This year, on Maundy Thursday, Her Majesty The Queen will travel to Blackburn Cathedral for a Maundy Ceremony during which, among many other traditions, she will hand out Maundy Money. The tradition of the Monarch giving money to the needy on Maundy Thursday dates back 700 years, the tradition eventually becoming known as the Royal Maundy. Today’s recipients are usually people over the age of 70, chosen not because they are needy but for service to their churches and communities.
The number of people who receive Maundy Money has evolved over the years, and now equals the number of years of the monarch’s age, with the same number of men as women nominated.
So, in 2014 88 men and 88 women will receive these incredibly special coins. They will be given a white purse containing 88p in Maundy coins (one for every year of the Monarch’s age) and a red purse containing the 2014 commemorative £5 and 50p coins – both of which, unlike Maundy Money, are available to purchase.
The money itself has changed little since the 17th century, with only the face value of the coins being increased from old to new pence due to decimalisation in 1971. Four portraits of The Queen have appeared on our circulating coins but Maundy coins still bear the portrait of The Queen used for the first coins of her reign in 1953.
In the run-up to the event, this year’s lucky Blackburn guests recently attended a “Maundy Lecture” in the cathedral, which is effectively a rehearsal to prepare them for the service on 17th April. After the ceremony The Queen and Prince Philip will attend a Reception at Blackburn Rovers Football Club to meet all those involved.
It is said that The Queen takes quite an informal approach at this event, and many people find it a very emotional experience. Stories abound of exchanges with Her Majesty, one of which is the tale of a recipient who gave her a jar of home-made marmalade in return for the Maundy Money.
Since she came to the throne in 1952, The Queen has missed the Maundy Money service on only four occasions and the 2014 ceremony will be the 59th time she has performed the historic ceremony. This will be the first time The Queen has attended the service in Lancashire, and it is understood this is in support of the historic building work taking place at the cathedral, the first such work on an English cathedral since the Middle Ages.
OUR TOP 5 MAUNDY MONEY FACTS
- Henry IV was the first monarch to decree that the number of Maundy recipients should equal the years of the Monarch’s age, although the practice began at least as far back as 1363 when the then 50-year-old Edward III gave gifts to 50 poor men.
- During the ceremony, both male and female officials carry nosegays – small bouquets of flowers, probably originally intended as a guard against infections.
- Four ‘Children of the Royal Almonry’ (two boys and two girls chosen from the area of the venue) attend the event. They wear white linen, carry smaller nosegays of flowers and receive a set of Maundy Money.
- The venue officially becomes the Royal Chapel for the day, with the Royal Standard flying.
- Yeomen of The Guard – or ‘Beef Eaters’ as they are popularly known – carry the Maundy Money into the ceremony on six Alms dishes. Two of these are known as the ‘Fish Dishes’ one featuring seawater fish, the other freshwater.
Read more about this ancient ceremony and the role The Royal Mint has played in producing the coins distributed each year by the Monarch.