen’s telegram

This custom is not very old, but it's for very old people. On his or her one hundredth birthday, a British person gets a telegram from the Queen.

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The state opening of parliament

Parliament, not the Royal Family, controls modern Britain. But traditionally the Queen opens Parliament every autumn. She travels from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament in a gold carriage - the Irish State Coach. At the Houses of Parliament the Queen sits on a “throne” in the House of Lords. Then she reads the “Queen's Speech”. At State Opening of Parliament the Queen wears a crown. She wears other jewels from the Crown Jewels, too. 

The Order of the Garter Ceremony

The Order of the Garter ceremony has a long history. King Edward III started the Order in the fourteenth century, that time, the people in the Order were the twenty-four bravest knights in England. Now the knights of the Order aren't all soldiers. They're members of the House of Lords, church leaders or politicians. There are some foreign knights, too. For example, the King of Norway, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and the Emperor of Japan. They're called Extra Knights of the Garter. The Queen is the Sovereign of the Order of the Garter. But she isn't the only royal person in the Order. Prince Charles and Prince Philip are Royal Knights, and the Queen Mother is a Lady of the Garter. In June the Order has a traditional ceremony at Windsor Castle. This is the Queen's favourite castle. It's also the home of the Order - the Garter. All the knights walk from the castle to St. George's Chapel. The royal church at Windsor. They wear the traditional "robes" of the Order. These robes are verv heavy. In fact King Edward VIII once called them "ridiculous". But they're an important part of one ot Britain's oldest traditions. 

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The Queen’s Christmas speech

Now here's a modern royal custom. On Christmas Day at 3.00 in the afternoon the Queen makes a speech on radio and TV. It's ten minutes long. In it she talks to the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is a large group of countries. In the past they were all in the British Empire. Australia, India, Canada and New Zealand are among the 49 members. The B.B.C. (the British Broadcasting Corporation) sends the Queen's speech to every Commonwealth country. In her speech the Queen talks about the past year. Traditionallv in speeches, kings or queens say “we” not “I”.  Queen Elizabeth II doesn't do this. She says “My husband and I” or just “I”. The Queen doesn't make her speech on Christmas Day. She films it a few weeks before. Then she spends Christmas with her family at Windsor. Does she watch the speech on TV? Nobody knows.

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