This balcony now represents the demise of the royal family.

In the past week, news on Princess Catherine has been bittersweet; in the space of a few days we received a rare update from a credible royal source that Kate has "turned a corner" in her cancer battle, while the Palace has confirmed she will not be in attendance at the dress-rehearsal for this year’s Trooping the Colour parade on June 14.

In the midst of his own cancer treatment, it has been announced that King Charles III will participate in the parade, though he will travel inside a carriage, rather than on horseback, which is tradition. Last year — the first since his coronation — Charles appeared atop his steed, Noble, for the parade from Buckingham Palace, marking the first time in 35 years that a monarch had completed the trip atop a horse (though Queen Elizabeth, in her younger days, used to ride side-saddle dressed in the official colours of the celebration).

A recent photo of King Charles III shared by The Palace amid his cancer diagnosis. Image: Getty.


In a move that could not possibly have predicted the various health calamities that would befall House Windsor in the following 12 months, last year also saw a decision from King Charles that, moving forward, the famous royal family balcony appearance at Trooping the Colour would only feature working royals. This meant that the 2023 iteration of the balcony appearance was a decidedly smaller gathering — notably missing Harry and Megs, as well as Britain’s infamous creepy uncle, Prince Andrew.

Now, though, with King Charles' involvement in the parade scaled back for health reasons, and the likely absence of Princess Catherine, the collection of familiar faces on the balcony looks to be a patchy picture indeed.

Princess Catherine announced her diagnosis in March of this year. Image: ABC News.


All but one (Prince William) of the remaining working royals are over 60 years old. And in a monarchy with record low public support that is increasingly fielding accusations of being a relic of a past era, a gaggle of medal-clad sexagenarians will do little to disabuse detractors of this notion. 

Compare this image to just five years ago — before a global pandemic, the very bitter and public dash across the ditch made by the Sussexes, and the gossip-fogged disappearance of Duchess Catherine before the announcement of her cancer diagnosis.

The Royal Family during Trooping the Colour 2019. Image: Getty.


If you worked in a newsroom in June 2019, chances are you personally wrote a story based on this internet-breaking picture. 

It was in many ways, the zenith of the royal family's growing public appeal, part of a decade-long reinvigoration that began with the royal wedding of William and Catherine. In the intervening years the Cambridges had welcomed three children, all adored by the public, and Harry and Meghan, after their wedding in 2018, had added Archie to the clan.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during Trooping the Colour 2018. Image: Getty.


The appearance of so many children on the balcony, as well as the handsome princes and their gorgeous brides, seemed to signal to the world that the British monarchy was ready to enter its modern era - complete with vibrant colour, relaxed smiles and cheeky, happy mini-royals waving from on high.

The oddly-named tradition that has become, for much of the world's lifestyle press, a photo-opp that spawns a thousand headlines, has a rich history stretching back to the 17th Century. Having represented a celebration of the sovereign’s birthday for at least 260 years, Trooping the Colour began as a wartime necessity. 

The ceremony — performed, according to the BBC, by "1,400 parading soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians" references the battlefield custom of different regimens of soldiers being united under specific flags or 'colours'. These enabled battalions to stick together. In order to establish the colours under which soldiers were required to gather, the leader of a battalion would ride back and forth in front of the gathered troops (known as 'trooping') while waving the flag.

The modern ceremony alternates a different British regiment’s colours each year, and is considered one of the grandest public military displays in the world.


In many ways, Trooping the Colour — and other ceremonies like it — are a microcosm of the function of the royals themselves. 

Watch: Trooping the Colour 2023, King Charles III birthday parade. Post continues after video.

Video via YouTube/The Royal Family Channel.

It’s a ceremony intended to unify the masses under a singular banner — a visual representation of the strength and oneness of the ruling monarchs.

Working royals — and particularly royals as important as the king and future queen — are themselves that visual signifier. Frequent public appearances remind the British and global public of the strength of the crown, with widely publicised celebrations like royal weddings and births historically bolstering support for the monarchy. 

Out of necessity, two of the most crucial members of the family have been effectively sidelined as they battle illness, with Prince William and Queen Camilla reducing public appearances to support their spouses.

As the family turns inwards to support Kate and Charles' healing, the question must be asked: might this spell the end to the royal family as we know it? And if it does — what happens next?

Feature Image: The Royal Family.