As part of her Diamond Jubilee tour of Great Britain, The Queen and her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh, visited York yesterday afternoon. Dressed in a refreshing, bright and seasonal turquoise and white dress coat and hat, H. M. demonstrated that thrift is very much in vogue by “recycling” her lovely ensemble from her state visit to Dublin last year. The Queen was accompanied by their granddaughter Princess Beatrice, who was stylishly dressed for her first official outing supporting the monarch on tour. Princess Beatrice is the daughter of Prince Andrew, the Queen’s second eldest son, and Sarah Ferguson (“Fergie”). York was a particularly apt choice for Princess Beatrice’s first official engagement, as her parents are the Duke and Duchess of York.
The City of York, situated in the north of England and founded by the Romans in 71 A.D., is an ancient site full of tradition and rich in heritage. One of the oldest traditions of York is that any visiting monarch who wishes to gain access to the city must touch a ceremonial sword and mace at the twelfth century gate, now known as Micklegate Bar.
H. M. The Queen’s visit coincided with Maundy Thursday which directly precedes Good Friday and the Easter Weekend. The Royal Party attended a church service at York Minster where they met Dr. John Sentamu, the current Archbishop of York. It is a great, eight hundred year old, British tradition for the reigning monarch to attend a Church of England service on Maundy Thursday, which commemorates the day of the Last Supper before the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. At this particular service it has always been an ancient custom that the monarch has direct contact with their subjects. This notion of direct contact used to be taken rather literally in times gone by, when a tradition arose whereby the monarch used to wash the feet of paupers and beggars. This act of humbleness replicated Jesus’ own washing of the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. In addition, this was a rare chance for ordinary people to touch the King or Queen, which was widely believed as a cure for illness, just as the touch of Jesus was miraculous. James II was the last King to wash his subjects’ feet on Maundy Thursday. Ever since that time, monarchs have given out “alms” or “Maundy Money” to their subjects instead of washing their feet. Each recipient is given a red purse, in place of the traditional food and clothing, and a white purse which contains a number of pennies that represent the sovereign’s age. In 2012 the Queen celebrates not only her Diamond Jubilee, but also her 86th birthday. As such, 86 men and 86 women selected from 44 dioceses attended the Maundy Thursday service and received alms from the Queen. This year, the white purse contains specially minted silver, one-, two-, three- and four-penny pieces – the total sum of these purses given out adds up to the age of H.M. Elizabeth II. The red purse contains a special gift to celebrate this year’s Diamond Jubilee; a newly minted silver five-pound coin. Although the bestowal of Maundy alms is a long-established tradition, it is also a very rare chance to see the monarch carrying cash.
P.S. Many thanks to my Dad who typed up this blog post for me as I dictated, due to a wrist injury.