The two single chairs were specially made for King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra when they were the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra. They attended signed Church services in St. Saviour’s Church, Oxford Street, London. It is not known who made the chairs. The Royal Association for Deaf People donated the chairs to the Deaf Museum when St. Saviour’s Church, Acton, was closed in 2014.
Was Queen Alexandra really deaf?
Queen Alexandra was born on 1st December 1844, a granddaughter of the King of Denmark. It is not known if she was born deaf but it is more likely that her hearing loss was progressive, caused by hereditary otosclerosis that some biographers say she inherited from her mother. At the age of sixteen Alix, as she was known, was considered a great beauty and won the hand of the heir to the throne of England. Her beauty had captivated Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, and they married on 10th March 1863 in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle when she was only eighteen. They had six children.
She used her charm and grace to deal with her otosclerosis but her increasing deafness led to her social isolation and she never really fitted into high society, choosing to spend more time at home with her children but despite this she took part in many public events. Queen Victoria was fluent in fingerspelling so was able to conduct conversations with Princess Alexandra in this mode. Princess Alexandra had never learnt to lip-read and refused to use an ear trumpet, relying on fingerspelling as her method of communication.
Queen Alexandra in her later years. 57 On 5th July 1870 she accompanied the Prince of Wales to St. Saviour’s Church, Oxford Street, London, where he laid the foundation stone. “The Church was opened for services on Sunday, June 22nd, 1873, the preacher in the morning being the Rt. Rev. Dr. Harvey Goodwin, Bishop of Carlisle, whose sister, Miss Goodwin, was deaf and dumb.” Whether Princess Alexandra had attended this first service is not known but she sometimes attended the services when in London. Two deaf brothers, Alec and Henry MacDonald, who were the Lay Readers at St. Saviour’s, said the congregation had to be there, seated, when Queen Alexandra arrived and she would walk majestically up the aisle, nodding her head in acknowledgment and unsmiling. Service started once she was seated. She followed the service conducted by the Rev. Gilby through fingerspelling. She then left immediately after and did not stop to have conversations. Henry MacDonald also said he was once seated at a table playing whist drive with Queen Alexandra at a fund-raising Grand Bazaar in London.
She made a point of supporting Deaf arts by purchasing artworks from Deaf artists and sculptors. With the death of her motherin- law, Queen Victoria, in 1901, Alexandra became queen-empress consort to the new King. She died in 1925 at the age of 81.