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Queen Camilla to Make Royal History by Stepping in for King Charles with Ancient Tradition

While Queen Camilla has attended the holiday event before, she'll lead the charge solo this time around

<p>Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images</p> Queen Camilla attends a Service of Celebration to mark the 850th Anniversary of St John

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Queen Camilla attends a Service of Celebration to mark the 850th Anniversary of St John's Foundation at Bath Abbey on February 1.

Queen Camilla has a date with royal history on her calendar in the coming weeks.

On Monday, Worcester Cathedral announced that the Queen, 76, will distribute the Royal Maundy gifts on behalf of King Charles at the Royal Maundy Service on March 28.

While Queen Camilla has participated in the Royal Maundy Service with her husband before, she will become the first consort to lead the ancient tradition, the Daily Mail reported. King Charles, 75, has postponed public-facing duties while receiving cancer treatment, and the outlet described his anticipated absence at the Maundy service as “the most significant royal event” he will miss to date.

The Worcester Cathedral team shared a festive message about Queen Camilla’s upcoming visit after the news was announced.

“We are SO excited to announce that we will be welcoming Her Majesty The Queen to the Cathedral on Maundy Thursday (28 March) as we host the Royal Maundy service,” officials wrote on X on Monday, posting a photo of the ancient church and the coins that will be awarded.

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The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word for “commandment,” and the British monarch leads the Maundy Service each year on the Thursday before Easter. According to the royal family’s website, the service dates back to 600 A.D. and traditionally sees the monarch distribute Maundy money, or coins, to local pensioners (retirees) in a parallel to Jesus washing the Apostles’ feet at the Last Supper.

The monarch “distributes gifts according to the number of years they have lived,” and Worcester Cathedral said that ceremonial coins will be presented to 75 men and 75 women (signifying the King’s age) this year. Each recipient receives two coin purses, one red and one white. The first contains standard coins symbolizing a gift from the sovereign for food and clothing, and the second is filled with Maundy coins amounting to the monarch’s age, the royal family’s website said.

“The coins are legal tender, but recipients normally prefer to retain them as a keepsake,” the site says.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images King Charles and Queen Camilla at the Royal Maundy Service at York Minster on April 6, 2023 in York, England.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images King Charles and Queen Camilla at the Royal Maundy Service at York Minster on April 6, 2023 in York, England.

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The recipients are invited in recognition of their contributions to their churches and communities, and the Royal Maundy Service seemed to be a highlight on Queen Elizabeth’s calendar. According to a tally by Gert’s Royals, Queen Elizabeth attended the event almost every year single year of her record 70-year reign. The Maundy Service was reportedly her first engagement after her accession in 1952, and she decided during the early days of her reign that Maundy money should not just be distributed to the people of London as it historically had been. Instead, the young Queen tweaked the custom to rotate around the country, and by 2017, she visited every Anglican Cathedral in England for the Maundy Service.

Queen Elizabeth’s final Royal Maundy Service was in 2019 at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, which she attended with her granddaughter Princess Eugenie. The ceremony was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the Queen distributed Maundy money by sending the gifts in the mail.

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ARTHUR EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images Queen Elizabeth distributes Maundy money during the Royal Maundy Service at St George's Chapel in 2019.
ARTHUR EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images Queen Elizabeth distributes Maundy money during the Royal Maundy Service at St George's Chapel in 2019.

Last year’s Royal Maundy Service marked King Charles and Queen Camilla's first Maundy ceremony of the new royal reign, though they filled in for his mother at the event in 2022. There, then-Prince Charles did the honors of distributing the Maundy money. It was his first time filling in for Queen Elizabeth at the event and Camilla's first time attending.

Queen Camilla has played an important role in supporting King Charles throughout his period of cancer treatment while continuing with a full schedule of public duties.

“She is his strength and stay like [Prince Philip] was for the late Queen,” a palace insider tells PEOPLE. “She will be great. She will rally him, she will buoy him. She is amazing. She equips him to do the job he has to do.”

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