In honor of a tradition dating back to the 13th century, Queen Elizabeth II handed out coins to 91 men and 91 women in the distribution of Maundy money. She attended the Royal Maundy Service that happens each year on the Thursday before Easter, as people lined the streets to greet her.
During the service, the Queen distributed gifts according to the number of years she’s lived, and each recipient of the Maundy money was given two small leather purses, one red and one white. One contains normal coins to symbolize the Queen’s gift for food and clothing, while the other contains the Maundy coins, 91 pence to represent her age. All of the recipients were retired pensioners who were recommended by clergy and ministers of all denominations.
“It seems to have been the custom as early as the thirteenth century for members of the royal family to take part in Maundy ceremonies, to distribute money and gifts, and to recall Christ’s simple act of humility by washing the feet of the poor,” the Royal Mint reports.
While Maundy money was traditionally only handed out to Londoners, Queen Elizabeth II switched things up early in her reign. Now, she travels to various cathedrals and abbeys across the country to gift local people. This year marks the year in which she has officially visited every Anglican Cathedral in England for the service.