Police officers kick off the King’s Birthday Parade on Friday morning in front of the Sir Olva Georges Plaza before marching to the Queen Elizabeth II Park. (Photo: TREMIS SKEETE)

On Friday morning in Road Town, residents and tourists gathered around the Sir Olva Georges Plaza for the start of the Virgin Islands’ second birthday parade in honour of King Charles III.
At around 8:30 a.m., the parade leader took charge.

“Bands and drums ready!” the police officer yelled. “Parade: Eyes front! Quick march!”

The police drumline then kicked into gear, and the officer led the way to the Queen Elizabeth II Park.

He was followed by marchers from 11 organisations, including the police force, His Majesty’s Prison, the BVI Red Cross, church groups, and youth groups including the Pathfinders, the Girl Guides and others.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, the event was also marked in London by the Trooping the Colour ceremony, though the United Kingdom doesn’t observe a public holiday for the occasion as the VI does.

King Charles III was born on Nov. 14, 1948, but by tradition the monarch’s birthday is officially celebrated in May or June when the weather is likely to be better for the annual parade in London.

Now 75, King Charles III became the oldest person to become the British monarch when he ascended to the throne at age 73 on the death of his 96-year-old mother Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 8, 2022.

In the VI

On Friday in the VI, Junior Minister for Culture and Tourism Luce Hodge-Smith said she was pleased with the turnout as she watched the parade enter the park.

“It’s a tradition. Folks are still interested in this kind of pageantry in terms of recognising and honouring the sovereign’s birthday,” said Ms. Hodge-Smith, who represents the Fourth District, which includes Road Town.

The event, she added, brought back memories.

“As I was walking in and seeing the parade, I remember my days when I was a Brownie and then a Girls’ Brigade,” she said.

When the parade arrived onto the field, marchers were organised into designated formations under the command of Police Superintendent Selwyn Rock.

Meanwhile, Deputy Governor David Archer Jr., Police Commissioner Mark Collins and Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley arrived via vehicles that delivered them directly onto the parade grounds. Governor Daniel Pruce was the last to arrive, and while he received a royal salute, the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College Jazz Ensemble played the national anthem to officially signal the start of the ceremony.

Mr. Rock then invited Mr. Pruce to inspect the assembled ranks before each organisation marched past the governor’s station.

Exchange of messages

After attendees offered three cheers for the King, Mr. Pruce delivered the customary exchange of messages.

He started by reading the message he sent the King.

“May it please Your Majesty, with humble duty and on behalf of all His Majesty’s loyal subjects in the Virgin Islands, I am delighted to convey our good wishes and most loyal, affectionate greetings on the occasion of Your Majesty his birthday,” he read.

Then the governor read a message sent back to the VI on behalf of the King.

“His Majesty the King has asked me to thank you for your birthday greetings,” the governor read. “His Majesty much appreciates your kind words on his birthday and sends his warm, good wishes to the government and the people of the British Virgin Islands. Thank you.”

Service awards

Subsequently, the governor presented several public officers with awards for long service and good conduct.

Mr. Pruce, who has been in his role for about five months, told the Beacon that the events surrounding the birthday were going well.

“We had the King’s birthday party at the house on Wednesday evening, which was a wonderful community event,” he said. “It’s great to have the opportunity to be here this morning for this magnificent parade.”

Mr. Archer, who was accompanied by his wife Dr. Allison Flax-Archer and son Prince David Archer, emphasised the importance of the celebration.

“As the Virgin Islands, we always pause and celebrate his birthday,” he told the Beacon. “We are happy the schools and different organisations come out to pay homage, but also to cement the partnership between the United Kingdom and the Virgin Islands.”

Deputy Police Commissioner Jacqueline Vanterpool, who oversaw the parade’s procession into the park, said, “What I observe this year is that the numbers are slowly dwindling in terms of the schools. But we do have a good turnout this morning.”

Kevin Gentles, captain of the crewed charter catamaran Mariah Princess III, attended the parade for the first time on Friday.

“I really like all the drums,” said Mr. Gentles, who recorded much of the event on his smartphone. “It’s pretty cool.”