I wasn’t raised in any particular religion. My mom was, like, a lapsed Presbyterian, I think? She only went to church once in my childhood. My father was a practising Hindu, “practising” in the sense that he loved to put Hindu idols all around the house and would make frequent references to Shiva providing. My point is that my education around religion was free-wheeling, shall we say. I didn’t learn much about Christianity until I was well into my teens, and honestly, most of what I know about Jesus’s life came from Jesus Christ Superstar (I sh-t you not).
So you’ll hopefully understand that I did not know that Maundy Thursday was/is a thing? Like I’m ~~ years old and I guess I’ve never paid attention. Maundy Thursday is the marking of the Last Supper of Jesus and his Apostles before the Crucifixion. Queen Elizabeth marks Maundy Thursday every year by handing out Maundy Money to men and women at Anglican churches. She’s apparently visited every Anglican church in England at this point to pass out the Maundy Money. It’s a 13th century tradition for the monarch to hand out money, and the Queen’s twist is that she doesn’t go out to the streets to hand out money to just any peasant she comes across. She goes to church and hands out the money to people who have been vetted by the palace for their service to the community.
In years past, the Queen does the Maundy Money thing with Prince Philip, but he wasn’t around today. Princess Eugenie came out to support her grandmother instead. The Queen handed 93 men and 93 women – one of each sex for every year the Queen’s been alive – two small purses, one red and one white:
Each recipient of Maundy money – one male and one female for every year the Queen has been alive – was given two small leather purses, one red and one white. The first contains a small amount of coinage which symbolizes the monarch’s gift for food and clothing – this year in the form of newly two minted cousins: a £5 piece, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria and a 50p coin portraying Sherlock Holmes. The white purse contains Maundy coins up to the value of the Queen’s age. Recipients at Thursday’s service were given 93p in silver Maundy coins.
“It seems to have been the custom as early as the thirteenth century for members of the royal family to take part in Maundy ceremonies, to distribute money and gifts, and to recall Christ’s simple act of humility by washing the feet of the poor,” according to the Royal Mint.
Early in her reign, the Queen decided Maundy money should not just be distributed to the people of London, and so she now travels to various cathedrals or abbeys to give gifts to local people. The recipients were chosen in recognition of their service to the community.
This is a surprisingly fascinating tradition that I’m just hearing about now. As I said, my religious education was severely lacking. I would assume that this is not just an Anglican thing? Also: SHERLOCK HOLMES IS ON MONEY. That’s awesome. How cool would it be to receive two little purses filled with coins from the Queen? You wouldn’t spend it, of course. You would keep it and save it for a very long time.
The Red Purse contains a £5 coin, commemorating the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria's birth & a 50p coin portraying Sherlock Holmes. pic.twitter.com/hgfWRUAxOl
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) April 18, 2019
Photos courtesy of WENN.