The Monarch, on Maundy Thursday (today), traditionally gives out Maundy Money to the deserving needy. The amount the Queen gives coincides with how long she has been alive. Thus, this year, 80 men and 80 women each receive 80 pence in specially minted coins. But as this is her landmark 80th birthday, she also gave each one a special £5 coin commemorating her 80th birthday. And, on top of the 80 pence and a £5 coin, she also gave each one a special 50 pence coin which commemorates 150 years of the Victoria Cross.

Queen to hand out Maundy Money
13th April 2006

The Queen will distribute Maundy Money to 80 men and 80 women in an ancient service ahead of her 80th birthday next week. She will attend the traditional Easter Week ceremony in Guildford, Surrey, with the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Queen will make her way through Guildford Cathedral, handing out two small purses to the specially chosen 160 pensioners.

The first - a white one - contains 80p in Maundy coins, reflecting the Queen's age on her forthcoming birthday.

The second - which is red - holds a £5 coin celebrating her 80th birthday and a 50p coin marking the 150th anniversary of the institution of the Victoria Cross.

All the coins are newly minted this year.

The recipients are all retired pensioners recommended by clergy and ministers of all denominations, in recognition of service to the Church and to the community.

This year there will be 15 nonagenarians and the oldest recipient will be 94.

Among the recipients will be Mary Boxall who said she was delighted to be attending the event in the Queen's 80th year.

Mrs Boxall, who has served her local community over the years as Sunday school teacher, a girl guide leader and a pastoral assistant, was put forward for the ceremony by her local vicar.


What is Maundy Money?

Maundy Money is a special British coinage given to deserving poor people in a religious ceremony performed by Anglicans on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter.

The present-day Maundy ceremony has evolved over the centuries and bears little relationship to the original rites to which it owes its origins. A fundamental aspect of the original Maundy service was the washing of the feet of the poor, which has its origins in Jesus' washing of the feet of the Disciples at the Last Supper. In early ceremonies, senior clergymen would wash the feet of lower clergy, while in other ceremonies, the washing would be done by someone higher up the hierarchical order.

King Edward II (1307–1327) seems to be the first English monarch to have been recorded actively taking part in the ceremony, although King John (1199–1216) is said to have taken part in a ceremony in about 1210, donating small silver coins to the poor. King Edward III (1327–1377) washed feet and gave gifts including money to the poor; the practice continued regularly, with the participation of the monarch, until 1698.

Although the monarch did not participate personally, later ceremonies continued in which a selection of people were given Maundy money consisting of silver pennies totalling, in pence, the current age of the monarch. The washing of feet ended after the 1736 ceremony, until it was re-instated in the 2003 ceremony, when it was performed by the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams.

In 1932, King George V agreed to take part personally in the distribution of the Maundy money, while the 1936 set was distributed by King Edward VIII, although the coins bore George V's effigy. By 1953 it had become normal practice for the monarch to distribute the Maundy money, a practice which continues to this day.

Until 1820 ordinary silver coinage was used for the Maundy money, but from 1822 special coins were minted in values of 1, 2, 3, and 4 pence. Each set of Maundy money therefore contains 10 pence, and recipients would be given an appropriate number of complete sets, plus a part-set when appropriate.

Victorian Maundy coins are quite common, as anybody could order a set from a bank, however in 1908, King Edward VII ordered that they should only be supplied to their recipients and people connected with the service, so coins dated 1909 and later are considerably scarcer than those which preceded them—although of course the quantity increases as the reign gets longer. (In 2006 Queen Elizabeth II turns 80, and thus 80 men and 80 women each received 80 pence in Maundy Money on April 13.) This year, they also recieved a special £5 coin which commemorated her 80th birthday as well as a 50p coin commemorating 150 years of the Victoria Cross.

Under a special privilege granted by Queen Elizabeth I, students in the youngest class of Westminster School also received Maundy coins, but this was discontinued in the 1970s.