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The word Maundy is thought to come from ‘mandatum’ or commandment. The Royal Maundy is a very old ceremony, which has its origin in the commandment Jesus gave after washing the feet of his disciples before they sat down to the Last Supper: ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ Do you know a hymn with these words?

The ceremony of washing the feet, accompanied by gifts of food and clothing, can be traced back to the fourth century. It seems to have been the custom as early as the thirteenth century for members of the royal family to take part in Maundy ceremonies. They would distribute gifts of food and clothing, and wash the feet of the poor in tribute to Jesus’ act of humility.


On Maundy Thursday, when Christians remember the Last Supper, many churches repeat this ritual, with priests, bishops and archbishops alike kneeling to wash the feet of congregation members.

When Christian clergy wash their congregants’ feet, it is a gesture of humility,  following the example of Christ.


Henry IV began the practice of relating the number of people receiving gifts to the king's age, and as it became the custom of the sovereign to perform the ceremony, the event became known as the Royal Maundy. Fortunately for our current Queen, the act of washing the feet of the poor was discontinued in the eighteenth century! In the nineteenth century further change saw the gifts of food and clothing being replaced by money.

Maundy money as such started in the reign of Charles II with an undated issue of hammered coins in 1662. The coins were a fourpenny, threepenny, twopenny and one penny piece but it was not until 1670 that a dated set of all four coins appeared, and they have remained much the same ever since.


Her Majesty visits a different cathedral in the UK each year to distribute Maundy Money to pensioners. After her visit to Leicester Cathedral in 2017, The Queen had successfully visited every single cathedral in the UK for Maundy Thursday. This year the service will be held at St. George's Chapel.

According to ancient tradition, the number of recipients and the amount of money are directly related to the Sovereign’s age. Therefore, as Her Majesty will be 92 years old this year, 92 men and 92 women will receive 92 pence in specially minted Maundy Money, together with a further gift, in two specially made leather purses.

The money is specially struck by the Royal Mint for this service, and includes 3 pence pieces - which are legal tender! The 184 recipients have been chosen because of their service of church and community.

At the ceremony, which takes place on Maundy Thursday, the Queen hands each recipient two small leather string purses. One, a red purse, contains – in ordinary coinage – money in lieu of food and clothing; the other, a white purse, contains silver Maundy coins. The coins bear the same picture of the Queen’s head as the original coins made after her coronation in 1953.


If 92 women and 92 men each have 92 pence, how much do they have between them?

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