British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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March 19.]                  maundy Thursday.                            143
this the ladies and gentlewomen waited no longer, nor served as they had done throughout the courses before. But then the treasurer of the chamber, Mr. Hennage, came to her Majestie with thirty-nine small white purses, wherein were also thirty-nine pence (as they saye) after the number of yeares to her Majestie's saide age, and of him she received and distributed them severally. Which done she received of him soe many leather purses alsoe, each containing 2Qsh. for the redemption of her Majestre's gown, which (as men saye) by ancient order she sought to give some of them at her pleasure but she to avoid the trouble of suite, which accustomablie was made for that preferment, had changed that reward into money, to be equally divided amongst them all, namely, 20s//. a piece, and she also delivered particularly to the whole company. And so taking her ease upon the cushion of estate and hearing the quire a little while, her Majestie withdrew herself and the companye departed, for it was by that time the sun was setting."
Charles II. observed this custom, as we find in a letter preserved in the Rawdon Letters, p. 175 :
" On Thursday last his Majesty washed poor men's feet in the Banquetting House, an act of humility used by his predecessors on Maundy Thursday to as many poor men as he had lived years. To each poor man he gave two yards of cloth for a coat, three ells of linen for a shirt, shoes, stockings, two purses, the one with thirty-three pence, the other with twenty pence, one jole of ling, one jole of salmon, a quantity of red and white herrings, one barrel with beer, and another with wine, with which they drank his Majesty's health. The queen did pay the same observance to several women about one of the clock at St. James."
After these illustrations of the ceremonies formerly ob­served in the distribution of the royal alms on Maundy Thursday, it becomes interesting to witness those which obtain at the present time.
The following is taken from the Times newspaper (April 6th, 1871):
" Those ancient and royal charities designated the Queen's Maundy were distributed yesterday in Whitehall Chapel during Divine service with the customary formalities, to
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