Maundy money: history, significance and value

What Royal Maundy?

The Royal Maundy is a Christian religious ceremony that takes place in The Church of England. Taking place during the Easter holy week on Maundy Thursday, the service has been held at various locations across the British isles. In the ceremony, The Queen or her representative gives out silver coins known as Maundy money to local pensioners.

This ceremony shows that The Queen has compassion for the poor and needy by giving alms. The story of Jesus washing the feet of his apostles at The Last Supper is the inspiration for the ceremony. We get the word Maundy the Latin word “mandatum“. In this context, it refers to the command that Jesus gave his apostles:

14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.

15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.

Gospel of John 13:14–16.

In the Church of England, the British monarch or their representative washed the feet of poor people up until the 18th Century, as well as distributing money, clothes and other necessities. Only the tradition of giving money has continued to this day.

What is Maundy money?

Maundy money is made up of a four penny, three penny, two penny and one penny piece, all in sterling silver. 

Like a normal coin, the Maundy coins feature a profile of the monarch. For the last 90 years, that has been Queen Elizabeth II. The portrait of The Queen on coins that we use in everyday life has been updated four times during this period. However, Maundy money still has the same portrait by Mary Gillick from 70 years ago. The sculptor’s profile of The Queen was first used on standard coinage in 1953.  

On the back of the coins, there is a crowned number showing the value i.e. 1,2,3,4. The date of the coins is set on either side of the number and encircling it all is a wreath This design was first used in the early 19th Century and hasn’t changed significantly in the proceeding years.


Until the 1930s, a representative of the monarch presented the Maundy money. In 1932, King George V started a new tradition of distributing the coins himself on the recommendation of his cousin, Princess Marie Louise. Our current Queen has only missed the service 4 times in her reign. In 2022, Prince Charles and his wife The Duchess of Cornwall attended as the Queen’s representatives.

The number of gifts distributed and the number of their receipents depends on the number of years she has lived. In 2022, The Prince of Wales distributed 96 pence worth of Maundy Money to 96 men and 96 women, on her behalf. 

Various clergymen from across the Christian denominations choose recipients for the gifts. Normally, the recipients are from the diocese of the church that is hosting the service – normally people who have contributed to their church and community.

Although it is technically legal tender, the coins are largely symbolic. The Queen’s representative gives out the coins in two leather purses, one red and one white. One contains a small number of standard coins to symbolise a gift for food and clothing. The other purse contains the Maundy coins.

Maundy money at auction

Due to their high sentimental value and low value as actual coinage, most people will retain them as keepsakes during their lifetime. here are very few complete sets to be found in the secondary market . In our June Silver, Coins & Medals auction, we have an Elizabeth II, Maundy money set from 1953.

Elizabeth II, Maundy Set from 1953, Penny to Fourpence.

The full Maundy coin set contains all 4 pieces, from the Penny to Fourpence. This set is one of the first sets to feature Queen Elizabeth II. It was given out in the first year that The Queen featured on Maundy money after her coronation. 1953 was the first year that the coins featured the Gillick profile mentioned above. Given that this is The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee month, it is particularly special to be able to offer this lot for auction.

Lot 522 has an estimate of £600- £800.

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