Maundy Thursday ... the Beeb has been refering to it as "Maundy Day". Just as so many of our chattering classes refer to Holy Week as Easter Week. I've just seen Good Friday referred to as Easter Friday ... I wonder if their arrogantly comfortable preference for being ignorantly offensive is a policy which the Meejah also enthusiastically apply to Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Humanism ...
On Maundy Thursday, the de facto successor of the Catholic Kings of Catholic England, visiting the Cathedral churches of the C of E in turn, gives purses of specially minted 'Maundy money' to deserving elderly people. The journalists love the'traditional'details: the number of recipients and the number of coins correspond to the years of the monarch ... the recipients have to decide whether to retain their coins or flog them to the dealers who circle round them like Bald Eagles ...or do I mean Texan Vultures ...
This ceremony is the old Christian Maundy foot-washing rite ... without the actual foot-washing! Very English, Very Anglican, you murmur ... although, as a memorial of earlier more Catholic times, a retired Chemistry teacher from Lancing College still hangs around these royal goings-on swathed in towels (he is now demoted to being styled 'Bishop of Worcester' and 'Lord High Almoner' ...).
It is obvious, culturally, that an actual foot-washing could never have survived the dignity-obsessed Whig Ascendancy. It didn't!
Greenacre and Haselock (The Sacrament of Easter) remind us of poor Cranmer's view that ceremonies retained in reformed ecclesial bodies should be "neyther darke nor dumme", and then comment: "It has regretfully to be conceded that the Royal Maundy as practised in our own days (moving, splendid, and memorable though it undoubtedly is) has become as dark and dumb as any of the ceremonies of the so-called 'Unreformed Churches'. The climax of the whole rite, the washing of the feet by the Sovereign, has been omitted. Surprisingly, William III was perhaps the last monarch to have performed it in person; it died out finally in the Hanoverian period, although as late as 1731 the Archbishop of York, as Lord High Almoner, washed the feet of the poor in the Chapel Royal on behalf of the King. ... Yet, in spite of this omission, many secondary features, such as the wearing of girded towels and the carrying of nosegays as a protection against the smell of unwashed feet, have been retained which can only make sense if the footwashing is performed. The real danger is that the sign of 'personal service' performed by the Sovereign can now be interpreted more as an act of generosity -- the distribution of purses -- than as an act of real, Christ-like, humility. A revival of the original Royal Maundy would be a powerful sign of the radical reinterpretation of the meaning of authority in the Christian tradition."
Atcherlee, I bet our exiled de jure monarchs (James II, James III, Charles III, Henry IX) carried the ceremony out in an authentic way. (And touched for the King's Evil ...)
And I doubt if the feet of Stuart peasants were very smelly ... first they had been washed by a lowly member of the Royal Household, then by a high official of the Household, before the Sovereign got anywhere near them.