The UK's Queen Elizabeth II has pulled out of attending the Royal Maundy church service and will be represented for the first time by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, Buckingham Palace has said.
The annual event is an important fixture in the royal calendar and Prince Charles follow the ancient tradition of distributing Maundy money to community stalwarts on Thursday.
It is understood that Queen Elizabeth, who has been experiencing mobility issues, was unable to commit to the event and, with the order of service being printed, she was keen for the arrangements to be confirmed to avoid any misunderstanding or for the day to be overshadowed.
The monarch attended a service commemorating the life of her late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, last week with senior members of the royal family and a congregation of hundreds. She has been carrying out events and other duties online.
The 95-year-old queen reached her platinum jubilee in February and overcame a bout of Covid-19 after testing positive that month.
After spending a night in hospital last October, she spent the following three months conducting light duties and missed a number of prominent events.
On only four other occasions has a member of the royal family stood in for the queen at the Royal Maundy service.
A few years into her reign, the Lord High Almoner, Michael Gresford Jones the Bishop of St Albans, represented the queen in 1954, when she was on her extensive Commonwealth tour.
Six years later, the Queen Mother stood in for her daughter, who had given birth to the Duke of York in February 1960, two months before the service, and in 1964, the birth of the Earl of Wessex in March that year meant the queen’s role was filled by her aunt, Princess Mary.
In 1970, the Queen Mother distributed the Maundy money on behalf of the queen who was on tour in New Zealand.
Queen Elizabeth II's platinum jubilee gun salute — in pictures
Prince Charles and Camilla will join the congregation for the Royal Maundy service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and will be welcomed by the Right Reverend David Conner, who gave the address at Prince Philip’s memorial service.
Following tradition, they will be presented with nosegays — sweet-smelling bouquets — which in centuries past were used to ward off unpleasant smells during the ceremony.
For the past two years, the service has not been held due to the pandemic and instead the queen wrote to recipients of Maundy money, who received the coins in the post, to thank them for the community work that had earned them their nominations.
This year, Prince Charles will distribute the Maundy coins to 96 men and 96 women — as the queen will be 96 this year, celebrating her birthday on April 21.
Each recipient receives two purses, one red and one white.
The white purse is filled with uniquely minted Maundy money — silver 10p and 3p pieces — to the value of 96 pence.
In the red pouch is a £5 coin and a 50p coin honouring the queen’s platinum jubilee. Both coins were newly minted this year.
The Royal Maundy is an ancient ceremony that traces its origins to the commandment Jesus gave to love one another after he washed the feet of his disciples on the day before Good Friday, two days before Easter Sunday.