Why Does Queen Elizabeth Have Two Birthdays?

The tradition is believed to have started during the reign of King George II in 1748

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Queen Elizabeth. Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

Why have just one birthday when you can have two?

Queen Elizabeth may be celebrating her 96th birthday on Thursday, but the festivities will be far from over. That's because the monarch has a public and an official birthday.

The Queen, who was born on April 21, 1926, is celebrating her birthday privately at her Sandringham estate in Norfolk — a place full of reminders of her late husband Prince Philip. On Wednesday, the palace shared a new photo of the Queen in honor of her birthday. In the majestic shot, she holds the reins of two of her favorite fell ponies.

While the Queen typically celebrates her actual birthday away from the royal spotlight with close friends and family, it's also customary to celebrate a sovereign's birthday publicly on a day during the summer, when the weather is nicer (yes, really!).

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Queen Elizabeth. henry dallal photography

King Edward VII, for example, was born on November 9, but his official birthday was always celebrated in May or June, when there was a greater likelihood of good weather for the Birthday Parade (also known as Trooping of the Colour).

The tradition is believed to have started during the reign of King George II in 1748. George II was born in October, but the annual Trooping of the Colour became a celebration of the King — as well as the armed forces.

Since then, the reigning monarch's official summer birthday has always been marked by the annual ceremony, which is typically held on the second Saturday in June.

Trooping The Colour
Trooping the Colour 2019. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

This year's Trooping the Colour celebration, however, will be extended in honor of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. Celebrating her record-breaking 70 years on the throne, the monarch's Platinum Jubilee will culminate in a four-day U.K. bank holiday weekend from June 2 to June 5.

Although the Queen has been absent from a number of events in recent months due to health setbacks and mobility issues, the monarch stepped out on March 29 to attend a Service of Thanksgiving honoring Prince Philip.

Queen Elizabeth received special birthday shout-outs from members of the royal family on Thursday.

Prince William and Kate Middleton shared a special birthday wish for the monarch on their social media accounts.

"Wishing Her Majesty The Queen a very happy 96th birthday today! An inspiration to so many across the UK, the Commonwealth and the world, it's particularly special to be celebrating in this #PlatinumJubilee year," they wrote alongside two photos of the monarch, including a family photo of the Queen and Prince Philip with their great-grandchildren.

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall also shared several photos of the monarch over the years, including a sweet shot of Charles kissing his mother's hand.

"Wishing Her Majesty The Queen a particularly special 96th birthday today, as we celebrate her Platinum Jubilee year," they wrote.

And the Queen's official social media accounts shared a photo of the monarch at just 2 years old.

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"Happy Birthday Your Majesty! Today as The Queen turns 96, we're sharing this photograph of the young Princess Elizabeth aged 2. Then, in 1928, it was never expected she would be Queen, and this year Her Majesty is celebrating her #PlatinumJubilee - a first in British history," the caption read.

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