Today, The King and Queen attended the Maundy Service at York Minster.
The couple were met at the Great West Doors by the Dean of York, The Very Reverend Dominic Barrington and The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York.
King Charles and Queen Camilla were presented with the traditional nosegay – a small flower bouquet, to literally make the nose gay (happy) – as they entered York Minster, and sat as the service began.
Her Majesty wore the Queen Mother’s Crystal Rock Brooch, which is made from rock crystal with a diamond feature at the centre. The piece is surrounded by an oblong diamond frame.
The King walked along a line of recipients, saying a few words of gratitude to each as the purses were distributed, continuing the tradition of royal alms on this special day in the Christian calendar.
During the ceremony, recipients received two purses: one red and another white. Maundy coins were given to 74 women and 74 men, representing the Monarch’s age. This is based on a decree dating back to the time of Henry IV.
The white purse contained a set of specially minted silver Maundy coins, equivalent in value to the age of The Monarch (74p). The red purse contained two commemorative coins: one to celebrate His Majesty’s forthcoming 75th birthday and another to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Windrush Generation.
The coins were given to those senior citizens in recognition of their service to their churches and communities. The sum is nominal – less than £6 – but the coins are specially struck and for most recipients a special memento, and their worth far outstretches the face value.
The service on Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus washing the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper; it takes place every year on the Thursday before Easter Sunday. The royal ceremony of awarding gifts on this day dates back to 600AD.
The first English Monarch to be recorded as distributing alms at a Maundy service was King John, of Magna Carta fame, in 1210. In Knaresborough, Yorkshire, the King donated food, clothes and other gifts but it was in 1213 that the record of a silver coin distribution was made.
By 1363, under Edward III, the Monarch washed the feet of peasants, imitating Jesus. This was a tradition that ceased in the 18th century.
The King and Queen visited York Minster in November 2022 when they unveiled a statue of the late Queen, which had been commissioned as a celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Speaking at the time, His Majesty said: ‘Now, as we have witnessed, with great sadness, the passing of that reign, it is unveiled in her memory, as a tribute to a life of extraordinary service and devotion’.