Royal Mint strikes Maundy Money for ancient Easter ceremony
17 Apr 2014
Maundy Thursday is familiar to many as the Thursday before Easter, but for Britain’s 1100-year old Royal Mint, the day has an added significance, as it continues a 700 year old tradition of striking Maundy Money coins for the monarch to present in an annual pre-Easter ceremony known as the Royal Maundy.
The tradition was started by Edward I (1274 to 1307), when on Maundy Thursday, he would carry out an act of service giving alms - gifts of money and clothing - to the poor. Up to the end of James II reign in 1688, that act of service also included the washing of the recipients’ feet.
The ceremony was held for centuries in Whitehall and in Westminster Abbey, London, but since the beginning of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, the Maundy Service has travelled to towns and cities across Britain. This year, on 17 April, it is to be hosted in Blackburn Cathedral for the first time. Thiswill be the 59th year that the Queen has been present at the service since her accession to the throne in 1952, having attended on all but four occasions.
The Queen will hand out two purses – one red and one white - to each of the chosen recipients. The number of recipients relates to the sovereign's age, so for 88 men and 88 women from the Blackburn area, Maundy Thursday will be more memorable than usual this year. All over the age of 70, they are selected by clergy and ministers of all denominations in recognition of their service to church and community.
The white purse will contain Maundy coins to the value of 88 pence – in line with the Queen’s age - while the red purse will contain a £5 coin and a 50p coin, all struck by The Royal Mint. The one, two, three and four pence coins which make up Maundy Money are all legal tender.
The effigy of The Queen on ordinary circulating coinage has undergone four changes during her reign, but Maundy coins still bear the original portrait used on coins issued in the year of her Coronation in 1953. Since the start of the Queen’s reign, The Royal Mint has struck more than 400,000 of the limited edition Maundy coins.