When Her Majesty the Queen makes her Royal Maundy visit on April 2nd, she will be distributing gifts to 89 men and 89 women.
A Medieval Tradition
The tradition of the English monarch distributing alms at a Maundy service can be traced all the way back to 15 April 1210. King John donated garments, forks, food and other gifts to the poor of Knaresborough, Yorkshire. He also began the tradition of giving gifts in 1213, where he gave 13 pence to 13 poor men in Rochester. At this time, the number was symbolic of the Twelve Apostles, together with Jesus or an angel.
In 1363, fifty-year-old Edward III gave fifty pence each to fifty poor men. So began the tradition of making the number of coins distributed and the number of recipients equal to the monarch’s age. This was made an official decree by Henry IV and has been a central part of the Maundy service ever since.
The tradition of giving coins in accordance to the Monarch’s age continues to this day. Today’s recipients are pensioners, chosen in recognition for their service to their churches and communities. This can be anything from making a valuable difference in local charity work, to giving their time to help with the running of the church, to being widely acknowledged as a worthy member of the church community. This years' recipients were nominated by clergy members from a variety of churches from the Sheffield Diocese, covering a number of denominations.
In the Queen's 89th year, 89 men and 89 women from across Sheffield will receive the gift of 89 pence of specially minted Maundy money, in addition to an extra gift. These recipients will attend a Maundy Lecture at the Cathedral in advance of the service to familiarise themselves with what will happen.
On the day, the Queen Herself interacts informally with the Maundy recipients – it is said that in the past, some of them have given her gifts in return, including a jar of marmalade!