On Maundy Thursday I travelled to Windsor to receive Maundy money from the Queen. All arrangements and the service are meticulously organised. One is invited to attend with a carer/ companion, and my daughter Emma was delighted to take on that role! We stayed overnight in Windsor and arrived early at the appointed car park on the “long walk,” the impressive entry into Windsor Castle. After politely undertaken security checks, we were driven in a royal coach into the castle grounds. We took our places in St George’s chapel and were treated to wonderful music and the arrival of an array of people with amazing titles and costumes. The Lord High Almoner briefed us on what would happen. People processed in including the Yeomen of the Guard, the Military Knights of Windsor, the Dean and Canons of Windsor, the Wandsmen, and many more with roles of historical significance. Four children chosen from local schools came carrying nosegays which traditionally masked the smell of the recipients!
Precisely at 11a.m the Queen entered with her own procession. Sadly, Prince Philip was not able to be there. It was the first time he had missed a Maundy service. The Queen is a diminutive figure. She was smartly dressed in a royal blue coat and hat. As a strong Christian she apparently loves this Maundy service. She has been handing out Maundy money since 1953. After the first reading from John 13:1-15 (Jesus washes the feet of the disciples) she proceeded around to personally hand two pouches of Maundy money to 92 recipients. After a brief sit down for a hymn she was up again after a second reading (Matthew 25:31-46) to dispense to the remaining 92. She smiled warmly at each recipient making it a very special moment.
After the service we had a reception in some of the magnificent rooms of Windsor; St George’s Hall, the Waterloo Chamber, the Grand reception room and the Garter Throne room.
We certainly do history, pomp and circumstance very well. However, this was also a very humbling experience. The service derives its name from the Latin “mandatum” meaning a commandment. The service starts with the words of Jesus “I give you a new commandment: Love one another: as I have loved you, so you are to love one another.” The Royal Maundy can be traced back in England with certainty to the 13th century. The first recorded Royal Distribution was in Yorkshire by King John in 1210.
From the 15th century the number of recipients has equalled the years of the Sovereign’s life. At one time, recipients were required to be the same sex as the Sovereign, but since the 18th century gender equality has been established, hence 92 men and 92 women received this year. Recipients are now pensioners selected by Bishops because of the Christian service they have rendered to the Church and community.
The Distribution is in two parts. A red purse contains a nominal allowance for clothing and provisions. A white purse contains the Maundy coins; silver pennies, twopences, threepences and fourpences according to the age of the Sovereign. The pouches are carried in six alms dishes dating from the reign of King Charles 11. All this is legal tender, but I will not be using it at the local shops! What a day to cherish.
Barbara, the diocesan president, is very pleased to see that Jill’s M.U. badge shows up so well on her white coat. Thank you.