Maundy Money ceremony cancelled for second year in a row due to the coronavirus pandemic!
In 2020, perhaps for the first time ever, the ancient tradition of the Royal Maundy ceremony was cancelled.
Centuries of tradition have been overturned as one of the Church of England’s most archaic ceremonies is unable to take place due to the Queen being in isolation at Windsor Castle.
No-one knows for sure when, or if, Royal Maundy has been cancelled before. Even during wartime, King George VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury were able to uphold the tradition.
However, the unprecedented circumstances the world is facing right now means there is simply no other option than to break tradition…
Today’s ceremony was due to take place in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle with a choral accompaniment.
Now, rather than handing out the Maundy money consignments individually, the Queen has written personally to the 188 recipients saying, “The traditional Maundy money, which had been blessed in the Chapel Royal, was enclosed”, and the ceremonial red and white leather purses containing Maundy money have been delivered remotely by Royal Mail, for the first time since the tradition began.
So where does this tradition come from and what is the history behind Maundy money?
The History of Royal Maundy
Maundy Thursday is a key day during the Easter week which commemorates Jesus Christ’s last supper on the day before his crucifixion.
The Royal Maundy Church service takes place each year on this day, and is inspired by the generosity shown by Jesus in washing the feet of his disciples shortly before his death.
Its origins can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when English monarchs would wash the feet of beggars and offer gifts of food and clothing in imitation of Jesus.
However it was King John who was the first to give to the poor on Maundy Thursday and by the early 14th century, it had become customary for the sovereign to provide a meal, together with gifts of food and clothing.
Sharing the Wealth
For numismatists, the day has added significance in the form of Maundy money which is given out by the reigning monarch each year at the service.
The tradition of giving out money began with Charles II, with the first set of Maundy coins consisting of a four penny, three penny, two penny and a penny. The coins have remained in much the same form since then, and are traditionally struck in sterling silver.
At the Royal Maundy ceremony, the reigning monarch hands each recipient two small leather string purses – one white, one red. The red purse contains ordinary coinage as money (in lieu of the food and clothing which was offered years ago) and the white contains silver Maundy coins.
The Maundy coins total the age of the King or Queen in pence, so this year, as the Queen approaches her 94th birthday, each white purse will contain 94 pence.
Recognition of Service
Nowadays it is not the poor who are the recipients of this gift, but specially chosen members of the public in recognition of the service they have given to the Church and local community.
The number of men and women receiving Maundy Money also equals the age of the sovereign during the year, and since the reign of George I, the recipients have been an equal number of men and women. For example, this year 188 recipients will receive the Maundy coins – 94 men and 94 women.
The tradition and heritage behind Maundy money makes them among the most sought-after coins in British numismatic history. Their owners are part of an exclusive club which dates back centuries, and they still exemplify the generosity and selfless work of the Church during this week – the most important in the Christian calendar.
Sadly, this year, tradition has been broken and the Royal Maundy ceremony will not take place. Whilst the overturning of this ancient ceremony reflects the difficult and truly unprecedented times we are currently facing, it does not detract from the hard work and dedication of the well-deserving receivers of the Maundy money this year.
Her Majesty’s personalised letters to each receipiant demonstrate that even in the toughest of times, its important to honour those who give to our community.
If you’re interested in coin collecting, our Change Checker web app is completely free to use and allows users to:
– Find and identify the coins in their pocket
– Collect and track the coins they have
– Swap their spare coins with other Change Checkers
Sign up today at: www.changechecker.org/app
Last week, we asked Change Checkers if it was time to scrap the British penny.
The majority of you said no!
Although it’s fair to say that pennies are rarely used to buy anything anymore, it looks like the sentimental value of the penny is important to us Brits.
53% of Change Checkers are in favour of keeping the penny and there are a host of economic, pragmatic, charitable and nostalgic reasons in defence of the penny.
In 1992, all 1p and 2p coins intended for circulation changed from bronze to copper plated steel as a result of the rising price of base metals. Although the Royal Mint does not disclose how much it costs to produce pennies, it is thought that it costs significantly less than face value to produce. The changes to the metal content in 1992 has been key to the future of the penny and allowed it to live on.
Coins are tangible and people do enjoy using them. Most transactions below £10 are still done in cash and it’s likely that it will be a while before it is common for small transactions to be done digitally.
Britain’s traditions run deep and the 1 penny coin is an expression of this tradition. It will be a very sad day if and when they British penny ceases to exist.
Pennies have been around in Britain for over a thousand years, but is it now time for the penny to be dropped?
Mark Carney, Bank of England Governor, thinks it is inevitable that Britain will follow countries such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia and scrap the penny.
As Governor of the Bank of Canada he oversaw the withdrawal of the 1p coin equivalent and claims the process was really successful among Canadians.
Not only was the 1 cent coin unmissed by Canadians and reduced the cost of transactions for both businesses and the Government, a massive $11m was saved in the first year by discontinuing the production of the coins.
But are we ready to say farewell to the British Penny?
The Penny was one of the earliest British coins, first minted in the 8th century AD.
The silver penny became universal throughout Britain in 959 and until the reign of Henry III in 1234 it was one of the only denominations minted.
The Penny even survived decimalisation in 1971 making it one of the only denominations that was kept during the changeover.
Although it’s fair to say that pennies are rarely used to buy anything, it’s thought that an estimated 11.2 billion pennies are currently in circulation.
What about Ireland’s ‘Rounding’ Initiative?
In October 2015, Ireland lauched its ‘Rounding’ initiative. It aimed to reduce the use of 1 cent and 2 cent coins by rounding the total amount of any bill paid by cash on a voluntary basis up or down to the nearest 5 cent mark.
So far, 126 million coins have been taken out of circulation. So could Britain follow in the same footsteps as Ireland?
As with any coin, the loss of the penny would be a blow to coin collectors everywhere. But we must remember that these changes are part of what makes coin collecting so interesting. Designs change, new coins come into existence and some coins will inevitably disappear.
So should we get rid of the Penny? Let us know in our poll: