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Maundy Thursday: Why King Charles is handing out 'money' people can't actually spend

King Charles III and the Queen Consort attending the Royal Maundy Service at York Minster where the King will distribute the Maundy Money. Picture date: Thursday April 6, 2023.
King Charles III and the Queen Consort at the Royal Maundy Service at York Minster. (PA)

King Charles III has distributed commemorative coins to 74 men and 74 women who have made a difference to their communities as he attended his first Royal Maundy service.

Charles arrived at York Minster with Camilla, the Queen Consort to cheers from hundreds of people who had lined the streets of the city waiting for the royal arrival.

During the service, the numbers waiting in the sunshine around the cathedral swelled to thousands and, after the royal couple emerged, they spent 20 minutes in the sunshine talking to the crowd in a lengthy walkabout.

The royal couple were presented with the traditional nosegay, a small flower bouquet, as they entered the cathedral and sat as the service got under way.

The King then moved around the minster presenting 74 men and 74 women with the Maundy money as the congregation of about 1,500 looked on.

The money is presented to thank the recipients for their outstanding Christian service and for making a difference to the lives of people in their local communities.

The occasion marks Maundy Thursday, an important day in the Christian calendar right before Easter – but what are its origins and how does Royal Family observe it? Here, Yahoo News takes a look.

What is Maundy Thursday?

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby performs the Washing of The Feet ceremony during the Maundy Thursday service at the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, in Charing, Kent, as he carries out his Holy Week engagements. Picture date: Thursday April 14, 2022. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby performs a Washing of The Feet ceremony at a Maundy Thursday service last year. (Getty Images)

Maundy Thursday marks the night of the Last Supper, when Jesus celebrated his final Passover meal with his disciples before being crucified.

It is also believed to be the day when Jesus washed his apostles' feet and told them to do the same for one another.

This tradition has been carried on through the ages, with religious leaders including the Pope washing and kissing the feet of church members.

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Maundy Thursday also marks the end of Lent, when Christians give up something they love for 40 days to remember Jesus's sacrifice.

The word "Maundy" is derived from the Latin word "mandatum", which means command. This is referring to Jesus' commandment to his disciples: "Love one another as I have loved you."

How does the Royal Family celebrate?

King Charles III and the Queen Consort attending the Royal Maundy Service at York Minster. Picture date: Thursday April 6, 2023.
King Charles III and the Queen Consort attend the Royal Maundy Service at York Minster. (Alamy/PA)

Each year Queen Elizabeth II would travel to a different cathedral in the UK to hand out Maundy money to local pensioners.

Ever the moderniser, she was the monarch who decided to spread the tradition across the country, deciding the coins shouldn't only be distributed to the people of London.

During the service, the Queen would also carry a bouquet of flowers and herbs, known as a nosegay, which was originally used to disguise odours as the monarch washed churchgoers' feet (James II was the last to actually wash people's feet, in 1685).

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Throughout her reign, Elizabeth presented Maundy money at every Anglican cathedral in England, and now her son Charles is carrying on the tradition.

Gifts are distributed according to the number of years the reigning monarch has lived. For example in 1952, 26 men and women received 26 pence worth of Maundy money from the Queen to mark her age.

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Britain's Queen Elizabeth distributes Maundy purses to congregation members at Blackburn Cathedral in Blackburn in northern England April 17, 2014. Maundy Thursday is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter. The Queen commemorates Maundy by offering 'alms' to senior citizens - retired pensioners recommended by clergy and ministers of all denominations, in recognition of service to the Church and to the local community. During the annual Royal Maundy Service, The Queen distributes the Maundy money to 88 men and 88 women - one for each year of her age. REUTERS/Jack Hill/Pool (BRITAIN - Tags: ROYALS RELIGION)
Queen Elizabeth II distributes Maundy purses to congregation members at Blackburn Cathedral in 2014. (Reuters)

This year Charles presented 74 men and 74 women with the special coins "to thank them for their outstanding Christian service and for making a difference to the lives of people in their local communities".

Recipients were selected from Church of England dioceses across the country, Buckingham Palace says.

The original service dates back to 600AD and these special coins have kept much the same form since 1670, according to the Royal Family website.

The first recorded Royal Distribution was at Knaresborough, North Yorkshire by King John in 1210.

What is Maundy Money?

Maundy money coins for King Charles III's first Maundy Thursday ceremony in 2023.

https://twitter.com/RoyalMintUK/status/1643908907482460160/photo/1
This is the first time that King Charles III's portrait has featured on Maundy Money coins. (The Royal Mint)

During the Maundy Service, The King will present each recipient with two purses: one red and one white.

The white purse will contain a set of specially minted silver Maundy coins equivalent in value to the age of the monarch.

The red purse will contain two commemorative coins, symbolising the Sovereign's historic gift of food and clothing.

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This year, one will celebrate the King's forthcoming 75th birthday and the other will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Windrush Generation.

The King and Camilla, Queen Consort, will also officially open the new York Minster Refectory restaurant and will unveil a plaque marking their visit.