The distribution of Maundy money is associated with the ceremony held on the Thursday before Good Friday which remembers Christ washing the disciples feet before the last supper. At the end of the meal Christ gave them a new commandment ..... "to love one another".
The word maundy is derived from the Latin "mandatum" which means command.
The opening words of the Maundy ceremony are " A new commandment give I unto you "
In England the Maundy ceremonies date back to the 5th century, but the first royal ceremony was held in Yorkshire in 1210 when King John was at Knaresborough.
The tradition started with the monarch giving out food, clothing and wine.The first recorded instance of the monarch giving out Maundy money was in Rochester in 1213 when King John gave 13 pence to 13 poor men.
In the early days the reigning monarch washed the feet of the poor in imitation of Christ's actions.This became less frequent in the 17th century with the outbreak of the plague, when the monarchs used to get people to deputise for them if there was any sign of possible health hazards. The washing of feet was discontinued by the 18th century.
Over time, additional money was substituted for the clothing and other items that had once been distributed.
At the service, the Monarch or a Royal official ceremonially distributes small silver coins known as "Maundy money" (legally, "the Queen's Maundy money") as symbolic alms to elderly recipients. The coins are legal tender but do not circulate because of their silver content.
Maundy money is struck in denominations of one penny, two pence, three pence, and four pence. Until the 18th century the coins given were from the circulating coinage, and it was not until the latter half of the century that the four Maundy coins developed as distinct, noncirculating pieces. The design of the coins features the reigning monarch. The reverse, with a crowned numeral enclosed by a wreath, derives from a design first used during the reign of William and Mary, and which has been virtually unaltered since 1822. In most years there are fewer than 2,000 complete sets of Maundy money; they are highly sought after by collectors.