Today, The Queen marked Maundy Thursday in the traditional way, with a Royal Maundy service held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Here, The Queen handed out Maundy Money.
Her Majesty – in striking cobalt blue – gave out symbolic alms to those who have served the church and their community; there is a person for each year of The Queen’s life, meaning in 2018, she distributed Maundy money to 92 people.
These alms were formerly money and clothing handed out by the Monarch, but now they are commemorative sterling silver coins, totalling and £5.50, in lieu of clothing in the red purse, and 92p, again for the Sovereign’s age, in the white. This year’s coins marked 100 years since (some) women got the right to vote.
Hazel Gould, one of the recipients, said: “I thought it was a fantastic service, it was just so beautiful and such a great feeling. I was quite emotional, I thought I was the only one but I saw the lady next to me was sobbing a little.
“I will probably give it to one of my two grandchildren in Kenya. They are very special. I hope they will treasure it as much as I do.”
The Queen travels to a different cathedral each year for the occasion – a decision she made in 1957 – and is one of the events to help her visit all corners of her Kingdom. Last year’s service took place at Leicester Cathedral, while 2016 was also at Windsor; it is thought now in her ninth decade, The Queen is wanting to travel less so will henceforth hold the service at chapels closer to home.
The Duke of Edinburgh was scheduled to join her, and was mentioned in the service’s programme, printed a few weeks ago. Prince Philip decided not to take part, Buckingham Palace said, after suffering with a hip complaint. Just last week, he did not attend a reception that saw The Duke of York take over as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, feeling unwell, say reports.
Traditional nosegays were handed out, made of primroses, daffodils, stock, purple statice, freesias, thyme and ivy leaves; these were historically posies of scented flowers to mask any bad smells and literally ‘make the nose gay’.
Dating back to the 13th century, the tradition of the Monarch distributing alms at a Maundy service seems to have begun with King John in 1210. He donated food, clothes and other gifts in Knaresborough, Yorkshire. Just a few years later, in 1213, we have a record of silver coins being given.
By 1363, under Edward III, the Monarch washed the feet of peasants, imitating Jesus at the Last Supper; a nod to this practice is seen in the linen sashes worn by the clergy.
It was Henry IV who decreed alms should be equal to the age of the Monarch. You can read more details about the history of the service here.
Yeomen Guards, the clergy involved and a few local schoolchildren posed for a photo with Her Majesty after the service.