History of British Sign Language


William Agnew's Royal Condescension paintings

The author of this pamphlet, Harry Ash was clearly following the pattern of the Deaf artist William Agnew (1846-1914) who painted a series of pictures showing Queen Victoria using finger spelling to communicate with a deaf woman on the Isle of Wight; the "Royal Condescension" paintings of 1883, 1889 and 1900.

Queen Victoria knew how to fingerspell, because her daughter-in-law, the Princess of Wales (later to become Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII), had been deaf from her teens, and used fingerspelling to communicate. Alexandra regularly attended the Deaf church in Oxford Street.

Royalty and the deaf, with some striking facts about the deaf and dumb, their alphabet, and a few signs by Harry Ash, Watford 1800s (Action on Hearing Loss Library).