The Queen

Gun Salutes Mark The Queen’s 67 Years On The Throne

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery staged a 41-gun salute at Green Park in London

To mark the occasion, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery staged a 41-gun salute at Green Park (Picture: British Army).

The Queen is marking the anniversary of her accession privately as she reaches 67 years on the throne.

Gun salutes have been fired by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery in Green Park and the Honourable Artillery Company at the Tower of London to commemorate the occasion.

Now the nation's longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II has ruled for 24,472 days, has passed her silver, golden, diamond and sapphire jubilees, and is now just three years away from her platinum 70 years on the throne.

Princess Elizabeth became Queen on February 6 1952, on the death of her father George VI.

King George VI about to board King's Flight at London Airport
The Queen succeeded her father, King George VI, who passed away aged 56 (Picture: PA).

She was just 25 and thousands of miles from home on a Commonwealth tour with the Duke of Edinburgh in Kenya when the King died in his sleep from lung cancer at Sandringham House.

The Queen traditionally reflects on the anniversary of her father’s death privately at Sandringham in Norfolk, where she has been staying during her annual winter break.

Her Majesty usually returns to London soon after her anniversary.

Queen Elizabeth II meets Coldsteam Guards at Victoria Barracks after colours presentation 030512 CREDIT CROWN COPYRIGHT.jpg
The Queen was on her way to Australia and New Zealand when the Duke of Edinburgh told her the King had died (Picture: Crown Copyright).

To mark the occasion, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery staged a 41-gun salute at Green Park, while the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), the City of London’s Reserve Army Regiment, conducted a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London.

Events to mark the day have also taken place across the UK:

Gun Salutes: The Tradition

The firing of gun salutes appears to have originated in the early days of sail. Ships, when on goodwill visits to foreign ports, discharged all their guns to seaward on arrival thus indicating to the authorities ashore that their guns were empty and their visit peaceful.

Royal and national salutes are of 21 guns. The number of guns for other salutes varies from 19 to seven and is laid down in Queen's/King’s Regulations for the Royal Navy.

In London, salutes are fired from Tower of London, Hyde Park and Green Park.

The basic salute is 21 rounds, fired at ten-second intervals, but in Hyde Park, an extra 20 are fired because it is a Royal Park.

 

At the Tower of London, an extra 20 are also fired, because it is a Royal Palace, and a further 21 are fired because it is located in the City of London, meaning a total of 62 rounds and a total firing time of around ten minutes.

Gun salutes became more commonplace as a maritime practice in the 17th century.

In the earliest days, seven guns were the recognized British national salute because seven was the standard number of weapons on a vessel. Gunpowder was easier to keep on dry land than at sea.

Therefore, the early regulations stated that although a ship would fire only seven guns, the forts ashore would fire three shots to each one shot afloat, hence the number 21.

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The honour of firing the salutes falls on the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery. 

Today the role of the King’s Troop is purely ceremonial. It's important history dates back to 1793 with the formation of the Royal Horse Artillery.

The unit in its current form was created after the Second World War in 1946 by Royal Decree to have ‘A Mounted Battery to fire salutes on state occasions, dressed in the traditional style. 

Initially, the Royal Horse Artillery was known as The Riding Troop. King George VI renamed it in his own honour by scratching out the word ‘Riding’ in the visitor’s book and replacing it with ‘King’s’.

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The next gun salutes will be for the Queen’s birthday on April 21. The 41-gunsalute will take place in Hyde Park at midday, followed an hour later by a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London.

It's a spectacular sight - the only time when the public gets a chance to see horses legally at a full gallop in a Royal Park with heavy canons in tow.