Today Maundy Thursday also known as Holy Thursday marks the official start of Easter when Christians mark the Last Supper Jesus had with his Apostles in Jerusalem. The word Maundy derives from the Latin word ‘mandatum’ meaning commandment. The Queen marks Maundy Thursday by distributing Maundy Money. Coins in a white purse and a red one are handed out during a Maundy Thursday church service, this year to be held at Leicester Cathedral.
The red purse contains money for clothing and provisions, the white purse contains special silver Maundy coins which, while legal tender, are more symbolic. These maundy coins usually equal, in pence, the age of the sovereign. The Queen only gives Maundy Money to pensioners. Giving out the coins is a tradition dating back to the 13th century and is all about upholding the message of spreading love.
Maundy money as such started in the reign of Charles II with an undated issue of hammered coins in 1662. The coins were a four penny, three penny, two penny and one penny piece but it was not until 1670 that a dated set of all four coins appeared. Prior to this, ordinary coinage was used for Maundy gifts, silver pennies alone being used by the Tudors and Stuarts for the ceremony.
The Queen will select an equal number of males and females to give the money to, totalling her age. According to the Royal Mint Henry IV began the practice of relating the number of recipients of gifts to the sovereign’s age, and as it became the custom of the sovereign to perform the ceremony, the event became known as the Royal Maundy.
I will be attending the special Maundy Thursday service at St. Anne’s in Tottington later today, dv.