LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II distributed "Maundy money" to deserving subjects Thursday in a long-standing Holy Week tradition.
Accompanied by her husband Prince Philip, she handed out specially minted silver coins to recognize the work of elderly church and community volunteers at Derby Cathedral in central England.
The source of the coins, the honor of receiving them, and their silver probably make them more valuable than their face value: a few pennies.
In all, 168 people, 84 men and 84 women, were given red and white coin purses containing the coins. The number of recipients is related to the monarch's age – the queen turns 84 on April 21.
"It's quite an honor and it was a surprise as well," said 91-year-old Bill Attenborough. He was a Royal Air Force photographer who took the queen's picture in 1953, the year of her coronation. "I have never met the queen, but I have photographed her, so today brings back a lot of memories."
Buckingham Palace says the tradition of the monarch handing out money to subjects dates to the 13th century. "Maundy" comes from the word "mandatum," Christ's commandment to love one another.
The tradition of royalty washing the feet of the poor ended in the 17th century, but the queen has given out "Maundy money" most years of her reign.