The role of the ensign in Trooping the Colour explored as Jubilee kicks off

Eve Edwards June 2, 2022
The role of the ensign in Trooping the Colour explored as Jubilee kicks off
Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

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Royal celebrations are under way as the Platinum Jubilee, celebrating Elizabeth II’s 70th year on the throne, commences on Thursday, 2 June 2022.

The Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend sees many royal celebrations such as Trooping the Colour, a Jubilee Pageant, and an open-air concert at Buckingham Palace. But with so many festivities under way, you might be curious about some of the finer details of the events’ traditions and history.

Let’s take a look at an ensign’s role in Trooping the Colour as the Platinum Jubilee weekend kicks off.

Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

What is an ensign?

An ensign is a junior ranking officer in the British army, who makes an appearance during the Trooping the Colour.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, an ensign is “the lowest rank of officer in the British Army or the US Navy”. It was the lowest-commissioned rank in the British Army until 1871.

Although ‘ensign’ is still a widely used term in the US, the role has typically been replaced by the rank of second lieutenant in the UK.

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Ensign’s role in Trooping the Colour explored

Ensigns are responsible for Trooping the Colour on royal occasions such as the Platinum Jubilee. They carry the ‘colour’, meaning the flag, in a parade.

Trooping the Colour is a ceremony performed every year in the UK’s capital city by the British Army, with different regiments participating in the event. Ensigns hold particular importance in the ceremony as they carry the ‘colour’. They have subsequently been described as the “spiritual heart” of the ceremony:

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The history of Trooping the Colour

It is believed the first Trooping the Colour was performed duribng the reign of King Charles II (1660-1685), although it didn’t to become an annual event until the 18th century. In 1748, the parade became a celebration of the Sovereign’s birth. After George III ascended to the throne in 1760, it became an annual event.

The guards are some of the oldest units in the British Army, having defended the Sovereign since 1660.

The British Army’s regimental flags have been historically described as ‘Colours’ as they typically bear the colour and insignia of their regent or military unit.

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Eve Edwards is a staff writer for The Focus who has been with GRV Media since April 2019. Having gained a BA (Hons) in History from the University of Bristol, Eve joined GRV starting out as a writer for Reality Titbit before making her way over to HITC. With a passion for music, TV, and cultural news, Eve eventually found a home at The Focus. Eve spent 2021-2022 freelancing for GRV Media while she completed a Masters in Music Performance, and brings her wide array of interests to the company in her written work. In Eve's spare time you'll find her working her way through the day's Wordle, Heardle, and Quordle, or struggling to complete The Guardian's cryptic crossword.