Maundy Thursday

Published 8 April 2020

Every year, on Maundy Thursday, The Queen distributes special Maundy money to pensioners in a service which commemorates Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper. 

Recipients of Maundy money are nominated by their local dioceses for contributions to their local church and community.  Given the current circumstances, the Royal Maundy Service 2020 could not go ahead at St George's Chapel, Windsor, as planned. 

Instead some weeks ago, the Maundy money was blessed at the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, before being posted to recipients alongside a letter from The Queen. This meant recipients could still receive their Maundy money and purses, and instead mark the special occasion from their homes. 

Footage of the blessing of the Maundy purses at the Chapel Royal was captured some weeks ago. Please enjoy the video to see some highlights of the Royal Maundy Service traditions, which we hope will help you to feel part of the occasion from home. 

When and where is the service?

The Maundy Service happens each year on the Thursday before Easter Sunday. Early in her reign, The Queen decided Maundy money should not just be distributed to the people of London, and so she now travels to various cathedrals or abbeys to give gifts to local people. 

 

What is Maundy money?  

During the service, The Queen distributes gifts according to the number of years she has lived: for example, when she turned 80 she distributed 80 pence worth of Maundy money to 80 men and 80 women in recognition for their contribution to community and to the church. 

 

The service dates back to 600AD and these special coins have kept much the same form since 1670. They still bear the portrait of Her Majesty designed for her coronation in 1953, even though the image on ordinary circulating coinage has since been changed four times. 

Each recipient of Maundy money is given two small leather purses by The Queen, one red and one white.

The first contains a small amount of ordinary coinage which symbolises the Sovereign's gift for food and clothing. This year the coins are specially created to represent the poet Wordsworth and The Great British Olympic Team. The second purse contains Maundy coins up to the value of the Sovereign's age. The coins are legal tender but recipients normally prefer to retain them as a keepsake.