(Royal). Gifts distributed to the poor on Maundy Thursday (q.v.). The number of doles corresponds to the number of years the monarch has been regnant, and the doles used to be distributed by the Lord High Almoner. Since 1883 the doles have been money payments distributed by the Clerk of the Almonry Office. The custom began in 1368, in the reign of Edward III. James I. distributed the doles personally.
“Entries of `al maner of things yerly yevin by my lorde of his Maundy, and my laidis, and his lordshippis children.”' —Household Book of the Earl of Northumberland, 1512.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894