Why Queen Elizabeth Is Giving People Bags of Money Today

Queen Elizabeth handed out coins on Thursday in a tradition dating back to the 13th century

Royal Maundy Service
Photo: Anthony Devlin - WPA Pool/Getty

Queen Elizabeth handed out coins to 91 men and 91 women on Thursday in a tradition dating back to the 13th century: the distribution of Maundy money.

Thousands of well-wishers lined the streets to welcome the Queen, dressed in a turquoise suit and matching hat, as she attended the Royal Maundy Service at Leicester Cathedral. The Maundy Service happens each year on the Thursday before Easter Sunday.

Royal Maundy Service
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During the service, the Queen distributes gifts according to the number of years she has lived. Each recipient of Maundy money is given two small leather purses by the Queen, one red and one white. The first contains a small amount of ordinary coinage which symbolizes the monarch’s gift for food and clothing. The second purse contains Maundy coins up to the value of the Queen’s age.

Recipients at Thursday’s service were given 91p in silver Maundy coins. The recipients were all retired pensioners recommended by clergy and ministers of all denominations.

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“It seems to have been the custom as early as the thirteenth century for members of the royal family to take part in Maundy ceremonies, to distribute money and gifts, and to recall Christ’s simple act of humility by washing the feet of the poor,” according to the Royal Mint.

Royal Maundy service

Early in her reign, the Queen decided Maundy money should not just be distributed to the people of London, and so she now travels to various cathedrals or abbeys to give gifts to local people.

As of this year, the Queen has now visited every Anglican Cathedral in England for the Maundy Service.

Following the service, the Queen and Prince Philip met veterans from Leicester.

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