The location for the 2014 Royal Maundy service has been revealed. Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh are set to attend the service held at Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire on 17th April. This will be The Queen’s first visit to Blackburn since May 2006. It will be a long-distance trip for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip as Blackburn Cathedral is approximately a 4 hour drive from Buckingham Palace.
The Queen attends the Royal Maundy service each year at a different abbey or cathedral in the UK on Maundy Thursday. The service takes place on the Thursday before Easter and marks Jesus Christ’s Last Supper with the Apostles. The observance recognises the services of local elderly residents to their church and community. In addition to attending the service, Her Majesty customarily presents ‘Maundy money’ to those aged 70 or older as a symbolic gesture of appreciation. This is a practice dating back to medieval times.
Maundy money is a traditional coinage which has remained in very similar form since 1670. While conventional currency has had three changes to The Queen’s effigy during her reign, Maundy coins continue to retain Queen Elizabeth’s portrait by Mary Gillick for coins issued in 1953 to commemorate her coronation.
Maundy Thursday is steeped in tradition. According to The British Monarchy’s official website, the monarch’s age being reflected in the number of Maundy coins handed out has been consistent with the custom since it began in the 15th century. The Queen turns 88 this year, so for the service at Blackburn Cathedral 88 women and 88 men from the Diocese of Blackburn will be invited by Buckingham Palace to attend and receive the coins from the Queen.
The Royal Maundy service was held in London each year until early in Queen Elizabeth’s reign when she decided it should be held in different cities. The celebration still returns to London occasionally, most recently when it was held at Westminister Abbey on 21st April 2011, barely a week before the venue hosted the wedding ceremony of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The Queen has been present and distributed the Maundy money every year since her accession to the throne in 1952, excluding four occasions. In 1954 Her Majesty was on a Commonwealth tour, so the service was officiated by The Lord High Almoner. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother took her place in 1960 after the birth of Prince Andrew, while Princess Mary, The Princess Royal, officiated the 1964 service after Prince Edward was born. The Queen Mother again performed the duties in The Queen’s place while Her Majesty toured New Zealand in 1970.
The Rt Rev Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn, reacted to the decision to hold this year’s service at Blackburn Catherdal by saying “It will be wonderful in my first year in the diocese to be able to welcome Her Majesty The Queen to the Cathedral. Normally people visit Her Majesty to receive honours, so it is symbolic that this is the only occasion that The Queen travels to make an award.”
photo credit: Paul Tomlin via photopin cc