Her Majesty The Queen today attended the traditional royal maundy service at Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire today accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh where she handed out maundy money to local pensioners – 88 men and 88 women, one for every year of Her Majesty’s age.
It was also The Queen’s first visit to Blackburn Cathedral, known officially as the Cathedral Church of Blackburn Saint Mary the Virgin with St Paul.
The maundy service is a traditional affair and the money given out by The Queen is symbolic rather than carrying any large monetary value. The tradition of the Sovereign giving money to the poor dates from the thirteenth century – formerly, the Sovereign used to give food and clothing, and even washed the recipients’ feet. The official royal website says the last monarch to do this was James II.
Nowadays, the occasion is marked with a church service during which The Queen hands out the maundy money to carefully selected local pensioners.
It was Henry IV who began relating the number of recipients and value of coins to the Sovereign’s age and as such, 88 men and women received 88 pence worth of maundy money each from The Queen. Her Majesty turns 88 this Monday.
In recognition of The Queen’s position as Duke of Lancaster, the second line of the anthem was amended with the line ‘Long live our noble Duke’ instead of noble Queen. The title of Duke of Lancaster is separate to the Crown but has been held by the reigning Monarch since 1413 when Henry V acceded to the throne with the title – ordinary, the dignity would have merged with the crown but a later move established it as a separate dignity. The Duchy of Lancaster, which it’s associated with, provides The Queen with her personal income.
Thanks to Queen Victoria, the holder of the Duchy is always known as ‘Duke of Lancaster’ even when the Monarch is female as Queen Victoria believed the holder of a Dukedom was a Duke, with Duchess being an inferior title.
As well as Duke of Lancaster, The Queen is separately known as Duke of Normandy in the Channel Islands.
The Queen was greeted at the local railway station where she travelled from London on the Royal Train, by the Lord-Lieutenant of Lancashire, The Lord Shuttleworth.
Previously the Royal Maundy Service used to take place almost exclusively in London, but The Queen decided at the beginning of her reign that the location should vary each year.
The Queen will now carry out several engagement in the area before returning to Windsor for the rest of the Easter period.
photo credit: Kelvin Stuttard