Photo that puts our holidaying MPs to shame: ROBERT HARDMAN sees the Queen (aged 92) hard at work on Maundy Thursday
By Robert Hardman for the Daily Mail
19 April 2019
At least we still have one public servant determined to keep calm and carry on. With protesters shutting down the capital on a whim, the police in a dither and the political classes in hiding from a shambles of their own making, there isn’t much to make one want to leap like a spring lamb this weekend.
Yesterday, however, we had a very reassuring reminder that the ship of state is not quite on the rocks. There is, thankfully, someone we can still rely on up on the bridge.
Dressed in bright daffodil yellow, a beaming Queen was clearly enjoying every moment of the annual Royal Maundy ceremony on a warm spring day at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Just three days short of her 93rd birthday, the message was clear: Business as usual.
For the best part of two hours, she was on her feet presenting the traditional purses of Maundy Money to nearly 200 public-spirited pensioners as she processed through St George’s Chapel.
Dressed in bright daffodil yellow, a beaming Queen was clearly enjoying every moment of the annual Royal Maundy ceremony on a warm spring day at St George’s Chapel, Windsor
Princess Eugenie, 29, wore a stylish floral Erdem dress and a small navy blue hat by Juliette Botterill for the service. She was given a traditional nosegay at the chapel's door before entering the church
With no Prince Philip on hand, following his retirement from public duties, the Queen was accompanied by her granddaughter, Princess Eugenie, for whom this was a happy return to the church in which she was married six months ago.
Once the service was over, the Queen attended a reception for the many participants in one of the oldest royal ceremonies in existence.
First held five years before King John signed the Magna Carta, the Royal Maundy service is as colourful as it is ancient. It brings out all sorts of exotic royal specimens for an annual appearance – not least the ‘Wandsmen’ and the ‘Children of the Royal Almonry’.
Many Palace veterans regard it as among the most enchanting fixtures in the calendar. It was not hard to see why yesterday.
Here was the oldest monarch in history, processing through a magnificent place of worship and saluting society’s unsung stalwarts to the accompaniment of the most sublime choral music. As the choir reached the crescendo of Handel’s coronation anthem, Zadok The Priest, I spotted one or two people in tears.
Perhaps there was an added poignancy this Easter. At a time of turbulence and division, symbols of continuity are important.
There are few things more permanent than a head of state faithfully performing an 800-year-old ceremony rooted in the Bible.
From the ‘nosegays’ (ancient flower arrangements designed to ward off evil smells) to the linen towels worn by the officials (a throwback to washing the feet of the poor), everything in this great pageant had meaning.
The Queen and Princess Eugenie arrived at the Royal Maundy Service at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle earlier today
The Queen wore a bright, colourful skirt beneath her yellow coat, which featured yellow and purple flowers that perfectly matching her nosegay. She topped off her outfit with an Australian wattle brooch
The royals arrived at the Maundy Service earlier today, and waved to crowds. The annual service will see the Queen handing out commemorative coins to 93 pensioners
Only two days before, the Queen had sent a message of condolence to President Macron following the fire at Notre Dame cathedral.
Royal Maundy and Notre Dame are direct contemporaries. St George’s Chapel was built in the style of ‘Our Lady of Paris’, too. It has been a week when the appeal and enduring power of the medieval has surprised us all.
There was also an extra Easter buzz about the place yesterday. Windsor is expecting a new arrival any minute as the young couple who have just set up home over at Frogmore Cottage await the birth of their first child. It is less than a year since an estimated 2.4billion watched Prince Harry and Meghan Markle marry inside these very walls.
On arrival, the Queen was presented with her traditional nosegay of fresh spring flowers, created by Leicester florist Rosemary Hughes.
The proud holder of a Royal Warrant as ‘Her Majesty’s Supplier of Nosegays’, Rosemary has been doing this at every Royal Maundy service for the past 35 years, despite one unfortunate occupational hazard: she is allergic to daffodils.
St George’s was a riot of colour thanks to the presence of two companies of old soldiers, the Military Knights of Windsor and the Yeomen of the Guard, all in full fig.
The Queen was attended by four local schoolchildren, appointed as ‘Children of the Royal Almonry’ for the day, plus characters such as the Keeper of the Closet and the Lord High Almoner (currently the Bishop of Worcester).
Just three days short of her 93rd birthday, the message was clear: Business as usual
The Queen wore her glasses to present the 93 commemorative coins to the 93 pensioners, which honours the monarch's upcoming 93rd birthday
The royal pair held nosegays at they attended the service at St George's Chapel, Windsor. It was a rare public appearance Eugenie and the Queen, who were last seen together at an official event of this kind in 2009
The Queen handed two purses - one white and one red - to 93 men and 93 women, marking her 93rd birthday, which she will celebrate next month
The six ‘Wandsmen’ (one of whom was a wandswoman) were present with their wands, as custom dictates, to protect Maundy recipients from muggers. All the participants received the traditional wage: Ten pence.
Preceded by the traditional hymns and readings, the royal procession slowly made its way around the chapel, the Queen shaking the hand of every recipient and presenting her money.
With the Chapel Royal Choir singing over it all, it was not supposed to be a moment for small talk, though a few had a go.
Few monarchs have been as devoted to this event as the present one. In the early years of Royal Maundy, sovereigns would give money to the poor and then wash their feet, replicating Jesus’s humility at the Last Supper.
By the late 17th century royal interest had waned and monarchs appointed a Lord High Almoner to do the honours. It was George V who revived the royal presence on an occasional basis.
The Queen, however, has taken it seriously from the start. The very first official engagement of her reign, while still in mourning, was the Royal Maundy of 1952 and she hasn’t missed one since.
In modern times, the ceremony has switched its focus from ‘the poor’ to those with a lifetime’s dedication to their local church community.
Tory Nadine Dorries swapped her landlocked Mid Bedfordshire constituency for the wide open sky, fresh air and surf of the Devon coast
Lewisham Labour MP Ellie Reeves was also enjoying the British countryside, staying in a cosy-looking cottage in Wales
Tory Rachel Maclean swapped her Redditch seat in the West Midlands for the wild expanse of Blencathra in the lake District, accompanied by her dogs Herbie and Phoebe
Royal Maundy is an event which grows each year for the simple reason that its size corresponds to the age of the monarch. This year, there were 93 men and 93 women. Each received two purses, one containing a nominal amount (£5.50) for ‘clothing and provisions’ and the other specially minted Maundy coins to the sum of 93p – again, equal to the monarch’s years.
The Yeomen of the Guard carry the Maundy Money on large gold plates. Traditionally, they would process with the plates resting on their heads but were ordered to stop eight years ago.
Thanks to the Queen’s record-breaking reign, the volume of coinage now weighs so much that it is deemed too dangerous for old soldiers to carry it on their heads.
Yesterday was significant for another reason. It was the first Royal Maundy since 1210 where the oldest person present was the monarch (the youngest recipient was a mere slip of a thing, aged 70, from Chelmsford).
As the recipients set off for tea up at the castle, all felt that they had been part of something very special. ‘The Queen is extraordinary.
She looked everyone in the eye with this wonderful smile and it is all done so beautifully,’ said Lisa Wright, 85, honoured for her years as a curate in Southwark.
‘Just marvellous,’ said John Parkin, 85, a retired dairy farmer, cheesemaker and long-serving churchwarden from Nantwich. ‘I found it all really rather emotional. I think she’s such a credit to the country.’
Given the current state of the country, is there even a republican who would disagree?