Maundy Thursday commemorates the day of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. The word ‘Maundy’ comes from the command or ‘mandatum’ by Christ at the Last Supper, to love one another.
The traditional Maundy Thursday ceremony in Britain is carried out the the Monarch, where ‘Maundy money’ is distributed to an equal number of male and female pensioners from local communities.
This tradition began in the 13th century, under the reign of Edward I, where members of the royal family took part in Maundy ceremonies, distributing money and gifts, and by washing the feet of the poor. The feet washing tradition ended in 1688, with the last monarch to perform this being James II, last Roman Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland.
At that time, all the recipients were the same sex as the Sovereign. This changed in the eighteenth century, and now an equal number of men and women are included.
The recipients of Royal Maundy, are as many elderly men and women as there are years in the sovereign’s age, and are chosen because of the Christian service they have given to the Church and community.
Since the fifteenth century, the number of Maundy coins handed out, and the number of people receiving the coins, has been related to the Sovereign’s age. In 2012, there were 86 male and 86 female recipients at York Minster for the Royal Maundy service attended by Her Majesty.
At the ceremony, which takes place annually on Maundy Thursday, the sovereign hands to each recipient two small leather string purses.
One, a red purse, contains – in ordinary coinage – money in lieu of food and clothing; the other, a white purse, contains silver Maundy coins consisting of the same number of pence as the years of the sovereign’s age.
These Maundy coins are specially minted by the British Royal Mint.
This form of specially dated Maundy money begin in 1670, although Charles II began using an undated issue of coins in 1662.
The 2013 ceremony will be held at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, where the Queen will hand out money to pensioners in recognition of their work for the community and the church.
This years event is different in that the recipients are normally locals from the diocese where the ceremony is being held, but this year, people from all of of the UK’s 44 Christian dioceses, 87 women and 87 men, one for each of the Queen’s 87 years, will receive the uniquely minted Maundy Money.
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