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Queen breaks with tradition for Royal Maundy in her 90th year

Posted on: March 24, 2016 4:49 PM
specially minted silver coins were presented by the Queen to a selected group of pensioners in recognition of their service to the community and church.
Photo Credit: The Royal Mint
Related Categories: England, Monarchy

[ACNS] Queen Elizabeth II has today taken part in the traditional Royal Maundy service in which small purses of money were given to a selected groups of pensioners; but in a break from the usual tradition of visiting a different cathedral each year and selecting recipients from the local dioceses; to mark her forthcoming 90th birthday the Queen held the ceremony in Windsor Castle’s St George’s Chapel and the elderly recipients were selected from throughout England.

The Royal Maundy service dates back to the 1200s, when the monarch would give alms and wash the feet of those present. The foot washing by the monarch came to end in the 18th Century; but symbolic gifts of money are still given. The service originates from the command, or “mandatum” by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, to love one another. It is from this that the day gets its name Maundy Thursday.

The recipients receive two small purses: a red one contains a nominal allowance for clothing and provisions formerly given in kind; and a white purse containing specially minted Maundy coins – with the same number of pence as the Sovereign has years of age. The Monarch’s age is also reflected in the number of recipients – there are 180 this year: 90 men and 90 women. All are chosen to acknowledge their service to the community and church.

One of them is Una Barrett from north Carlisle, an active member of both the Mothers’ Union and Women’s Institute and a sides person at Carlisle Cathedral.

The retired teacher has also been heavily involved in guiding and was a District Commissioner. She, her husband, John, son Nicholas and one of the couple’s daughters helped out when the Queen gave Maundy Money at Carlisle Cathedral in 1978.
“It was earth shaking to receive the letter confirming I had been nominated,” Mrs Barrett said. “I could not believe I had been chosen. I let all my children know immediately and everyone has been thrilled.”

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Mothers’ Union member Una Barrett was one of 90 women who received the Royal Maundy money from Queen Elizabeth II today at a service in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
Photo: Diocese of Carlisle

This year’s Maundy distribution consists of nine each of silver pennies, twopences, threepences and fourpences; adding up to 90 pence in the white purse; and a £5 coin commemorating The Queen’s 90th birthday and a 50p coin commemorating the nine hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. Both coins have been minted in 2016.

“Historically, the sum of £5.50 in the red purse is made up of £3 for clothing, £1.50 in lieu of provisions and £1 for the redemption of the Sovereign’s gown which, before Tudor times, used to be divided between the recipients,” the College of St George said on its website.

The use of St George’s Chapel for the Royal Maundy service is very rare. Before today, it was last used in 1959 and, before that, in 1432 when the then Monarch, King Henry VI, was just two years old.