The Queen has personally thanked community stalwarts for their work to “enrich the life” of their neighbours in a letter honouring Maundy money recipients.
The monarch has written to those she would have presented with symbolic coins during the annual Royal Maundy service, but who instead have received the gift by post after the event was cancelled for the second year running due to coronavirus restrictions.
“I am delighted to send you the Maundy gift which I hope you will accept as an expression of my personal thanks to you for all that you have done to enrich the life of your community,” the Queen said in her letter.
“Each year, at the Royal Maundy Service, we have an opportunity to recognise, and give thanks for, work done by countless people for the wellbeing of their neighbours; work that has often been taken for granted or hidden.”
Among those who received Maundy money was one of the country’s oldest skiers, 101-year-old George Stewart, who has been a permanent fixture at his local Perthshire church in Scotland for almost 30 years, and was due to attend the cancelled service at Westminster Abbey on Thursday.
Mr Stewart, a widower and retired forester from the town of Scone, said: “I’m very honoured to be given this money as part of a very venerable and ancient occasion. I think it’s a great thing and I’m very honoured to receive the letter the Queen sent with it.”
Retired pensioners who have supported the church and their local communities, are recommended by clergy of all denominations to receive Maundy money.
The 101-year-old, who has eight great grandchildren, added: “I have a close association with my local church which is Scone and St Martins Parish Church, and it plays a notable part in the activities of the community.”
He joked: “I’m 101 so there’s a limited amount I can do but I support the church’s activities as best I can.
“I learnt to ski after the war in Italy where I was stationed, and I’ve skied virtually every year since then, both in Scotland and the Alps.”
Also recognised was Sue Ward from Portsmouth, who is a church warden at the city’s cathedral and supports a number of organisations including Christian Aid through fundraising and awareness raising events.
She said: “I’m astonished and delighted to receive Maundy money from the Queen. I don’t really feel as though I deserve it, but it is an honour and I’m very grateful.
“I’ve found being a churchwarden a joy, and a wonderful introduction to the whole of diocesan life, not just the local community. In a cathedral, you are very much a logistics person, making sure that everyone is being looked after.”
Malcolm Cloutt, from Princes Risborough, a former Second World War RAF pilot who served in Europe and Burma and turned 100 last year, has given out 1,000 Bibles during his lifetime, listing each recipient by name and praying for them regularly.
The retired accountant said: “It’s a great honour of course, but I didn’t really think anything of my work.”
Agnes Slocombe, who served as the first black Mayor of Barnet, described receiving the Maundy coins as “wonderful”.
She has been an active member of St John’s Church in West Hendon, London for many decades, since she first came to the UK from Barbados as a young woman.
“It’s wonderful to receive such an honour from the Queen. Even though we are not able to have the service this year, it’s appreciated as it shows we are still thought of,” she said.
During the service, the Queen would have distributed Maundy money to 95 men and 95 women – as she will be 95 this year, celebrating her birthday on April 21.
But the money was posted instead, due to the Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing instructions, with recipients receiving two purses, one red and one white.
The white purse is filled with uniquely minted Maundy money – silver one, two, three and four penny pieces – to the value of 95 pence.
In the red pouch is a £5 coin, this year commemorating the Queen’s 95th birthday, and a 50p which portrays the 50th anniversary of Decimal Day in 1971.
Historically, this sum of £5.50 in the red purse is made up of £3 for clothing, £1.50 in lieu of provisions and £1 which represents a piece of the sovereign’s gown which, before Tudor times, used to be divided between the recipients.
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.