Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 85th birthday, on Thursday 21 April 2011, by handing out Maundy money to pensioners at Westminster Abbey.
At the Royal Maundy Service, which coincided with the Queen’s birthday, for the first time, the Queen handed out gifts to 85 retired men and women, invited in recognition of their service to their community and the Church.
The gifts handed out, were according to the age of the Queen. This year 85 recipients each received a red purse and a white purse. The red purse contained a £5 commemorative coin designed to celebrate the Duke of Edinburgh’s 90th birthday and a 50p coin designed to mark the 2012 Olympics. The white purse contained 85 pence worth of uniquely minted Maundy money.
The tradition of distributing alms during Holy week dates back centuries. Jesus Christ washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday.