Our Historical Photography Project continues with a Royal Family theme!

18 January 2017 10:00

During and after World War I, many members of our and other European royal families came to visit the recently blinded veterans at St Dunstan’s (now Blind Veterans UK) and assist us in other ways.

We were fortunate to have such support, in particular from Queen Alexandra (the mother of the then monarch, George V) who became our Patron soon after we were founded.

Queen Alexandra with our founder Sir Arthur Pearson In November 1919 we received a visit from Alexandra’s daughter, Princess Victoria and her cousin Queen Victoria of Spain. In the photo [left] they are watching Charles Durkin, who had been blinded in Bethune in northern France, learn to typewrite. The Queen of Spain equally showed great interest in the carpentry work of William Farr, and requested that he make two small stools for her children. Somewhere 1050 miles away in the Royal Palace of Madrid are two stools made by our own blind veterans!

Queen Alexandra with our founder Sir Arthur Pearson Queen Alexandra herself visited us on several occasions. The picture [right] dates from 12 December 1918, where she is pictured with our founder Sir Arthur Pearson. In front of her is a basket of carnations, the basket having been made in our workshops. Queen Alexandra and other visitors, who included Princess Victoria and Sir Robert Borden, the Prime Minister of Canada. They had come to attend a Christmas entertainment, featuring pierrots, music and singing, all provided by the blind veterans! Alexandra also supported events to raise funds for us, and just the month before she had been present at another such performance, at the Queen’s Hall in London. This was by the blinded musicians, a group including some of our blind veterans, which was organised by Sir Arthur’s wife, Lady Pearson.

In 1912 Queen Alexandra had set up a charitable fund raising event called ‘Alexandra Rose Day’ which involved the sale of artificial roses to raise funds for her favourite charities, and was originally launched to mark the 50th anniversary of her arrival as consort from her native Denmark. St Dunstan’s was included as one of such charities and celebrities of the day, such as well-known actress Miss Kyrle Bellow (pictured in the photo below, with roses, visiting us), helped promote the cause. The Alexandra Rose Charity still exists today, helping those in need in London. Our Danish link also extends to Sir Arthur Pearson, whose grandparents were married in Denmark and whose mother was subsequently born in Copenhagen.

Queen Alexandra with our founder Sir Arthur Pearson

To see more stories from our Historical Photography Project click here or check our Facebook page weekly for our #ThrowbackThursdays.