What is Maundy Thursday? Tradition behind Queen’s cancelled Easter plans

Charles to represent the Queen at Royal Maundy Service for first time

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall attended the Royal Maundy service today on behalf of the Queen. Charles and Camilla joined the congregation at St George’s Chapel, in the grounds of Windsor Castle, for the annual service. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were welcomed by the Dean of Windsor, the Right Reverend David Conner, who gave the address at Prince Philip’s Service of Thanksgiving last month.

Buckingham Palace announced on Friday Her Majesty would not be taking part; it is understood that the Queen was unable to commit to the event and so the prince was asked to represent her.

The last time a member of the Royal Family stood in for the monarch was in 1970, when the Queen Mother distributed the Maundy money on behalf of her daughter, who was on tour in New Zealand.

Typically, the Royal Maundy service marks the beginning of the Queen’s Easter celebrations. 

It is held on Maundy Thursday, the final Thursday before the Easter bank holiday weekend, which is commemorated every year by Christians.

READ MORE: Camilla beaming as Duchess and Charles step out at Royal Maundy Service in Queen’s absence

Queen Elizabeth II

Why do we celebrate Maundy Thursday? (Image: Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth II during walkabout

The Queen traditionally attends the Royal Maundy Service. (Image: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

Maundy Thursday falls on the same date each year, and pays homage to Jesus Christ’s final meal, more commonly known as the Last Supper.

It comes before Good Friday, the day that Jesus was crucified on the cross of Calvary for the sins of the world.

He is believed to have held the Last Supper with his disciples before making the “ultimate sacrifice”. 

During the meal, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, a demonstration of his humility and an instillation of equality and compassion in his peers. 

Queen Elizabeth II outside Leicester Cathedral

The Queen has travelled to various cathedrals around the country. (Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

According to the bible, Jesus said: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

It was from this act that Maundy Thursday got its name. 

The term ‘maundy’ is a shortened version of the Latin word which stems from the modern verb ‘command’.

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Charles and Camilla

Charles and Camilla attended today’s service instead. (Image: Samir Hussein/WireImage)

The teachings of the Biblical story have inspired the main observances on Maundy Thursday.

Some priests wash the feet of church attendees as part of their Maundy service.

Traditionally, the Queen has marked the date by giving out special commemorative coins known as “Maundy money”. 

The monarch hands out “Maundy money” to people who have been nominated for their contributions to their local church or community. 

The Queen during the 2018 Maundy Service.

The Queen during the 2018 Maundy Service. (Image: Steve Parsons – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The Royal Family’s website states: “Every year, on Maundy Thursday, The Queen distributes special Maundy money to pensioners in a service which commemorates Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper.”

Her Majesty distributes the gifts according to her age, so this year she would have given out coins to 96 women and 96 men. 

Each recipient is given two small pouches, one red and one white. 

According to the Royal Family’s website: “The first contains a small amount of ordinary coinage, which symbolises the Sovereign’s gift for food and clothing.

Charles hands out maundy money

This year, Charles handed out the ceremonial coins. (Image: ARTHUR EDWARDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“The second purse contains Maundy coins up to the value of the Sovereign’s age.  

“The coins are legal tender, but recipients normally prefer to retain them as a keepsake.”

This year, Charles carried out the traditional coin-giving ceremony. 

In keeping with tradition, Charles and Camilla were presented with nosegays – sweet-smelling bouquets – which in centuries past were used to ward off unpleasant smells during the ceremony.

Charles and Camilla on steps of chapel

The couple joined the congregation at St George’s Chapel. (Image: Samir Hussein/WireImage))

Today, it was also confirmed that the Queen will not be attending the Easter Sunday service at St George’s Chapel. 

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are also not expected to be present; it has been reported that the couple will instead be enjoying a short spring break at their Scottish home of Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate.

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