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Queen set for Royal Maundy day

Published 02/04/2015

Commemorative Royal Maundy coins, which the Queen will be handing out for the 60th time since her accession to the throne (Royal Mint).
Commemorative Royal Maundy coins, which the Queen will be handing out for the 60th time since her accession to the throne (Royal Mint).

The Queen will undertake the pre-Easter tradition of handing out commemorative Royal Maundy coins today for the 60th time since her accession to the throne.

Each year, the Royal Mint produces a limited number of special coins for the service. The one, two, three and four pence coins are all legal tender, but the specially made silver coins are not intended for everyday use.

Unlike those in general circulation, the Royal Maundy coins continue to bear the portrait of the Queen produced by Mary Gillick for the first coins of her reign.

Gillick, a sculptor, designed the portrait which appeared on the coins of the UK and some Commonwealth countries from 1953 until preparations for decimalisation began in 1968.

The portrait of the Queen wearing a wreath on her head was considered to reflect the nation's optimism as it greeted a new monarch in the post-war years.

The elderly recipients of Royal Maundy coins have been chosen for the service they have given to their parish and community.

This year the group of 89 men and 89 women from the Sheffield area will each receive two leather pouches, one white and one red, from the Queen during the Royal Maundy service at Sheffield's Church of England Cathedral.

The white purse will contain Maundy coins equating in pence to the Queen's age (89p at present), while the red purse will contain a £5 and a 50p coin.

There have been just five official UK coin portraits created during the Queen's reign, the most recent by Royal Mint designer Jody Clark.

The Royal Maundy is an ancient ceremony which has its origin in the commandment Christ gave after washing the feet of his disciples the day before Good Friday.

The Mint said it seems to have been the custom as early as the 13th century for members of the royal family to take part in Maundy ceremonies.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will preside over a Maundy Thursday service at Canterbury Cathedral this evening. The Archbishop will wash the feet of 12 men and women from the diocese.

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