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Why does Queen Elizabeth celebrate 2 birthdays? The story behind the tradition

The monarch may turn 96 this week, but her party doesn’t really get started until June due to this longstanding custom. 

The queen’s birthday is almost here! At least, one of them is. 

When Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II turns 96 years old this Thursday, it will mark her first of two birthdays this year, due to a longstanding custom.

NBC royal commentator Daisy McAndrew paid a visit to the 3rd hour of TODAY Monday morning and explained the reason behind the double dates. 

The Queen Commemorates 70th Anniversary Of Halcyon Days
Queen Elizabeth II will turn 96 on April 21.Steve Parsons / Getty Images

"It’s a tradition that monarchs have had an official birthday, just in case their real birthday falls perhaps in November, as Prince Charles’ does," McAndrew said. "Because it was always considered that you couldn’t do a lot of processional celebrations if the weather was bad."

So, even though Elizabeth's personal big day is April 21, she'll have a second, far bigger party packed with pomp and circumstance — marked by the annual Trooping the Colour parade — in June for what is regarded as the sovereign’s official birthday. 

Members of the royal family stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in central London
Members of the royal family stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony in central London on June 11, 2016. Toby Melville / Reuters

McAndrew revealed that the queen is likely to mark her actual birthday with a quiet celebration away from the public eye.

"I don’t think she’ll be out and about because, traditionally, the queen spends her real birthday in private with family," she said.

And with cake!

"We know that, traditionally, she’s been made, by the royal cooks and chefs, a royal chocolate cake," McAndrew continued, adding that it's the queen's "cake of choice."

There is a chance that the public might get one small glimpse of Elizabeth Thursday in the form of a photo.

"I think we’ll see a photograph of her, of course," the royal expert noted. "This time last year, at her 95th birthday, she was still in mourning for her husband, Prince Philip, so she wasn’t seen, but they did put a photo out. So I expect that’s what we’ll get again this year."

Sadly, for the second year in a row, the queen will miss out on one sweet birthday tradition that was previously a constant for her.

The late Duke of Edinburgh always marked his wife's special day the same way for more than 70 years — with a sentimental bloom.

In 1976, a story by UPI revealed that on her “birthday morning the queen will find a flower on her breakfast tray,” calling it “a token her husband never forgets.” And as the years went on, he only made the gesture grander by adding even more flowers.

But there is another birthday practice that the queen has missed out on for the past two years, due to the pandemic, that's set to return this week: A 41-gun salute will be held in Hyde Park.