Queen to visit Suffolk for historic ceremony

THE QUEEN is to visit Bury St Edmunds for this year's Maundy Service - the first time in its history that the town has had the honour of hosting the event.

Laurence Cawley

THE Queen is to visit Bury St Edmunds for this year's Maundy Service - the first time in its history that the town has had the honour of hosting the event.

She will be accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh at the service - an historic ceremony dating back to the 12th Century - at St Edmundsbury Cathedral on April 9.

During the service The Queen will distribute the Royal Maundy to 83 men and 83 women.

The number of recipients is determined by the monarch's age.

“We are delighted and honoured that The Queen has chosen to distribute the Royal Maundy in Suffolk, the first time this has happened at St Edmundsbury Cathedral,” said Canon Michael Hampel, sub-dean at the Cathedral.

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“It will be a significant moment in the Cathedral's history and in the life of the Cathedral community.”

Every year in Holy Week, The Queen presents Maundy money to local pensioners in a British cathedral or abbey.

The presentation takes place on Maundy Thursday in recognition of the service of elderly people to their community and their church.

The history of the Maundy can be traced back in England with certainty to the 12th Century, and there are continuous records of the distribution having been made on Maundy Thursday since the reign of King Edward I.

Bob Cockle, mayor of St Edmundsbury, said: “It will be a great honour for the town itself and obviously it will be nice for The Queen to visit the town once again.

“On a personal note, it will be a pleasure to meet her and I am sure we will lay on a good welcome for her.”

The Maundy Service gets its name from the Latin word “mandatum”, meaning a commandment, and its opening words are, “Jesus said: 'I give you a new commandment.”'

From the fifteenth century, the number of recipients has been related to the years of the Sovereign's life.

At one time recipients were required to be of the same sex as the Sovereign, but since the eighteenth century they have numbered as many men and women as the Sovereign has years of age.

Recipients are now pensioners selected because of the Christian service they have rendered to the Church and the community. The distribution is in two parts, and the gifts which are handed to the recipients are symbolic and highly prized.

The red purse contains an allowance for clothing and provisions formerly given in kind and a payment for the redemption of the royal gown.

The white purse contains in Maundy coins silver pennies, twopences, threepences, and fourpences, as many pence as the Sovereign has years of age.

Maundy coins are legal tender, and when the United Kingdom changed to decimal currency in 1971, the face value of a set of four coins became 10 new pence, instead of 10d in the old �sd system.