BATHED in bright spring sunshine, the Queen arrived at the steps of York Minster’s West Front for a tradition which she has been carrying out throughout the past 60 years.
The centrepiece to the monarch’s much-anticipated visit to the city yesterday was the Maundy Thursday service which was held in the cathedral.
It was the second time the Minster has hosted the annual Easter tradition which sees Maundy money given to pensioners in recognition of their service to the community and the church.
But while the day of the first Maundy Thursday service back on March 30, 1972, was blighted by heavy drizzle, the Royal party enjoyed a glorious spring day during their time in York yesterday.
The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Beatrice of York, arrived at the Minster’s Great West Door where they were presented with traditional nosegays of flowers.
The Royal procession included the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, as well as the Chancellor of the Diocese of York, Judge Peter Collier QC. The visit had an added poignancy for the Dean of York, Keith Jones, who was also among the dignitaries, as it marked one of his last official duties before he retires at the end of the month.
While the last of the 1,800 guests were settled in their seats in the Minster, the Dean told the congregation that the city was enjoying “the best weather in the country”.
After the Royal party had entered the cathedral, the Queen began distributing the Maundy gifts to the first set of recipients on the south side of the Minster as the Yeomen of the Guard followed closely behind.
Sunlight streamed through the windows of the cathedral as the service, which included readings and hymns, began.
The Queen gradually began to hand out the traditional Maundy money to the 172 invitees – 86 men and 86 women – who had been chosen for their work for the Church and their communities.
The 86 male and 86 female recipients of the honour reflected the years of the Queen’s life.
After the second lesson was read by the Archbishop of York, the Queen distributed the Maundy gifts to the second set of recipients on the north side of the cathedral as music by Handel was played.
Each recipient received two purses – one red and one white – in the centuries-old tradition. The red purse contained a £5 coin commemorating The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and a newly minted 50p coin.
The white purse contained uniquely minted Maundy Money of silver one, two, three and four penny pieces, the sum of which equals the Queen’s age.
One of the recipients of the Royal Maundy during the service in the Minster was Scarborough’s town crier, 80-year-old Alan Booth.
Mr Booth said: “It was absolutely fantastic. To be involved with the historic and religious service was wonderful.
“When you think about how this tradition has been going on for around 500 years it is remarkable.
“The experience was far better than I imagined; to see the Yeoman of the Guard, the organ, the choir and most of all the Queen was just fantastic.”
The invited guests in York Minster strained to get a glimpse of the Royal party and the distribution of the Maundy gifts during the hour-long service.
Following prayers and the singing of the national anthem, a procession moved through the Minster to exit as music by Bach was played.
As they emerged on to the steps of the Minster, the Royal party was greeted with rapturous applause and cheering by the thousands of people who had gathered outside the cathedral.
After the service in the Minster, Cynthia Mackay, 86, from North Ferriby, near Hull, said: “It was an absolutely fantastic service.
“I thought the Queen was wonderful and had so much stamina in the way she walked through the church twice. She smiled at everybody and really looked each person in the eye.”
Freda Garrett, 92, of Osmotherly, added: “The service was absolutely fantastic. The Queen was charming and smiled at everyone. It was a great privilege and honour.”
Archbishop’s Good Friday message: Page 13.