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Queen Camilla Makes History as She Steps in for King Charles at Royal Easter Tradition

Queen Camilla Makes History as She Steps in for King Charles at Royal Easter Tradition

The Queen led the way at the Royal Maundy Service as her husband limits his public duties amid cancer treatment, and she wore a thoughtful nod to Queen Elizabeth

<p>Samir Hussein/WireImage</p> Queen Camilla attends the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral on March 28, 2024

Samir Hussein/WireImage

Queen Camilla attends the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral on March 28, 2024

Queen Camilla is making history in King Charles' stead with an ancient royal tradition.

While King Charles is expected to join the royal family at their Easter church outing on Sunday amid his cancer treatment, the Queen did the honors of distributing the Royal Maundy gifts on behalf of her husband at the annual Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral on Thursday.

It was previously announced that Queen Camilla, 76, would step in for King Charles, 75, at the event before Easter, as the monarch has postponed public-facing duties while receiving cancer treatment. The Queen was reportedly poised to make royal history as the first consort to lead the ancient tradition, which the royal family traces back to 600 A.D.

Queen Camilla arrived solo at Worcester Cathedral on Thursday morning, where she was greeted by officials and presented with the traditional nosegay, a small flower bouquet, before taking a seat for the service at the cathedral founded in 680.

<p>Samir Hussein/WireImage</p> Queen Camilla attends the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral on March 28, 2024

Samir Hussein/WireImage

Queen Camilla attends the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral on March 28, 2024

In a touching nod to Queen Elizabeth, Camilla adorned her Fiona Clare coat collar with gold and sapphire flower brooches that belonged to the late monarch. The Royal Maundy Service seemed to be a highlight on Queen Elizabeth’s annual calendar, and King Charles’ mother attended the event almost every year of her record 70-year reign.

Related: Kate Middleton and King Charles Are Both Undergoing Cancer Treatment. Is It Safe for Them to Greet the Public?

Continuing tradition, Queen Camilla distributed 75 men and 75 women with coin purses containing Maundy money. The number of recipients signified the age of the King, and each person received one white pouch and one red pouch. The white purse featured custom silver Maundy coins while the red purse contained a £5 coin emblazoned with a Tudor Dragon and a 50 pence coin commemorating the Royal National Lifeboat Institution during its 200th anniversary this year.

<p>Samir Hussein/WireImage</p> Queen Camilla attends the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral on March 28, 2024

Samir Hussein/WireImage

Queen Camilla attends the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral on March 28, 2024

The symbolic gift is delivered to thank recipients for their contributions to their churches and communities, and beneficiaries are selected from Church of England dioceses as well as Anglican and Ecumenical partners around the U.K.

The Royal Maundy Service closed with a blessing by the Lord High Almoner and the national anthem. Queen Camilla then proceeded out of the cathedral and signed the visitor’s book on her way out. The royal then posed for a photo with the Royal Maundy recipients and spoke with some of the groups who made this year’s event happen.

<p>Samir Hussein/WireImage</p> Queen Camilla attends the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral on March 28, 2024

Samir Hussein/WireImage

Queen Camilla attends the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral on March 28, 2024

Related: Kate Middleton, King Charles and Sarah Ferguson All Have Cancer in Unprecedented Royal Family Crisis

The word "Maundy" comes from the Latin word for "commandment," and the monarch traditionally leads the Maundy Service each year on the Thursday before Easter. The royal family’s website says the ceremonial coins have remained mostly the same for hundreds of years, and that the royal tradition of presenting Maundy money to pensioners (retirees) is a parallel to Jesus washing the Apostles’ feet at the Last Supper.

The Daily Mail described the King’s anticipated absence at this year’s Maundy service as "the most significant royal event" he would miss to date. Last year, the King and Queen were both present for the first Maundy ceremony of the new royal reign, though they filled in for Queen Elizabeth at the service in 2022. There, then-Prince Charles officially filled in for Queen Elizabeth by distributing the Maundy money in what was Camilla’s first Royal Maundy Service.

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<p>JUSTIN TALLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images</p> The Maundy Money distributed by Queen Camilla on March 28, 2024

JUSTIN TALLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Maundy Money distributed by Queen Camilla on March 28, 2024

Although King Charles wasn't able to attend the service, he recorded an audio message that was played to the congregation.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, it is, for me, a great sadness that I cannot be with you all today," the monarch said in part. "The Maundy Service has a very special place in my heart. It has its origin in the life of Our Lord who knelt before his disciples and, to their great surprise, washed their travel-weary feet. And, as we have just heard, in doing so he deliberately gave to them and to us all an example of how we should serve and care for each other."

<p>JUSTIN TALLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images</p> Queen Camilla hands out Maundy Money at the Royal Maundy Service on March 28, 2024

JUSTIN TALLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Queen Camilla hands out Maundy Money at the Royal Maundy Service on March 28, 2024

While the King has continued to work behind the scenes throughout his period of cancer treatment, Queen Camilla has played an important role in supporting him privately 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 previously told 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."

<p>Chris Jackson/Getty Images</p> Queen Camilla attends the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral on March 28, 2024

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Queen Camilla attends the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral on March 28, 2024

King Charles’ team is also reportedly thinking about a summer schedule for the monarch amid "amplified confidence" in light of the sophisticated treatment he is receiving, a royal source tells PEOPLE.

"He is positive, the doctors are optimistic," a source close to the royal household says.

The update came after Kate Middleton announced on Friday that she is undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with cancer following abdominal surgery in January.

<p>Chris Jackson/Getty Images</p> Queen Camilla attends the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral on March 28, 2024

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Queen Camilla attends the Royal Maundy Service at Worcester Cathedral on March 28, 2024

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