What is the Queen doing on Maundy Thursday

She is attending the Royal Maundy service at St George’s Chapel Windsor Castle and distributing Maundy money to elderly people in recognition of their service to their community and their church.

Maundy Thursday commemorates the day when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and shared the Last Supper with them before his arrest and crucifixion. The word ‘Maundy’ comes from the command or mandatum given by Jesus to the disciples, at the Last Supper, to love one another. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you” John 13:34.

From the 13th century onwards it was a tradition for the monarch to give food and clothing to the poor on this day and even to wash some of the people’s feet (although the last monarch to do that was James II in the 1680s). The Queen has distributed Maundy money on all but four occasions since coming to the throne in 1952. Traditionally she gives each pensioner the same number of coins as her age. This year each pensioner will receive 92 Royal Maundy silver penny pieces specially minted for the occasion and presented in a white purse. In addition each will also receive a red purse containing a £5 coin marking four generations of royalty, and a 50p piece commemorating the Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave some women the right to vote for the first time as this year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of that act. Traditionally the Queen and the clergy officiating at the service carry nosegays of sweet smelling flowers daffodils, primroses, stocks, purple statice, freesias, rosemary, thyme and ivy leaves, a tradition which goes back to the days when the monarch really did people’s wash feet!

The Royal Maundy service used to take place in London, but early in her reign the Queen decided that the service should move to a different venue every year. It returns to London once a decade. This year the service will take place at St George’s Chapel inside Windsor Castle which will also be the venue for the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle in May.

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