*The picture is unframed*
The Royal Maundy is an ancient ceremony, inspired by The Bible. On the day before Good Friday, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and commanded them to ‘Love one another as I have loved you’. Maundy Thursday is therefore the Thursday before Easter, which changes date each year in accordance with the cycle of the moon. ‘Maundy’ actually means the washing of the feet of the poor, particularly with reference to Jesus. It comes from the Old French, and prior to that Latin for the English word ‘Mandate’ (command). In the ancient world, when people wore sandals, guests were often given a bowl to wash their feet in as a sign of hospitality. Washing someone else’s feet is also a sign of humility. And in the Christian act, it also symbolises the cleansing and forgiveness of sins.
The first recorded account of the Royal family washing feet in the United Kingdom was by Saint Margaret, who married Malcolm III of Scotland in 1060.
in 1210, King John marked Maundy Thursday by giving gifts of knives and belts to thirteen poor men in Yorkshire. The number thirteen, then, symbolized the thirteen who were at the Last Supper, the Twelve Apostles and Christ himself.
King John was the first English monarch to be recorded as giving gifts of small silver coins to the poor when in 1213 he gave 13 pence to each of 13 poor men at a ceremony in Rochester.
Edward I (King from1272 to 1307) was the first monarch to keep the Maundy only on Maundy Thursday. Before Edward, additional services were sometimes made during the year.
The medieval tradition of giving alms to thirteen poor people, the number representing Christ and the twelve apostles, was modified in 1363 when the fifty-year-old Edward III presented his maundy to fifty men, and the number of recipients subsequently reflected the monarch’s age.
Henry IV was born on a moveable feast – Maundy Thursday 1367 – and celebrated his Birthday accordingly, thus beginning a Royal Tradition of celebrating an “Official Birthday” on a different date than their actual Birthday. This suggests that the origin of the custom of the sovereign’s age-related donations, on Maundy Thursday, lies in Henry’s own attempt to draw attention to the fact that he, like Richard II, was born on a religious feast day, though Edward III had created the tradition.
The first Maundy money ceremony took place in the reign of Charles II, when the king gave people undated hammered coins in 1662. The coins were a four penny, three penny, two penny and one penny piece. By 1670 the king started giving out a dated set of all four coins.
The tradition of the king or queen washing the feet of the poor faded in 1689 in England, but the monarch still gave people food and clothing. By the nineteenth century the tradition had changed again, and the monarch simply gave people the Maundy money.
Today’s recipients of Royal Maundy are elderly men and women, chosen because of the Christian service they have given to the Church and the community. The ceremony takes place every Maundy Thursday. There are as many recipients as there are years in the sovereign’s age.
At the ceremony, the monarch hands each recipient two small leather string purses. A red purse contains ordinary coins, while a white one contains silver Maundy coins, amounting to the same number of pence as the years of the sovereign’s age.