Thursday, 9 April 2020

Maundy Thursday and Maundy Money

Today is Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. The name 'Maundy' comes from the Latin of John 13:34, Mandatum novum do vobis: sicut dilexi vos, ut et vos diligatis invicem.   (A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.), Mandatum having come through Middle English and Old French as mandé, becoming 'maundy' in Modern English.

Since He said this after He had washed the Apostles' feet, it gave rise to the liturgical rite of foot washing on Holy Thursday by the Pope and Christian Monarchs. 

In the Kingdom of England, another custom arose as well, that of 'Maundy Money' (formally, 'the Queen's Maundy money'). On Maundy Thursday the Monarch, or a deputy, would present alms of food, wine, and clothing to paupers. King John is the first King recorded as having done so in 1210. He was also the first to give 'Maundy Money' in 1213 when he gave 13 pence to 13 poor men. 

My source doesn't make clear whether he gave a penny to 13 men, or 13 d to each of 13 men. Either way, it was not a small sum, since one penny was worth between £65.16 and £134.20 in today's money. There are continuous records of Maundy Money going back to the reign of King Edward I (1272-1307).

Maundy Coins of King Charles II
Originally it was usually the monarch personally giving the alms, but in times of pestilence, because of the risk of infection, another person would be deputed. Then, from the reign of William and Mary until 1931, no sovereign actually attended the Royal Maundy service.

Prior to William and Mary, the alms were given to only men or only women at each ceremony. subsequently, there was no segregation by sex. Starting in 1727, the last year of King George I's reign, coins were specially minted for Maundy money. By the reign of Queen Victoria, the giving of the other alms of food, wine, and clothing ceased, with only the Maundy Money being distributed. Since then, an extra monetary gift, not of Maundy Money, in lieu of those alms is given. Currently it is £5.50 given as a £5.00 note and a 50p coin.

Today (assuming the service was held in this time of pandemic) one man and one woman were chosen for each year the Queen has lived (including the year she is currently living) or 97, and they each received Maundy money equivalent in pence to that number of years (this custom began with King Henry IV) or 97p, all in 1p, 2p, 3p, and 4p coins, plus the £5.50 for food, wine, and clothing.

Current Maundy Coins
Here is a link to the Royal Maundy Service page on the Royal Family's official website.

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