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Prince William and Duchess Kate have given artist Tazia Fawley something that transcends their royal stamp of approval.
When word reached Fawley — a 43-year-old British artist with Down syndrome — that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had happily accepted one of her paintings as a gift for the birth of their son Prince George, she was over the moon.
“We felt absolutely delighted,’’ Fawley's mother, Gylda Thomas, told TODAY.com. “It was a lovely thing that they did. Since Taz has had this publicity, I’ve gotten loads of emails from people, usually parents with Down's children, saying how wonderful Taz is and what kind of a role model she is."
Fawley spent six months creating her painting of children’s favorite Rupert the Bear flying over a bridge in the Bristol Balloon Festival in England. A photograph of the painting was taken by Suzie Moffat, the director of Heart & Sold, which promotes artists with Down syndrome.
Moffat submitted the photo to St. James Palace, asking whether the royal couple would be interested in having the actual painting. Moffat then received a letter from the palace saying Prince William and Duchess Kate would gladly accept it.
Thomas, 74, said the royal couple's actions have provided so much more than a validation of her daughter’s talent.
“When you have a baby with Down's, it’s very easy to be depressed and quite negative, but when (others) see people with Down syndrome achieving something, it gives them a huge boost and makes the future seem a little bit more rosy," Thomas said. "By them accepting the painting, it's given such a boost to the self-esteem of people with Down syndrome, and I feel that's the most important message.”
Fawley lives with her mother in Somerset, England, and works in a studio in the backyard. She has been painting for about 14 years and has created 70 paintings. She's sold about half of them while also having them appear at various exhibitions.
Fawley donated the painting in hopes of adding some bright colors to Prince George's nursery. The palace has not specified which room will become the painting's new home, Moffat said.
“When I sent the letter to William and Kate with the picture and received a letter back, I figured it would just say, ‘Thank you but no thank you,’’’ Moffat said. “Instead it said they received the painting and that William and Kate send their best to myself and to Tazia. She is over the moon that they like her work.”
The majority of Fawley's paintings are landscapes, including the colorful 3-foot-by-1-foot painting sent to the royal couple. The acrylic-on-wood painting had always been intended as a gift for the Duke and Duchess.
“It wasn't a painting that was up for sale,’’ Thomas said. “That painting was hanging here in the house. I saw newspapers saying it was meant to be worth 2,000 pounds ($3,165), but it was just a painting that Taz did. I don't think you can put a price on that. The main thing is just what an honor it is.”
Thomas said she hopes the gesture from the royal couple will have far-reaching repercussions.
“In England, there always has been a stigma attached to (Down syndrome), and now that is washed away by the fact that the Duke and Duchess have accepted that painting,’’ she said. “For this to happen, it’s kind of turned that negativity around.”