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Thursday, April 9, 1998 Published at 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK


Queen distributes Maundy money
image: [ The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are visiting Portsmouth for the Maundy service ]
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are visiting Portsmouth for the Maundy service

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have taken part in one of the oldest royal ceremonies of distributing coins to subjects.

The Royal Maundy service, which dates back at least eight centuries was held at Portsmouth Cathedral for the first time.

After torrential rain, which initially kept the crowds away, there was blue sky for the arrival of the royal couple.

During the hour-long service the Queen distributed posies of Maundy money, specially minted silver coins, to 72 men and 72 women.

The Duke of Edinburgh read the first lesson.

Royal walkabout

After the service, the royal couple chatted to the recipients and attended a lunch at Portsmouth's Guildhall.

Before leaving the city they took part in a walkabout in the Guildhall square and were presented with hot cross buns and Easter eggs.

The Duke joked with traders and said: "How can you tell if buns are fresh?

"Hold them above the plate and drop them. If the plate doesn't break, they are fresh."

The couple flew to Portsmouth from Windsor Castle in a privately-leased Sikorsky S76 helicopter which entered royal service last week.

The Sikorsky, which has replaced two 29-year-old RAF Wessex helicopters, will save at least £1.8m from the royals' travel budget.

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