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Thursday 5 April 2012

The Queen in York

How wonderful that after yesterday’s storm, the snow had gone today and the sun shone to welcome the Queen to Yorkshire where she handed out the traditional Maundy money in York! (The picture is from the BBC North website) It was a double celebration in Jubilee Year, since this year is also the 800th anniversary of York’s status as a ‘free city’. An interesting ceremony is associated with that status: when the Queen arrives at the city gates she must ask permission to enter the city – permission which was granted by the Lord Mayor, to rapturous applause. What a wonderful continuation of history!

Another interesting aspect of the Maundy Money tradition is that, as it is practised today, it stems from a suggestion from one of the least assuming and most charming of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters – Princess Marie Louise. The tradition obviously originally comes from Jesus’ example at the Last Supper, where he washed the disciples' feet. Long ago, monarchs went out on this day and washed the feet of the poor and gave alms but by the end of the 17th Century that custom had faded. Money was still distributed on behalf of the monarch but the monarch did not attend the ceremony until Princess Marie Louise suggested resuming the tradition to her cousin George V.

Usually this practice has been carried out in London or the South so it is quite lovely that, in the year of her Jubilee, the Queen should choose York for today’s ceremony. York is truly a fascinating city and one which positively abounds with history and the history of this country! I don’t work for the Tourist Board but, to anyone who lives abroad and is considering visiting Britain, please remember that England doesn’t end in the Home Counties! Yorkshire and the North in general boast some of the most beautiful landscapes, castles and sites of historical interest in the country. Sadly, we have a bad press as the ‘industrial North’ and are frequently presented as rather stupid people who wear flat caps and keep whippets! Interesting that this is the home of the Brontes, J. B. Priestly, Alan Bennett, Andrew Marvell, Judi Dench, John Atkinson Grimshaw...to name but a few!

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