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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 March 2008, 12:38 GMT
Historic first for Maundy service
Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh at the Royal school in Armagh
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh at the Royal school in Armagh
The Queen has broken with centuries of tradition by attending the first Maundy Thursday service to be held outside England and Wales.

It was held in St Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh, Ireland's ecclesiastical capital.

The leaders of the four main churches on the island attended the traditional alms-giving ceremony.

It marked the final day of a three-day visit by the Queen accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh to Northern Ireland.

Representatives of the Jewish, Muslim and Hindu faiths have also attended the service, at which the Catholic Primate, Cardinal Sean Brady, and the Duke of Edinburgh gave readings.

Maundy Thursday has been celebrated since the earliest days of the Christian Church.

Last Supper

The word Maundy is derived from Latin and refers to Christ's commandment at the Last Supper to love one another, before he washed the feet of his disciples.

The tradition of the sovereign giving alms to the poor stretches back to at least the 12th Century and there are continuous records from the reign of King Edward 1.

From the middle ages, the number of recipients mirrors the sovereign's years.

The Queen presented Maundy Thursday alms purses to 164 people - 82 men and 82 women.

These people came from all over Northern Ireland and were deemed to have made a significant contribution to church or community life.

The Royal Visit
The Queen is presenting Maundy Thursday alms purses to 164 people

The distribution of the alms came in two parts. The red purse contained an allowance in place of food and clothing given in bygone times.

In the white purse there were Maundy coins, as many pence as the Queen is years old (82).

The coins are legal tender, but because they are so rare, are sought after by collectors.

Pupils from local schools, who are known as Maundy children, have attended to the Queen.

The Chapel Royal Choir and the choir of St Patrick's Cathedral led the worship.

Earlier on Thursday, the Queen was guest of honour at a reception in the Royal School Armagh held to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the five Royal Schools of Ulster.

Her Majesty met the headmasters and chairmen of the five schools and about 130 guests.

The Maundy Service in full

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