The Royal Maundy

Apr 14, 2006

Miles Berry

Along with Clare’s parents, we were fortunate enough to get tickets for yesterday’s Royal Maundy service in Guildford Cathedral.

The nave at Guildford Cathedral

The service dates back at least as far as the 12th century, and goes some way to re-enacting Christ washing the disciples’ feet at the last supper, although nowadays the monarch just presents a number of worthy pensioners of the diocese with bags of coins. Several of the accompanying dignitaries carry nosegays and are wrapped in linen towels though, as some acknowledgement of the earlier tradition. The money itself is presented in a couple of purses, one red, with £5.50 including an amount to redeem the royal gown’ (?!), the other white, with the Maundy money itself, silver coins of 1p, 2p, 3p and 4p denomination, this year totalling 80p, for the Queen’s age – the coins are actually legal tender (which messes up those SATs questions about give four coins which total 10p etc.), although this year’s four coin sets are already changing hands at somewhat more than face value on ebay.

The security was all a bit scary, with no phones or cameras allowed and three checks of our tickets and photo id before we made it into the cathedral, coming up as we did from the close. They’d re-arranged the nave so that all the seats were facing into the middle of the nave, and Clare and her mum managed front row seats (admittedly quite a long way down the nave), with my father-in-law and me a couple of rows back, so HM passed within inches of Clare as she made her way to and fro along the nave – too close to allow much space for a curtsey!

The pomp and circumstance of the whole thing was great fun –  the sight of Yeomen of the Guard lining the aisle with halberds was quite something, as was that of their colleagues carrying the plates of the Maundy money on top of their heads as they made their way up the nave. The service itself was pretty special, with some wonderful music from the cathedral choirs and the Chapels Royal: Zadok the Priest was especially spine-tingling, and a simple but still moving liturgy. HM seemed to positvely shine, and it was lovely to see her chatting with some of the recipients as well as the crowds of school children braving the chill outside.

There’s fairly good coverage on the BBC site, as well as a few photos of the rest of the royal visit to Guildford.