THE Queen has presented money to pensioners at the traditional Royal Maundy Thursday service.
Joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, she distributed the coins during the annual service, which dates back more than 800 years, taking place this year at Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire.
Hundreds of well-wishers lined the streets outside the cathedral to welcome the royal party for the service.
Cheers and applause rang out as the royals arrived, the Queen wearing a cerise cashmere coat and printed woollen dress in cerise, grey and cream by Stuart Parvin and a matching hat by Angela Kelly.
The Queen commemorates Maundy by offering “alms” to senior citizens - retired pensioners recommended by clergy and ministers of all denominations - in recognition of service to the church and to the local community.
Maundy Thursday is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter to commemorate the Maundy and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles and echoes the story of Christ washing the feet of his disciples shortly before his death.
The Maundy service, which dates back to the 13th century, originally involved the sovereign giving money to the poor and washing their feet, a tradition which ended with James II in the 17th century.
During today’s service the Queen distributed the Maundy money to 88 men and 88 women - one for each of the Queen’s 88 years. Each recipient receives two purses, one red and one white.
In a ceremony full of pomp, Yeomen in red tunics carried the purses on golden platters, following the Queen as she distributed the money to the accompaniment of organ music and choristers singing God Save The Queen from Handel’s Zadok The Priest.
Recipient Alec Stuttard, 74, from Ewood, Blackburn, was especially pleased to receive the Maundy gift.
As a 13-year-old he was chosen as the chorister representing Blackburn Cathedral to sing at the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 - but was “gutted” when he had to pull out because of laryngitis.
Mr Stuttard, who has been a chorister at the cathedral man and boy, said: “It was brilliant. The funny thing is as she came to give me the money the choir started to sing Zadok The Priest, which is what I would have sung at the Coronation. I was shaking.
“My daughter said ‘I was in pieces with that, Dad’.”
James Nelson, 79, a former engineer, was selected to receive the honour after acting as warden at St Andrew’s Church in Leyland, Lancs.
Mr Nelson said: “It was wonderful, just wonderful. A great honour and a very moving service, it’s just a privilege to be here.”
Stanley Smith, 73, a retired salesman, also from Leyland, was chosen for his services to the local community.
Mr Smith said: “I have been a youth worker for 50 years and I’m still doing it. Today was just absolutely wonderful. The Queen looks absolutely immaculate and I feel so humble I was one of only 88 men chosen, it’s something else, I am so honoured.”
This year the Red Purse contains a £5 coin, commemorating the 300th anniversary of Queen Anne’s reign and a 50p coin commemorating the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer.
Historically, the Red Purse contained an allowance of £3 for clothing, £1.50 in lieu of provisions and £1 for the redemption of the Sovereign’s gown.
The White Purse contains uniquely-minted Maundy Money. This takes the form of one, two, three and four silver penny pieces, the sum of which equals the number of years of the monarch’s age.
The service ended with a trumpet fanfare and the national anthem before the procession left the cathedral, with the Right Reverend Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn, leading the royal party to the cathedral’s Great West Door.
Following the service, in keeping with Royal Maundy tradition, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will spend time with local religious and civic dignitaries, at Blackburn Rovers Football Club.