Smiling Queen charms Maundy Money recipients... but what is the history behind the traditional Royal service?

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh outside Leicester Cathedral after the Royal Maundy service.
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh outside Leicester Cathedral after the Royal Maundy service.
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The Queen has arrived in Leicester to present money to pensioners to mark Maundy Thursday as part of a tradition dating back to the 13th century.

Accompanied by the Duke Of Edinburgh, she was in high spirits as she distributed coins to 91 men and 91 women at Leicester Cathedral.

Queen Elizabeth II outside Leicester Cathedral after the Royal Maundy service.

Queen Elizabeth II outside Leicester Cathedral after the Royal Maundy service.

Hundreds of well-wishers lined the route from Leicester station to the cathedral - where the last Plantagenet king, Richard III, is buried - in a bid to catch a glimpse of the royal visitors.

The Queen, wearing a deep jade dress, matching coat and hat by Angela Kelly, gave two bags to each of the 182 recipients, who were chosen in recognition of the service they have provided to the community and church.

Among them was Ted Cassidy, who said: "It's been such a wonderful occasion - she's amazing because she smiled at every single person and then spoke to the children at the end.

"I thought 'She's just incredible, a wonderful woman'.

"I got a surprise letter four months ago and I couldn't believe it, it was such a wonderful surprise."

Mr Cassidy admitted he was "quite nervous" before being handed the money.

The 70-year-old said: "It was just amazing to have her so close to me and such a gentle person.

"What a great honour, it's fantastic."

The service included Handel's Zadok The Priest, which is used as the Champions League anthem and is familiar in the area following Leicester City's footballing exploits.

Another recipient, Mavis Moore, from Ashfordby, said: "It was an experience, I couldn't believe it."

The 86-year-old added: "I've been excited and telling everyone since I found out."

Jane Gumbs, of Beaumont Leys, said: "It was really nice, lovely, and to see the Queen - it was amazing.

"She looked young.

"I never thought I would ever meet the Queen in my life."

The Queen handed two purses - one white and one red - to each person during the service at the cathedral in the East Midlands city, and has now conducted the Maundy service in every Anglican cathedral in England.

The red purse contained a £5 coin, commemorating the Centenary of the House of Windsor and a 50p coin commemorating Sir Isaac Newton, while the white purse containing uniquely minted Maundy coins, equating in pence to her age.

The Royal Maundy is an ancient ceremony which originated in the commandment Christ gave after washing the feet of his disciples the day before Good Friday.

Here is a look at what the service is all about.

What are the origins of the service?

The Maundy Service dates back to the 13th century and used to involve the sovereign giving money to the poor and washing their feet.

When did this change into the service we know today?

The tradition of feet washing ended with James II in the 18th century and now the Queen commemorates the day by offering alms to senior citizens in recognition of service to the church and community.

What will happen at today's service?

The Queen will distribute the Maundy money to 91 men and 91 women - one for each of her 91 years - with recipients getting two purses, one red and one white.

What do the purses contain?

The red purse contains a £5 coin, commemorating the Centenary of the House of Windsor and a 50p coin commemorating Sir Isaac Newton, while the white purse contains Maundy Money minted especially for the occasion in the form of one, two, three and four penny pieces making up 91p to reflect the age of Elizabeth II.

Why does the red purse contain £5.50?

For historic reasons, the sum of £5.50 is made up of £3 for clothing, £1.50 in lieu of provisions and £1 for the redemption of the monarch's gown.

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