An all-female cohort of police officers marches in the parade held Friday in recognition of the birthday of King Charles III. His birthday was also observed with a public holiday in the Virgin Islands. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

The Union Jack flew high above Queen Elizabeth II Park on June 16 as the community observed King Charles III’s official birthday for the first time.

The territory had a long tradition of celebrating the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II with youth groups, bands and uniformed officers leading the parade. On June 16, they paid the king his dues.

Like the late queen, the king celebrates his birthday twice each year, with an official ceremony in June and a private one on his actual birthday on Nov. 14. He is 74 years old.

The June 16 procession was led by police and other uniformed officers, all stepping in precise unison. Participants included representatives from the Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue Service, Her Majesty’s Prison, the Customs and Immigration departments, the Scouts, and seven school.

The march

Midmorning, the parade leader raised his staff, and the procession made its way along Waterfront Drive. The Tortolabased drum corps Advent Heartbeatz lent its musical talents, helping to keep a steady rhythm for the rest of the marchers.

Students take part in the parade on Friday at the Queen Elizabeth II Park. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

The youngest participants included the Girlguiding Rainbows, who took their duty leading their lines very seriously and marched forward with a determined step through the streets. Families peppered the sidewalks to take in the spectacle while trying to avoid too much direct sun on the particularly warm day.

Uniformed officers from various agencies led the parade from the Road Town police headquarters to the Queen Elizabeth II Park, where Governor John Rankin inspected the ranks and offered words in recognition of the relationship between the territory and the king.

He also recalled his trip to witness the king’s coronation in May.

“At the coronation, His Majesty the King made clear his firm commitment to the service of all the people in the realms and territories,” he said.

Mr. Rankin also expressed his appreciation for the then-prince’s visit to the VI following the passage of the 2017 hurricanes.

Following his remarks, the governor presented medals for meritorious service to 50 officers across the participating agencies.

Community affair

Police Constable Chelsea Marcelline was a member of an all-female cohort of officers marching as a special addition to this year’s parade.

She remembers attending the queen’s birthday parade in various capacities ever since primary school, and she said she was proud to now participate as a police officer.

“It happens once a year, and it’s very special to the Virgin Islands,” she said.

Musicians led the way down Waterfront Drive for the parade. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

Though they had to contend with some intense sun, students from a variety of organisations also joined the celebration.

Sharon Anthony, one of the chaperones from Enid Scatliffe Pre-primary School, said about 30 ESPS students took part. While standing in line after their march, they were doing their best to follow along with the governor’s salutes and other gestures during the ceremony.

“I just love the royal family, so anything involving them I love to be in it,” Ms. Anthony said with a smile.

Kendi Bispham contributed to this report.