When and where is the service?
The Maundy Service happens each year on the Thursday before Easter Sunday. Early in her reign, Queen Elizabeth II decided Maundy money should not just be distributed to the people of London, and so she began travelling to various cathedrals or abbeys to give gifts to local people. In 2017, Her Majesty visited Leicester Cathedral, the last cathedral in the country she had yet to visit.
What is Maundy money?
During the service, The Sovereign distributes gifts according to the number of years they have lived: for example, when Queen Elizabeth II 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.
In 1572, Elizabeth I carried out the ceremony at Greenwich, distributing cloth, salmon, herrings, bread and claret. It was traditional for female sovereigns to also give away their own gown, but Elizabeth I gave money in lieu of her gown to prevent the people fighting over it.
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 King, one red and one white.
The first contains a small amount of ordinary coinage which symbolises the Sovereign's gift for food and clothing. 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.