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Queen Elizabeth II Offers 5£, 50p, Other Coins at Annual Maundy Money Ceremony


By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for Coinweek …….
Queen Elizabeth II personally delivered small purses containing special Maundy money during her annual Royal Maundy Thursday ceremony in Great Britain on March 24, 2016. The Queen, delivering her speech before a congregation of senior citizens, held the Maundy service at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

It was the first time since 1959 that the 14th-century place of worship has hosted the Royal Maundy church service.

It is a long-running tradition that the number of congregants and the denominational values of the Maundy money handed out to each member in attendance corresponds to the reigning monarch’s age. Thus, the 2016 Maundy Thursday service paid homage to the Queen’s 90th year, a milestone marked by the attendance of 90 men and 90 women, each chosen based on their service to the church and their communities. Queen Elizabeth not only turns 90 years old on April 21, but just this past September she became the longest-reigning monarch in British history, surpassing the 63 years, seven months, and two days that her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, sat on the Royal throne.

During the Maundy Thursday event, Queen Elizabeth II handed the men and women red or white purses, each containing special coins honoring the Queen’s 90th birthday. The red purses included a nickel-brass 2016 5£ commemorative coin from Jersey honoring the Queen’s 90th birthday and a 2016 50p coin honoring the 950th anniversary of the historic Battle of Hastings in 1066. In the white purses were specially minted Maundy money coins with a total face value of 90 pence.

The Maundy money coins are issued in denominations of 1p, 2p, 3p, and 4p. The obverses bear the original numismatic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, designed by Mary Gillick in 1953. The reverses of the Maundy money coins depict a large numeral denoting the denomination, with a wreath that wraps three-quarters around the coin along the rim; located just above the denominational number is a royal crown. Presently, Maundy money coins are made from a 92.5-percent sterling silver composition.

Maundy money looks much as it has since 1670, when four-piece sets of dated silver coins were first handed out during Royal Maundy ceremonies. There have been a few alterations in metallic compositions over the years, with the silver composition of Maundy money reduced to 50 percent in 1921 and cupro-nickel base metal in 1947. The sterling silver composition was soon resumed, and in 1971, the denomination of the coins was restated in “New Pence” form, when the British monetary system was decimalized.

Members of the Royal Family have taken part in the annual Maundy Thursday ceremony since the 13th century. For centuries, the reigning monarchs washed the feet of the poor and handed out money to the needy, though the event in more recent times involved benevolent members of British society age 70 or older; washing of the feet was not performed at Royal Maundy services beyond the 18th century.

King Henry IV, who reigned from 1399 through 1413, officially decreed that the number of Maundy gift recipients equal the age of the sovereign in years, though there are records indicating that in 1363, the 50-year-old King Edward III invited 50 men to his Royal Maundy service that year. Through the 18th century, coins offered during Royal Maundy services consisted of circulating coinage, though since the latter half of the 18th century, Maundy coins have evolved into distinct, non-circulating issues.

The Royal Maundy service is rooted in Christian tradition and honors Jesus’s act of humility when he washed the feet of his apostles just prior to the Last Supper. Churches across many Christian denominations reenact the washing of feet and celebrate many similar traditions in the days leading up to Easter each year.

Maundy, meanwhile, is a word that derives from the Latin word “mandatum,” meaning, “that ye love one another,” as noted within Biblical scripture in John 13:34. Ceremonies involving washing the feet of the poor and handing out gifts during Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, were held as early as the fourth century.

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