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The history of royal Maundy, the ancient tradition Queen Camilla will now carry out on behalf of King Charles

Queen Camilla will distribute Maundy money this year, carrying out the ancient tradition on behalf of King Charles as he continues his treatment for cancer. Her Majesty will take on one of the oldest royal duties of all with its history intertwined in the very origins of the monarchy.

Royal Maundy is a religious service in the Church of England held on Maundy Thursday, which precedes Good Friday. At the service, the Monarch, or their representative, ceremonially distributes small silver coins referred to as “Maundy money.” Legally, the coins are known as “The King’s Maundy money.”

The coins are seen as symbolic alms to their elderly recipients and are technically legal tender but do not circulate because of their numismatic value and silver content. A small sum of regular money is also given in lieu of gifts of food or clothing that the sovereign once bestowed on maundy recipients.

Maundy money is in denominations of one penny, two pence, three pence, and four pence. Until the 18th century, the coins given were from circulating coinage. It was not until the latter half of the century that Maundy coins were developed as noncirculating and distinct pieces. The coins are presented in two leather purses; one is a white purse with the same amount of coins as the Monarch’s age. There is then a red purse that contains a £5 and 50p coin. Most years, Maundy money sets become highly sought after by collectors.

The name “Maundy” and the ceremony itself derive from the instruction by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper that his followers should love one another. In the Middle Ages, the English monarch washed the feet of beggars in imitation of Jesus; however, this tradition did not go past the 18th century. The monarch also presented gifts and money to the poor. Over time, it was not uncommon for additional money to be substituted for clothing or other items.

Traditionally, the service was held in or near London; in the early 20th century, it was mainly held at Westminster Abbey. However, in the second half it was celebrated in many different churches. The first Maundy service of the reign of King Charles, in 2023, was held in York Minister. In 2024, the service takes place at Worcester Cathedral.

Queen Elizabeth II considered this service one of the most important of all and only missed on a handful of occasions. In the last year of her reign, Her Late Majesty was unable to attend and the purses of money were distributed by her eldest son, now King Charles, with his wife at his side.

Recipients are chosen every year based on their service to the community or church and are chosen based on the recommendation of clergymen of various Christian denominations.

This year’s Maundy service takes place on March 28th 2024.

About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.