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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 April 2006, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Birthday Queen gives Maundy coins
The Queen handing out Maundy money in 2004
The Queen attends the ceremony at a different cathedral each year

The Queen has distributed Maundy Money to 160 pensioners in a service ahead of her 80th birthday next week.

She gave 80 men and 80 women two purses each at the ceremony at Guildford Cathedral, which she attended with the Duke of Edinburgh.

The purses contain 80p in Maundy coins and a 5 coin both of which mark the Queen's forthcoming 80th birthday.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury is to take part in an ancient Maundy Thursday feet washing ceremony.

Dr Rowan Williams, assisted by chief clergymen, will wash the feet of 12 members of the congregation during a service at Canterbury Cathedral.

Service recognition

The recipients of the Maundy money presented by the Queen are all retired pensioners recommended by clergy and ministers of all denominations in recognition of service to the Church and to the community. The oldest recipient will be 94.

One of the purses presented by the Queen also contains a 50p coin marking 150 years of the Victoria Cross. All the coins are newly minted this year.

It's going to be rather exciting
Mary Boxall

Among the recipients was Mary Boxall, who said she was delighted to be attending the event in the Queen's 80th year.

"People keep asking me what I'm going to do with the money ... I can't imagine wanting to spend it," the 72-year-old from nearby Chilworth said.

"It's going to be rather exciting," she added.

Mrs Boxall, who has been a Sunday school teacher, a girl guide leader and a pastoral assistant, was put forward for the ceremony by her local vicar.

Following the Royal Maundy service, the Queen and Prince Philip were due to attend a reception at the cathedral's Deanery.

They were then expected to take a walkabout in Guildford High Street.

Washing feet

The Maundy service dates back centuries. Until the 18th Century the monarch would also wash the feet of the poor selected to receive the coins.

In modern times the monarch has distributed the money without washing the recipients' feet.

Feet washing ceremony
Its origin can be traced to the Last Supper when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples
Jesus gave them a command or "mandatum" - from which Maundy is derived - to love one another
From about 600 AD St Augustine noted the ceremony involved the king, queen or their representative washing the feet of the poor
Nosegays or posies are still carried in the royal procession - a reminder of when foot odour needed disguising

The Queen has attended the service in person since 1971 and, by her own decision, it is now held in a different cathedral each year.

Canterbury Cathedral spokesman Christopher Robinson said the feet washing ceremony at the cathedral was re-instated in 2003 after a 400-year absence.

He said it had been reinstated at the suggestion of the Dean of Canterbury, Robert Willis, who said there had been a move away from symbolic ceremonies during the 16th Century Reformation and more emphasis put on the written word.

Mr Robinson added: "This is the start of the three days leading up to the great celebration of Easter. It's the biggest festival in the church year."

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