Prince William leads parade rehearsals for dad King Charles’ first birthday as Monarch

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The Prince of Wales previews more than 1,500 soldiers and 300 horses who will take part in the Trooping the Color parade on June 17

Prince William leads rehearsals for his father King Charles’ grand birthday parade.

The Prince of Wales, 40, set his sights on the last big practice before Trooping the Colour, the British monarch’s annual public birthday celebration, which will take place on Horse Guards Parade on June 17 this year. The celebrations will mark the first birthday parade of King Charles’ reign, although Queen Elizabeth has held the annual event around the same time of year.

On Saturday morning, Prince William proudly led the regiment of the Welsh Guards – of which he is an honorary colonel – and the others from the household section were well prepared for next Saturday’s parade. The Welsh Guards have the honor of ‘Trooping the Colour’ in the parade this year – their flag will be presented in front of the King.

“The purpose of the colonel’s review is to decide that they are ready for the monarch,” an army source told PEOPLE.

The Prince of Wales led the parade through London’s shopping center on horseback. He wore the Order of the Guard of Honor, with bearskin cap, tunic, greaves, and sword.

More than 1,500 soldiers and 300 horses from the Household Division of the Welsh, Irish, Scots, Grenadier and Coldstream Guards paraded for inspection by Prince William during the rehearsal. They performed complex battlefield drill maneuvers to a program of music, which had what the prince’s office called “a distinctly Welsh theme”. There were also some new songs composed by members of the Band of the Welsh Guards especially for the occasion.

The music and parade will be watched by the royal family — including Kate Middleton and Queen Camilla — and millions of TV viewers next Saturday.

The parade will be a year of firsts — the first for the King and the first for William as Prince of Wales. It was also the first time Prince William had taken on the rehearsal role since becoming ceremonial colonel of the Welsh Guards shortly after Queen Elizabeth’s death in September. He undertook the Colonel’s review when he was Colonel of the Irish Guards last year — a role now held by his wife, Princess Kate.

As the review of practice took place on Saturday morning, Prince William’s office released some details of some of the tasks undertaken by the Welsh Guards over the past year. He was part of the multinational force that designed and implemented the UK training package for Ukrainian soldiers “to gain the infantry skills they need to defend their homeland”, Kensington Palace said. “In addition, they have undertaken jungle training exercises in Belize and Jamaica, as well as ceremonial duties for the coronation of Their Majesties the King and Queen.”

On Wales’ national holiday, St David’s Day, on March 1, Prince William was accompanied by Princess Kate, 41, as he took the salute at the annual Welsh Guards parade and took part in traditional festivities at the soldiers’ mess.

Next weekend’s Trooping the Color celebration comes during a busy public period for the royal family. The parade will be followed next week by the Order of the Garter celebration at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, and the Royal Ascot horse races.

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