The monarch wrote to recipients and admitted she is "deeply disappointed" that she can't see them in person

By Simon Perry
April 09, 2020 09:48 AM

Every year on the Thursday before Easter, Queen Elizabeth hands out specially-minted coins known as Maundy money — named for the day in the Christian calendar.

But this year, with coronavirus impacting all social gatherings, the monarch, 93, had to cancel the service at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, which would see her reward a group of people over 70 years old with the Sovereign’s gift recognizing their service to their communities.

Since she wasn’t able to hand them out in person, she sent the money in small presentations to the 188 people who would have received them at the annual ceremony. Alongside the gift was a letter from the Queen, saying:

Queen Elizabeth’s letter
| Credit: Buckingham Palace

“I have great pleasure in sending you the Maundy Gift which, unfortunately, I am unable to distribute to you personally at the Royal Maundy Service in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on Thursday, 9th April. This ancient Christian ceremony, which reflects Jesus’s instruction to his Disciples to love one another, is a call to the service of others, something that has been at the centre of my life. I believe it is a call to service for all of us.

Credit: DAVID HARTLEY/REX/Shutterstock

“It is one of my most rewarding duties as Sovereign to observe this highly significant ceremony at such an important point in the Christian calendar. I know that you, as a Recipient of this year’s Maundy Gift, will be as deeply disappointed as I am that it is not going ahead, while understanding the necessary decision in the current circumstances.

“However, this should not mean your invaluable contribution within the community goes unnoticed, and I am sending this Maundy Gift to thank you for your Christian service.

“My thoughts and prayers are with you and your families at this difficult time.

“With my best wishes to you this Easter.”

Maundy money
| Credit: Buckingham Palace

Among the recipients were Thomas Brock, 101, from Sunbury-on-Thames, the oldest active bell-ringer in the world, having rung the bells at his local church, St Mary’s, Sunbury-on-Thames, since the age of 7. The only time he couldn’t be heard ringing the bells was during WWII, when he was a prisoner of war. He is the oldest recipient this year. Other recipients include Bill Allen, 100, from Chelmsford, Essex, who was a dispatch rider with General Montgomery in WWII, and is a loyal ambassador for the Royal British Legion; and Jane Armstrong, 76, from Durham, who runs crisis support groups and food banks in her local area of Bishop Auckland.

Thomas Brock
| Credit: Buckingham Palace

Can’t get enough of PEOPLE‘s Royals coverage? Sign up for our free Royals newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more!

Staying at Windsor Castle 30 miles west of London since mid-March, the monarch is believed to be in good health and continuing her work, such as receiving her official paperwork and documents in her famous “red boxes,” behind the scenes.