Queen Elizabeth II celebrates two birthdays in Great Britain and in some Commonwealth countries, including Australia.

Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: The Royal Family

The Queen was born on 21 April 1926 in Piccadilly, so she usually spends her actual birthday in private, but the occasion is marked by gun salutes in London at 12.00 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.

However, the Queen’s official birthday is celebrated on the second Monday in June in Australia, except in Western Australia and Queensland.

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The Governor of Western Australia usually announces the date the Queen’s Birthday will be observed, usually at the end of September or early October, based on school terms and the Perth Royal Show

In Queensland, the Queen’s Birthday is now celebrated on the first Monday in October, so a long weekend coincides with the Australian Football League (AFL) and National Rugby League (NRL) grand finals.

However, Queenslanders marked the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with a holiday in June 2012 in a special one-off, to avoid disrupting community and sporting events.

The Sovereign’s birthday has been celebrated since 1788 when Governor Arthur Philip declared a holiday to mark the birthday of King George III, after the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney.

Australia’s first monarch, King George III by Allan Ramsay, 1762

Queen Victoria’s Birthday was also celebrated as Empire Day, including fireworks, until 1958. The name was changed to Commonwealth Day and the actual date was moved to the second Monday in March during the 1970s.

However, fireworks were banned in most states and territories, except Tasmania and the Northern Territory, in 1987.

It was held on the actual birthday of the monarch until 1936 when the date was changed to mark the day on the second Monday in June, so public holidays are more evenly spaced throughout the year.

George VI was born on 14 December, so it was too close to Christmas and his daughter, Elizabeth II, was born in April so it was considered too close to ANZAC Day.

The Queen’s Birthday Honours List is usually announced, including recipients of the Order of Australia and other special honours including the Conspicuous Service Cross, Conspicuous Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Medal for Gallantry.

The Royal Military Academy at Duntroon holds the Queen’s Birthday Parade every year which includes the Trooping of the Queen’s Colour.

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The monarch’s birthday was first celebrated in 1748, since the reign of King George II, usually in May or June, when there was the likelihood of good weather for the Birthday Parade or Trooping the Colour.

George II by Thomas Hudson

George VI celebrated his Official Birthday on the second Thursday of June which continued until 1959 during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

The Queen and other members of the Royal Family attend the Trooping the Colour parade which moves between Buckingham Palace, The Mall and Horseguard’s Parade.

However, Queen Elizabeth no longer arrives on horseback in recent years but now travels in a carriage to Horse Guard’s Parade to receive the royal salute.

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Over 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians participate in Trooping the Color in a display of military precision, horsemanship and fanfare to mark the Queen’s Official Birthday.

Afterwards, the Queen and members of the Royal Family make an appearance on the balcony at Buckingham Palace with an RAF fly-past.

A 41-gun salute is also fired in Green Park as part of the celebrations.

The ceremony is broadcasted live by the BBC.

Monarchs’ Actual Birthdays Since 1788

  • George III – 4 June 1788
  • George IV – 12 August 1762
  • William IV – 21 August 1765
  • Queen Victoria – 24 May 1819
  • Edward VII – 9 November 1841
  • George V – 3 June 1865
  • Edward VIII – 23 June 1894
  • George VI – 14 December 1895
  • Elizabeth II – 21 April 1926