It was a great privilege to represent the parish on Maundy Thursday at this spectacular service. Portsmouth Cathedral looked wonderful, there were huge flower displays of lilies and greenery, everyone was in their 'Sunday best', there was an air of tremendous anticipation as the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh entered exactly as the clock struck 11 am, the rain stopped and the sun came out.
Everything was precision timed - on the dot of 10.35am the procession began with the Yeoman of the Guard in their ornate red uniforms, then various representatives from all denominations, the cathedral clergy, the Bishop and the Royal Almonry, various local dignitaries and school children.
Although I was sitting behind a pillar about three rows from some of the 'recipients', I had a good view of the Queen distributing the Maundy Money. She stopped, made eye contact, and smiled at each person. There were 72 men and 72 women - reflecting the Queen's age. They each received a small red leather purse containing an allowance of £5.50 for clothing and food, and a white purse containing sets of Maundy money, to the value of 72p.
The recipients had been selected for their Christian service to the church and the community.
The Duke of Edinburgh, tall, straight and slim, read the lesson taken from St John's Gospel and was entitled, "Jesus washes the disciples' feet" - a reminder of the origins of the Maundy service when English Monarchs traditionally washed the feet of the poor.
The service derives its name from the Latin word mandatum, meaning a commandment, and its opening words are "Jesus said I give you a commandment".
The Distribution of Alms and the washing of the feet in the Thursday of Holy Week are of great antiquity. The Maundy can be traced back in England with certainty to the 12th century, and there are continuous records of the Distribution having been made on Maundy Thursday from the reign of Edward I.
Canon Jane Hedges (ex St George's) was involved in saying the prayers; the music was sung by the choir of Her Majesty's Chapel Royal, making it all a wonderful, colourful, interesting and moving occasion, a once in a lifetime event. I do hope this is not one of the traditions that will disappear in the name of Cool Britannia!
Afterwards, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh had coffee at the Provosts House in Pembroke Road. I saw them come out exactly as planned at 12.45 pm and get into the Royal car (no number plates!) which took them on to lunch at the Guildhall. This was a memorable day for me which I appreciated.
written by Adina Burton, Hon. Sec. P.C.C.
Return to the May 1998 Features page
return to Home page and main index
page last updated 1 MAY 1998