THE Queen received a rapturous welcome in York today as she prepared to hand out the traditional Royal Maundy money to pensioners from all over Britain to mark her Diamond Jubilee.
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Thousands of well-wishers lined Queen Street and Micklegate and cheered loudly as the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Beatrice of York stepped out of the royal car.
People could be seen toasting the royal party with champagne in windows overlooking the street.
Dressed in an aquamarine and grey tweed overcoat and aquamarine hat, the Queen had to touch a ceremonial sword and mace before passing through the 12th century gateway to the walled city, Micklegate Bar.
The Queen was given the time-honoured Monarch’s welcome to the city in a medieval atmosphere conjured up by traditional musicians and musketeers.
She met the Lord Mayor David Horton and the town clerk, Kersten England, read out a proclamation of welcome.
The Queen was on her way to York Minster for the traditional Royal Maundy service. To celebrate her 60 years as Monarch, the Queen will hand out money to people from all of the UK’s 44 Christian dioceses.
Usually, the Maundy money is given to pensioners from one diocese each year. But this year, 86 women and 86 men - one for each of the Queen’s 86 years - will receive the money in recognition of their services to the Church and their communities.
The Royal Maundy ceremony traces its origins to the Last Supper when, as St John recorded, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.
The royal party arrived at York Minster in bright sunshine cheered on by thousands of well-wishers.
The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Beatrice of York, arrived at the Great West Door where they were presented with traditional nosegays.
The Queen’s procession included The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu; The Chancellor of the Diocese of York, Judge Peter Collier QC; the Dean of York, The Very Reverend Keith Jones and other dignitaries and officials.
A short time later 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.
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 receives two purses - one red and one white - in the centuries old tradition.
The red purse will contain a £5 coin commemorating The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and a newly minted 50p coin.
The white purse will contain uniquely minted Maundy Money of silver one, two, three and four penny pieces, the sum of which equals the Queen’s age.
The invited guests in the Minster strained to get a glimpse of the royal party and the distribution of the Maundy gifts during the hour-long service.
Following the prayers and singing of the national anthem, the processions moved through the Minster to exit as music by Bach was played.
The royal party was greeted with rapturous applause and cheering as they emerged on to the steps of the Minster.
Later, the Queen presented the Lord Mayor with a new “cap of maintenance” during a short ceremony in the Mansion House.
Once again huge crowds gathered in the streets outside the building to watch the royal party arrive.
The significance of the hat dates back to 1393, when King Richard II presented the first cap to York and stipulated that it should not be taken off in front of God or King.
Traditionally the monarch presents the cap to the City of York, highlighting the city’s importance as the cap signifies rank and prestige.
The sword bearer knelt in front of the Queen, who then lifted the new cap and presented this to the Lord Mayor.
Mr Horton, said: “It’s been a wonderful day and I thank everyone who was involved in making this so memorable. It was an incredible honour to welcome Her Majesty The Queen and the royal party to York and we will treasure these memories for years to come.”
The Queen enjoyed a lunch of aromatic duck salad, followed by chicken pimento roulade with rosemary scented roasted new potatoes and lemon baby carrots.
The lunch was attended by dignitaries, community pride winners and council workers.
The final visit of the day took the Royal party to the Yorkshire Museum and a tour of a new exhibition: 1212 The Making of the City.
The exhibition celebrates 800 years since the city of York was granted its Royal Charter. Artefacts have been taken from across the city, including the Minster, and have been brought together under one roof for the first time.
The Duke seemed particularly amused by a bare-bottomed mannequin which formed part of a fashion exhibition.
The Royal party were being given a tour of some clothes being modelled on mannequins when he spotted the revealing item.
The outfits were designed by York College students who have taken inspiration from the medieval collection in the museum.
The Queen left the museum as hundreds of people cheered her off in warm sunshine.