On behalf of The Queen, The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall attended the Maundy Service at St George’s Chapel yesterday.
It marks the first time since 1970 that The Queen has not attended the service, after suffering recent mobility issues. In total, she has missed the Service four times, due to overseas tours and the birth of her two youngest children.
The future King and Queen Consort walked along a line of recipients saying a few words of gratitude to each as the purses were distributed.
During the ceremony, Maundy coins were given to 96 women and 96 men. An extra coin is added to the purses annually, along with another recipient, to mark every year since The Queen’s birth. This was a decree dating back to the time of Henry IV.
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.
The service, Maundy Thursday, commemorates Jesus washing the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper, takes place every year on the Thursday before Easter Sunday. The royal ceremony of awarding gifts on this day dates back to AD 600.
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. 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 stopped in the 18th century. You can read more about the history of the event here.
The Queen hasn’t taken part in the annual tradition since 2019, after the service was cancelled twice in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is the first time The Queen’s eldest child has stepped in for the tradition, with Princess Eugenie accompanying her grandmother to St George’s Chapel at the last service in 2019.
Previously, the service has travelled across British cathedrals in order to allow for time to see people from across the nation, but in more recent years it has been focused around London for ease of access for Her Majesty.
The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, noted The Queen had a list of Maundy money recipients and details about them. “She’s close by and would want me to extend to you her greetings,” he told the congregation before the service, speaking in his role as Lord High Almoner.
It was announced on Friday that the 95-year old Monarch would not be attending the Service.