Sheffield history: Royal Maundy money and how the city hosted the celebration in 2015

When King John decided to give out food, clothing and wine to some of the poor in Yorkshire in April 1210, he paved the way for a grand royal tradition linked to charity and religion.

By Andrea Rodriguez Lozano
Friday, 25th March 2022, 10:30 am

In 1213, when the ceremony was repeated, 13 pence were given to 13 men. The number wasn’t chosen at random, for it was a reference to Jesus Christ and the Twelve Apostles. Henry IV later stated that the number of gifts should correspond to the age of the sitting king or queen and, in 1662, Charles II established the tradition of giving Maundy money, a set of hammered coins which, from 1670 onwards, would be dated in order to represent the year in which they were given out.

The tradition has undergone many changes before arriving at the ceremony present to this day.

Washing the feet of the poor is no longer a part of the celebration and the monarch, more often than not, is present. It always takes place on Maundy Thursday at a church or cathedral, the location of which changes every year. Recipients of the coins are men and women over the age of 70 who have contributed to their church and to their community.

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Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh attended the Royal Maundy Service at Sheffield Cathedral on Thursday 2nd April 2015.

On April 2 in 2015, it was Sheffield’s turn to host the ceremony. This was very important as, in the long history of the tradition, South Yorkshire had never had the honour. The celebration took place in Sheffield Cathedral, and the money was personally handed to 89 men and 89 women by Queen Elizabeth II, marking her 89 years of age.

Despite the event being costly, leading to Sheffield City Council spending roughly £30,000, it did bring a vast amount of people into the city, an estimated 12,000. The guest list included roughly 1,000 people, including those receiving the award plus an additional guest.

Speaking in 2015, the then Dean of Sheffield, the Very Rev Peter Bradley, said: “Sheffield Cathedral is honoured to have been chosen to host the Royal Maundy. This service is a special opportunity to recognise individuals who have worked to make a positive contribution to their community.

"Since the letters selecting the recipients went out it has been amazing to see how humble, gracious and hardworking these people really are. South Yorkshire has so many people working selflessly for others. There really could be no better way of recognising this as well as marking the centenary of becoming a cathedral.”

The Queen collects flowers from children outside Sheffield Cathedral for Maundy Thursday during a 2015 visit. Picture: Andrew Roe

The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev Dr Steven Croft, added: “Since the news was announced publicly in January, there has been a growing sense of anticipation and joy that the Royal Maundy should be taking place in Sheffield this year.

"It is a profound Christian reflection of the command to love one another and it is taking place right at the heart of the city. The 178 recipients being honoured today have been chosen for their dedicated and humble

service to their church and local community. It is fitting that the Queen, the city and wider region celebrate this special event together.”

The impressive scene outside Sheffield Cathedral for the Maundy Thursday ceremony
The Queen at Sheffield Cathedral for the Maundy Thursday service
One youngster waves a flag as she wait for the Queen outside Sheffield Cathedral for Maundy Thursday. Picture: Andrew Roe