Maundy - History and Facts
Maundy History Fact and Information
History of the Maundy ceremony
The present-day Maundy ceremony has evolved over the centuries and bears little relationship to the original rites to which it owes its origins. A fundamental aspect of the original Maundy service was the washing of the feet of the poor, which has its origins in Jesus' washing of the feet of the Disciples at the Last Supper. In early ceremonies, senior clergymen would wash the feet of lower clergy, while in other ceremonies, the washing would be done by someone higher up the hierarchical order.
King Edward II (1307-1327) seems to be the first English monarch to have been recorded actively taking part in the ceremony, although King John (1199-1216) is said to have taken part in a ceremony in about 1210 donating small silver coins to the poor. King Edward III (1327-1377) washed feet and gave gifts including money to the poor; the practice continued regularly, with the participation of the monarch, until 1698.
Although the monarch did not participate personally, later ceremonies continued in which a selection of people were given Maundy money consisting of silver pennies totalling, in pence, the current age of the monarch. The washing of feet ended after the 1736 ceremony, until it was re-instated in the 2003 ceremony when it was performed by the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
In 1932 King George V agreed to take part personally in the distribution of the Maundy money, while the 1936 set was distributed by King Edward VIII although the coins bore George V's effigy. By 1953 it had become normal practice for the monarch to distribute the Maundy money, a practice which continues to this day.
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The tradition of the Sovereign giving money to the poor dates from the 13th century. The Sovereign also used to give food and clothing (later changed to a gift of money), and even washed the recipients' feet - this varied from Sovereign to Sovereign, the last Monarch to do so was James II.
The number of recipients is related to the Sovereign's age: in 2003, there were 77 male and 77 female recipients at Westminster Abbey for the Maundy Service attended by The Queen.
The Royal Maundy Service used to take place in London; The Queen decided that the service should take place at a different cathedral every year, chosen from throughout the country. The Queen has distributed Maundy on all but four occasions since coming to the throne in 1952.
The Royal Maundy Service in 2004 will take place on 8 April in Liverpool Cathedral.
This page also lists all the venues for previous Maundy Money services.
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