Today’s Star columnist: James Taylor

James Taylor is a keen royal watcher from North Derbyshire
James Taylor is a keen royal watcher from North Derbyshire
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Today looks set to be a red-letter day for Sheffield as the Queen visits the city to distribute the Maundy Money with hundreds, if not thousands expected outside the cathedral to greet Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh.

It was on Maundy Thursday that Jesus sat down to eat the Last Supper with his disciples knowing full well that one of them, Judas Iscariot, would betray him. This is the basis of the Eucharist, celebrated in churches of different denominations today.

During that night, Jesus also washed the feet of the disciples to show humility, despite the fact he was the Son of God.

Foot washing was also an essential part of the Maundy service in the Middle Ages. The monarch would follow the example of Jesus and wash the feet of his or her poorer subjects.

The tradition fell into disuse in the late 17th century with officials carrying out the ceremony, minus the foot washing, offering money instead.

Today, recipients are chosen not because they are poor but because they have carried out service for their church or community.

There are the same number of recipients of each gender as the monarch’s age. The Queen will be 89 on April 21 and so there will be 89 men and 89 women receiving the Maundy Money.

They receive specially minted silver coins in a white purse with a face value of 1, 2, 3 and 4 as many as the monarch’s age

Another curious thing about these coins is that, although the design of the Queen’s head has changed as Her Majesty has aged, the image used on the Maundy coins is the same design as when the first coins of her reign were issued in 1953.

They also receive a red purse with £5.50 in special coins in lieu of food and clothing.

The ceremony was revived in its current form, with the monarch distributing the Maundy Money in person, by the Queen’s grandfather, King George V before World War II.

The Queen did bring about a change to make it more democratic. Before the late 1950s the ceremony was always held in London, usually at Westminster Abbey. The ceremony has now been held at places including Lincoln in 2000, Derby in 2010 and York in 2012.

This is why the service is in Sheffield this year.