We're offering two videos this week, featuring the same royal ceremony fifty years apart. Maundy Thursday marks the beginning of the three days celebrating Easter, and commemorates the events of the Last Supper. In an ancient tradition that dates back at least to the time of King Edward I, the reigning English monarch offers alms, called the Royal Maundy, to a symbolic number of elderly, deserving citizens (one man and one woman for each year of the sovereign's age); the sum of the alms is also the same amount in pence. The sovereign gives each recipient two small leather purses, one red, one white, which are carried in the ceremony by Yeomen of the Guards. In the red purses are modern currency for the purchase of food and clothing. In the white purses are the silver Maundy coins. (For more about Maundy Money, see this post by the Royal Mint.)
The Royal Maundy Service in 1952, shown in the video above, was the first official appearance by Elizabeth as the new queen, only a few weeks after her father's death in February. Because of her youth - she was only twenty-six at the time - the Royal Maundy that she distributed consisted of silver coins totaling twenty-six pence, given to the twenty-six deserving men and women. She was the first English queen to participate in the ceremony since her namesake Elizabeth I, four hundred years earlier.
Sixty years later, the Queen is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, and when she attended the Royal Maundy Service at York Minster this week, the number of the recipients and the coins were substantially more: eighty-six male and eighty-six female recipients received coins valued at eighty-six pence. Below is video from the service, which took place yesterday, April 5, 2012.
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There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.