Two members of the Church of Ireland from the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe have been honoured by The Queen with Maundy Gifts this year in recognition of their service to the church and the local community. The recipients – Mrs Avril McNee, a stalwart of the Diocesan Mothers’ Union branch, and Diocesan Reader Mr Albert Moore – received their gifts by post rather than in person, this week, because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Royal Maundy Service is usually one of the most colourful events in the royal calendar and is often attended by other members of the Royal Family, as well as Yeomen of the Queen’s Bodyguard.
Royal Maundy, which falls on the Thursday before Easter, is one of the most ancient ceremonies retained in the Church of England and commemorates the Maundy and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. The name comes from the Latin word ‘mandatum’, which means ‘command’ and refers to Jesus’s instruction to his apostles to ‘Love one another’.
Traditionally the Queen marks the occasion by offering ‘alms’ – commemorative coins – to retired pensioners who have been recommended by clergy and ministers of all denominations. The coins bear the portrait designed for Her Majesty’s coronation in 1953. Most years there are two recipients – one male and one female – for each year of the monarch’s life.
Each recipient is given two small leather purses by The Queen, one red and one white. The first contains a small amount of ordinary coinage which symbolises the Sovereign’s gift for food and clothing. The second purse contains Maundy coins up to the value of the Sovereign’s age. The coins are legal tender but recipients normally prefer to retain them as a keepsake.