King John's Maundy

England's royal black sheep may well turn out to be the instigator of the ancient ceremony linking Church and Crown. Arnold Kellett explains how this came about.

A painting of King John on a stag huntOn Maundy Thursday television viewers in Britain will glimpse the unique and colourful ceremony that constitutes one of the country's most ancient national traditions. As the Queen hands to each of the recipients the simple gift of alms, her action so powerfully conveys the idea of Christian humility that it comes as something of a shock to realise that the Royal Maundy owes its early development, perhaps even its origin, to that least humble of monarchs, King John.

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