Maundy Money

The word Maundy comes from the Latin word ‘mandatum’, meaning command and the Maundy Service happens each year on the Thursday before Easter Sunday. It is an ancient ceremony, inspired by the Bible. On the day before Good Friday, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and commanded them to ‘Love one another’. By the 13th century the Royal Family was taking part in similar ceremonies as by washing the feet of the poor and giving money and gifts they were showing humility and compassion.
Henry IV introduced a new tradition, giving the same number of gifts as his age. This tradition continues and on 29th March this year Maundy Money will be distributed to 91 elderly men and 91 elderly women, chosen because of the Christian service they have given to the Church and the community. The first Maundy money ceremony took place when Charles II gave people undated hammered coins in 1662. The coins were a four penny, three penny, two penny and one penny piece. By 1670 the king started giving out a dated set of all four coins. Until 1820 ordinary silver coinage was used for the Maundy money but from 1822 special coins were minted. The tradition of the king or queen washing the feet of the poor faded out in the 18th century, but the monarch still gave people food and clothing. By the 19th century the tradition had changed again, and the monarch simply gave people the Maundy money.
Early in her reign, the Queen decided she would not just distribute the money to the people of London and so, over the years, beginning in 1952 at Westminster Abbey and ending in 2017 in Leicester Cathedral, the Queen has successfully visited every single cathedral in the UK. During the Queen’s reign, her portrait on ordinary coins has been updated four times but Maundy money still bears the same portrait which appeared on the first coins of her reign. At the ceremony, the monarch hands each recipient two small leather string purses. A red purse contains ordinary coins, while a white one contains silver Maundy coins, amounting to the same number of pence as the years of the sovereign’s age.