The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall headed to Windsor today to carry out an ancient royal tradition: the distribution of Maundy money.
On the Thursday before Easter, known as “Maundy Thursday” in many religious denominations, the Queen traditionally attends a church service during which she hands out specially minted coins to recognize the community work done by senior citizens. Because of her continuing mobility issues, the Queen was not able to attend this year’s service. (We also learned today that she won’t be attending church in public on Easter Sunday.) The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall stepped in to represent her and carry on the tradition.
The Prince distributed the small red and white coin purses to 96 men and 96 women who had been selected for recognition because of their work within their parishes and communities. (The number 96 is linked to the Queen’s birthday—she’ll celebrate her 96th in just a few days’ time.) Maundy Thursday observations have been held for more than a millennium. In Britain, the monarch has been distributing Maundy money in largely the same way since 1670, during the reign of King Charles II. The Royal Mint’s website offers many examples of the coins distributed over the centuries.
Let’s have a look back at the last few years of the Royal Maundy service, shall we? The service is now held annually at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, but for many years it was held at different churches across the United Kingdom. In April 2017, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attended the Royal Maundy service at Leicester Cathedral. (That year, I also published a rundown of many of her previous Royal Maundy brooches.)
The Queen wore pearls and the gold and diamond Botswana Sorghum Brooch for the service in Leicester that year. (A grain-themed brooch for a service commemorating the Last Supper does seem particularly appropriate.)
In March 2018, following the Duke’s retirement, the service was moved to Windsor on a more permanent basis. Here, the Queen distributes Maundy money purses at St. George’s Chapel during the 2018 service.
She carried the traditional nosegay bouquet of flowers in 2018, but she wore no brooch for the occasion. Her only accessories were her usual pearls. Perhaps a brooch would have competed poorly with the collar of her coat?
We most recently saw the Queen distribute Maundy money in 2019. She attended the service in April 2019, held at St. George’s Chapel, with her granddaughter, Princess Eugenie.
She paired pearls with the Australian Wattle Brooch, a very sunny choice, for the 2019 service.
The pandemic meant that the planned April 2020 service had to be canceled. The special coins for the year are pictured above. You’ll note the Olympic theme of the coin on the left, meant to coincide with the games planned for that summer (which were postponed). The coin on the right is dedicated to William Wordsworth.
The coins were distributed to their intended recipients by post in 2020. One of the recipients that year was 100-year-old Bill Allen of Chelmsford. Buckingham Palace shared a photograph of Allen, noting that he was “a dispatch rider with General Montgomery in WWII, and is a loyal ambassador for the Royal British Legion.”
The Maundy money had to once again be distributed by post in 2021. Here’s a handout photo of one of the recipients, Agnes Slocombe, who was recognized as an active member of St John’s Church West Hendon.
Today, the service was finally held in person once again, though with the Prince of Wales deputizing for the Queen. You can see Charles tucking the Maundy money purse inside the hand of one of the recipients here.
Charles and Camilla also posed for a formal photograph outside St. George’s Chapel after the service had ended.
Camilla wore a smart blue and white ensemble for the service, and she carried one of the traditional nosegay bouquets as well.
Sadly, she went sans brooch for the occasion. (Perhaps another case of competition with a statement collar?) But she did wear her signature diamond floral and pearl drop earrings, as well as her four-stranded pearl choker necklace with the round diamond clasp. I also spot two necklaces layered beneath her pearls: her Kiki McDonough Apollo necklace, and a gold necklace with a flat disc pendant. As usual, she also wore a stack of bracelets on her right wrist.