Every year in Britain since about the 7th century, the crown (and sometimes the reigning monarch personally) gives alms to the poor in a special ceremony. This happens on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, and the money which is given out is called Maundy money. Until the 1800s normal coinage was distributed, but since then the mint has struck special Maundy money coins. Traditionally, the monarch gives each person the value of the monarch’s age in pence(!).
I can understand how this might have been a good idea before the pound was taken off the gold standard, as a few pence could probably have bought you enough food for several days. But nowadays inflation has rendered the face value of Maundy money practically insignificant. For example, this coming Easter the Queen will be giving out £0.82 ($1.66) to each recipient. Is this really what passes for charity in Britain? I’m sorry, but this just seems rude and insulting. The Queen is one of the richest people in Britain and in the world. I know of working-class people who regularly give street beggars more than £0.82. And when they do, they don’t make a big deal out of it with ceremonies and costumes and journalists and whatnot.
Is Maundy money worth more than its face value? If so, how much more? Are recepients expected to keep the coins, or are they expected to turn around and sell them to coin collectors so that they have money to eat and pay the rent? The former seems ridiculous because then the Maundy money isn’t working for its intended purpose (i.e., poverty relief). The latter is equally ridiculous; it’s discourteous to sell a gift, especially one you’ve just received. Why doesn’t the Queen just increase the value of the Maundy money to keep up with inflation? Shouldn’t she be handing out Maundy pounds instead of Maundy pence?