It's nearly Easter so here at The Britannia Coin Company we've got one thing on our minds: Maundy Money.
The day before Good Friday is known as Maundy Thursday and makes up one of the most important times of the year for Christians. It's the day during Holy Week that commemorates the Washing of the Feet and the Last Supper.
In the Church of England, there's a special ceremony associated with Holy Thursday and it's an interesting one for numismatists.
Ahead of Charles III's first Royal Maundy as King, we're looking into the history of this long-standing British tradition and the fascinating coins involved, sought by collectors of UK money.
What is Maundy Thursday?
The word ‘maundy’ is derived from the Latin 'mandatum,' meaning ‘commandment’. The act most associated with Maundy Thursday is Jesus’ act of humility by gently washing the feet of His disciples, done during the Last Supper. By doing this, He demonstrated compassion and commanded His followers to love one another and treat each other as equals.
'A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.' John XII : 34
It forms the basis of charitable acts in Christianity, with the first part of the verse quoted above still mentioned at the Royal Maundy service held every year.
In the past, British monarchs upheld the foot-washing tradition associated with Maundy Thursday but in the last few centuries, they've stuck to showing their charity by distributing special coins.
Purses of Maundy Money being handed out at a Royal Maundy service in 1867.
What Are Maundy Money coins?
Maundy Money is the silver coins issued by British monarchs on Maundy Thursday as part of the Royal Maundy ceremony.
In the past, coins were distributed alongside other alms in the form of food and clothing. By Tudor times the practice of distributing coins equal to the age of the King or Queen was well established. In 1556, Mary I gave forty-one pence to forty-one poor women. Though Elizabeth I's religious beliefs were very different to her sister, she continued the tradition, offering standard circulation coins like silver Pennies to her subjects.
The Stuart monarchs made a point of giving out Maundy money themselves to curry favour. Charles II was the first to issue specially-struck Maundy Money, distinct from regular coinage. Surviving sets contain undated 1p, 2p, 3p and 4p coins.
In the late seventeenth century a distinctive crowned numeral design was created for the reverse of Maundy Money coins. This was updated in 1822 by engraver Jean Baptiste Merlen who added a wreath of oak leaves around the denomination. This design is still used today, paired with a portrait of the reigning monarch.
The relative size of Royal Maundy: Maundy coins dated 1900, late in the reign of Queen Victoria, show Jean Baptiste Merlen's classic crown and oak wreath design on their reverse.
Complete Maundy Money Specifications
Traditionally, Maundy Money was composed of .925 sterling silver, like other British coins. between 1921 and 1946 Maundy coins were stuck using .500 fine silver in line with the debasement of circulating silver coinage in the UK. When silver was eliminated completely from ordinary circulation coins in 1947, Maundy coins increased in fineness to .925 again. When the United Kingdom's currency was decimalised in 1971, the face value of Royal Maundy coins was simply changed from 'old pence' to 'new pence', so 4d became 4p. This means that Maundy Money is still officially legal tender, but, in practice, these coins are never seen in circulation.
The same specifications have been used for Maundy coins since the early nineteenth century.
|Denomination||Standard Weight||Metric Weight||Diameter||Finish|
|Maundy Penny||1/66 troy ounces||0.47 grams||11.15 mm||Proof|
|Maundy Twopence||1/33 troy ounces||0.94 grams||13.44 mm||Proof|
|Maundy Threepence||1/22 troy ounces||1.41 grams||16.26 mm||Proof|
|Maundy Fourpence||2/33 troy ounces||1.88 grams||17.63 mm||Proof|
These Maundy coins, banknote and 50p were presented by Queen Elizabeth II at Ripon Cathedral in 1984, inside of the traditional pouches.
King Charles III First Maundy Coins
On 6 April 2023, King Charles will issue Maundy Money as King for the first time. The ceremony will take place at York Minster.
In a statement, Buckingham Palace said:
'During the service, His Majesty will present 74 men and 74 women (signifying the age of the monarch) with the Maundy Money to thank them for their outstanding Christian service and for making a difference to the lives of people in their local communities. Recipients are selected from Church of England dioceses across the country, and Anglican and Ecumenical partners across the UK.
‘The King will present each recipient with two purses: one red and one white. The white purse will contain a set of specially minted silver Maundy coins equivalent in value to the age of the monarch. The red purse will contain two commemorative coins, symbolising the Sovereign's historic gift of food and clothing. This year, one will celebrate His Majesty’s forthcoming 75th birthday and the other will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Windrush Generation.'
King Charles already has experience with the Maundy Thursday ceremony as he deputised for his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in 2022. It was the first time since 1970 that the Queen had missed the service. Covid-19 restrictions precluded holding Royal Maundy ceremonies in the previous two years so the last time that Her Majesty personally distributed Maundy Money was in 2019 at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. Over her long reign, the late Queen gave out coins at every Anglican cathedral in England.
This 2019 silver Maundy Set comes in a special Royal Mint box with the coins themselves sealed in a handy clear, double-sided sleeve.
The 2023 Maundy coins will be the first issued with King Charles III's image on the obverse (heads side). British sculptor Martin Jennings is the artist responsible for the new definitive coin portrait of the King, which faces to the left, following the tradition of the monarch facing the opposite side to his or her predecessor. The new effigy has only recently started to appear in our change here in Britain and can be seen on exclusive commemorative coinage from The Royal Mint, including the Elizabeth II Memorial range and on coins in 2023 Annual Sets.
The History Of Royal Maundy Money Coins
Historical records of Maundy Thursday services before the 13th century are patchy. The gifting of silver coins during Maundy can trace its roots to Anglo-Saxon England, circa AD 596, where it was mentioned in the works of Saint Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury.
In terms of royal involvement, the first recorded participation of an English monarch in the ceremony was King John in 1210, where he bequeathed alms to the poor of Knaresborough, Yorkshire. He followed this up by gifting 13 silver coins to 13 of his subjects in Rochester in 1213, beginning the tradition of Maundy Money.
In the past, the monarch imitated the actions of Christ by washing the feet of one of his subjects, although this tradition was ended by King Charles II on the outbreak of the plague. Instead, a royal representative was sent to deputise for the King, and by the end of the 17th century, the practice was discontinued. King James II is believed to be the last British monarch to have washed the feet of his subjects.
From 1692 to 1932, there was is no official record of a monarch attending the Maundy Ceremony. King George V broke that 240-year streak, but it wasn't until the reign of his granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, that the monarch began to regularly attend the service again. It was during Elizabeth II's reign that the ceremony was held in different dioceses, as the Queen believed the service shouldn't be confined to London.
The modern Maundy ceremony has evolved to focus on the charitable work locals undertake for the church but the practice of gifting money has a long and storied history.
Buy Complete Maundy Money Silver Coin Sets
The Britannia Coin Company has a range of Maundy Money sets available for purchase at very competitive prices. We're working hard to add more products onto our website, so if there’s a set you’re after which isn't listed then you’re more than welcome to get in contact with us. We could have what you’re looking for already in stock!
We’re also interested in purchasing Royal Maundy coins and sets. Have a look at our Sell Your Coins page to find out how you can get a great quote today.
Frequently Asked Questions
Maundy money is the 4p, 3p, 2p and 1p silver coins gifted to a select group of people by a representative of the Crown (either the monarch or a royal official).
Charles III will gift Maundy money for the first time as King on the 6th April, 2023 at York Minister. It's not the first time he has done this: he deputised at the ceremony in 2022 for his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who was unfortunately not well enough to attend.
The small-sized silver Maundy coins can easily be identified by looking at the crowned number surrounded by a wreath on the coin's reverse (tails) side. Sample images can be found on The Britannia Coin Company's website. Maundy coins issued before 1817 are indistinguishable from the circulating coinage at that time.
Maundy money is composed of a 4 Pence coin, a 3 Pence coin, a 2 Pence coin and a 1 Penny coin, all struck in 0.925 fine sterling silver (except between 1921-46, when 0.500 fine silver was used).
King Charles III will gift 2023 Maundy coins with his effigy on the obverse (heads) side of them. The new coin portrait of His Majesty is the work of British sculptor Martin Jennings.
The 4p, 3p, 2p and 1p pieces which make up Maundy money are pound sterling coins, with the legal tender face value shown on the reverse (tails) side of the coin. Being made of silver, its precious metal value is worth more than its face value, and complete sets of Maundy money are sold at a premium to coin collectors.
Historically, it was those most in need of help who received Maundy money. Nowadays, those who have given a significant amount of dedication and service towards the Church of England and the local community are chosen to receive Maundy money.
The first recorded instance of an English monarch gifting coins on Maundy Thursday was King John in 1213, when he gave 13 silver pennies to 13 of his subjects. This began the tradition of Maundy money.