Since the time of Edward I, who reigned from 1272 to 1307, English monarchs have observed Maundy (or Maunday) Thursday - the day before Good Friday - by distributing specially struck fine silver coins (Maundy Money) and other gifts to the "Deserving Poor" in a major cathedral service. The term "Maundy" derives, like "mandatory," from the Latin "mandatum" - meaning command. It refers to the commandment, "Love one another," expressed by Jesus at the Last Supper when he washed disciples' feet. According to my research, James II was the last monarch who actually did it. No less an observer than Samuel Pepys wrote with shock that James' successor turned that noble function over to one of his courtiers.
Our array of these coins - drilled long ago for wear as charms or pendants - includes at least one example from each year of his short reign: a threepence from 1685, four fourpence (groat) coins from 1686, a threepence and a fourpence from 1687 and a fourpence from 1688. The monarch's portrait appears on the front of each and, on reverse, the denomination is represented by varying numbers of the letter "I" (for Jacobus; in Latin Iacobus).
The number of Maundy Money sets produced each year varied with the monarch's age. For instance, James II was 54 at Easter in 1687, so he honored 54 worthy recipients - each receiving 4 coins, 1 of every denomination from one penny to four. Thus, a total of 214 coins of each denomination were struck during his four-year reign, when he was at the ages 52 through 55. That would be just 856 coins, all told. Of those we have 8, so there are only 848 more anywhere in existence.
Our examples are estate items recently discovered during a house clearance in northern England - also the source of our 4 Georgian and 12 Victorian Maundy coin charms. Please e-mail for further information and photographs.