LONDON (AP) - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II handed out presents as she celebrated her 85th birthday on Thursday. (Scroll down for photos)
The sovereign's birthday coincided with Maundy Thursday, the day marking Jesus' Last Supper, when the queen traditionally gives special coins to as many men and as many women as the years of her life.
So this year 85 men and 85 women received two coin purses during the ceremony at Westminster Abbey.
The red one contained a 5 pound ($8) coin commemorating the 90th birthday of her husband Prince Philip and a 50 pence coin marking the 2012 London Olympic Games. The white one held specially minted Maundy Money of one, two three and four pence pieces, adding up to a total of 85 pence.
Queen Elizabeth II BIrthday
"Maundy" comes from the word "mandatum," the "new commandment" to love one another that Jesus made at the Last Supper, as recorded in the Bible's John 13:34.
Royal Maundy ceremonies date to the 12th century, but a custom of the monarch washing the feet of others as Jesus did ended with the reign of James II in the 18th century.
"Like many people I was a little hazy about the details but it is an ancient ceremony that I am proud to be part of," said one recipient, Henry Hely-Hutchinson, 85.
He recalled attending another royal occasion -- the queen's 18th birthday party at Windsor Castle. He was among four students at a local school invited, he says, "to make up the numbers."
"It was a very glamorous occasion in the middle of wartime when there were not many celebrations going on," he recalled.