Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh visited Christ Church Cathedral this morning for the annual Royal Maundy Service, followed by lunch at Oriel College.

In the service the Queen gave Maundy Money to pensioners to thank them for their service to the Oxford community and church. 87 men and 87 women were honoured to commemorate the Queen’s 87 years. The Maundy Money consisted of a £5 coin and 50p coin marking the sixtieth anniversary of the Queen’s coronation, as well as silver one, two, three and four penny pieces totalling 87p.

One elderly recipient cashing in

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The Queen arrived in Oxford via helicopter, landing in Merton field before boarding her claret-coloured Bentley. She was then driven down St Aldates, where she was greeted by scores of students and locals lining the street up to Carfax Tower, and entered Christ Church through Tom Gate.

The Queen lands on Merton Field in Oxford (Photo: JP Spencer)

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The sun’s appearance further swelled the collective excitement. Hass McCook, an MBA student at Christ Church, commented, “You know you’re in England when, on the day the Queen visits, the sun is out for the first time in three months.”

The Queen and Prince Philip, flanked by Yeoman of the Guard, at the conclusion of the service

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The Queen turns 87 on 21st April, yet showed no signs of ill-health, belying her hospitalisation for gastroenteritis earlier this month. She visibly enjoyed greeting her well-wishers, thanking those who offered her bouquets of flowers as she entered and exited Christ Church and Oriel.

The Queen last visited Oxford in Michaelmas 2008 to celebrate Magdalen College’s 550th birthday. The first recorded Maundy Service was held by King John in 1210. Medieval monarchs both handed out money to the poor and washed their feet, in imitation of Jesus, who washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. However the practice of washing feet ended in the eighteenth century.

After the hour-long Maundy Service the Queen and Prince Philip took lunch at Oriel. The meal saw the high table replaced with three circular tables and members of the college were required to wear gowns. The Queen sat next to Oriel Provost Sir Derek Morris at the head table.

The Queen greets well-wishers outside Oriel College, where she had a spot of lunch

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The menu consisted of a tartar of Cornish mackerel with horseradish & beetroot, followed by Buckleberry Estate venison in a sloe gin sauce, and finished with marmalade sponge pudding with English custard. Wines served were a 2007 Coudoulet de Beaucastel Blanc and a 2004 Corton Les Bressandes Grand Cru.

Oriel students balloted for a seat at the lunch, though only two spots were available.

Lauren Fletcher, a guest at the meal, described the experience as “even by Oxford standards, a rare and amazing opportunity.”

After lunch, the Queen and the Duke greeted Oriel students in the front quad, taking a particular interest in the Oriel boat club. Prince Philip, known for his witty comments, did not shy away from expressing himself. Upon encountering a group of freshers revising for prelims, and learning from them that Oxford’s Easter vacation had already begun, Prince Philip remarked, “You’re staying behind for more classes? You must be the dim lot.”

The Queen and Prince Philip inside Christ Church

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