June 20, 2024
Art Gallery

Princess Beatrice surprises girl, 9, who has leukaemia as she visits her art exhibition at Christie’s in London

A nine-year-old girl living with leukaemia had her day made when Princess Beatrice made a special visit to her art exhibition at Christie’s in London.

Poppy Blackburn, who was diagnosed with blood cancer at the age of three, had her dream come true when the London gallery agreed to display her artworks through Art of Wishes, a fundraising initiative supporting charity Make-A-Wish UK.

Princess Beatrice heard about Poppy’s wish at the Art of Wishes Gala last year and wanted to meet the nine-year-old and view her artwork.

The 35-year-old today surprised Poppy and her family at Christie’s, where Poppy gave Beatrice a special tour of the exhibition.

Beatrice, whose mother, Sarah Ferguson, has recently grappled with breast cancer and skin cancer, was pictured giving the young artist a warm hug. 

Princess Beatrice made nine-year-old Poppy Blackburn’s day today after she visited her exhibition at Christie’s in London

The daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York cut an elegant figure for the occasion and donned a pleated black satin skirt and chic blazer with statement gold buttons.

After embracing the nine-year-old who is living with leukaemia, a type of blood cancer, Beatrice smiled for a photograph with Poppy’s family, including her mother, Stephanie, sister, Daisy, and founder of Art of Wishes, Batia Ofer.

The exhibition, which opens to the public for one week in May, includes 28 of Poppy’s paintings that visualise her cancer journey.

In addition to her paintings, Poppy also displayed her Beads of Courage, with every bead representing a hospital visit, overnight stay, or form of treatment.

Poppy spent most of her early years in the hospital after she was diagnosed with leukaemia at age three.

Art offered an escape for Poppy when many of her peers were enjoying school. Her mother, Stephanie, explained: ‘[Art] took her out of the hospital room and into her imagination.’

When Poppy discovered she was eligible for a wish, she instantly knew she wanted to share her art.

Through the charity, Poppy was able to spend time with artists Chantal Joffe, Ben Lowe, and Hannah Shergold to prepare for the exhibition. 

Poppy, who is living with leukaemia, had her dream of having an art exhibition granted by Art of Wishes (From L to R: Poppy’s parents, sister Daisy, Poppy, Princess Beatrice, founder of Art of Wishes, Batia Ofer)
Poppy’s artwork visualises her experience with cancer, including treatments and hospital visits
The exhibition also showcases Poppy’s Beads of Courage (pictured), with each bead representing a hospital visit, overnight stay, or form of treatment

‘Being invited into their studios was so personal. Poppy walked in and got to work immediately,’ Stephanie said.

She added: ‘Chantal, Ben, and Hannah made her feel so welcome – within minutes she was pouring paint onto canvases.’

For an additional surprise, one of Poppy’s favourite artists, David Hockney, also heard about Poppy’s story and sent her some gifts and a signed book.

‘The wish experience has been incredible for her, she’s grown in self-belief and is happy to discuss her time in hospital,’ Stephanie said.

She added: ‘The wish will mark a time in her life when Poppy can truly be herself, as she delves into a world of art and imagination.’

The young artist, who was diagnosed with leukaemia aged three, also received gifts from one of her favourite artists – David Hockey (Poppy is pictured with one of the gifts)
David Hockey heard about Poppy’s exhibition through Art of Wishes and was so moved he sent her some gifts

To say thanks, Poppy raised funds for Make-A-Wish by selling 18 of her original works and limited edition prints at an online auction, which made £8,500 to help grant more wishes for critically ill children.

Batia Ofer, founder and chair of Art of Wishes, commented: ‘I am delighted and honoured to support this incredible exhibition and wish.

‘Poppy is such an inspiring, talented young artist and her wish symbolises the power of art and wishes in bringing optimism and joy to children when they need it most.’

Art of Wishes has raised funds for Make-A-Wish UK since 2017 and has made over £12 million through fundraising events and art auctions featuring artists such as Tracy Emin, Jenny Saville and Jadé Fadojutimi.


Leukaemia is a cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue, usually the bone marrow.

It leads to the over-production of abnormal white blood cells, which fight off infections. 

But a higher number of white blood cells means there is ‘less room’ for other cells, including red blood cells – which transport oxygen around the body – and platelets – which cause blood to clot when the skin is cut.

There are many different types of leukaemia, which are defined according to the immune cells they affect and how the disease progresses.

For all types combined, 9,900 people in the UK were diagnosed with leukaemia in 2015, Cancer Research UK statistics reveal.

And in the US, around 60,300 people were told they had the disease last year, according to the National Cancer Institute. 

Most cases have no obvious cause, with the cancer not being contagious or inherited.

Leukaemia generally becomes more common with age – the exception being acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which peaks in children.

Other risk factors include being male, exposed to certain chemicals or radiation, and some bone-marrow disorders.

Symptoms are generally vague and get worse over time.

These can include:

  • Tiredness
  • Frequent infections
  • Sweats
  • Bruising
  • Heavy periods, nose bleeds or bleeding gums
  • Palpitations 
  • Shortness of breath

Acute leukaemia – which progresses rapidly and aggressively – is often curable via chemo, radiotherapy or a stem cell transplant.

Chronic forms of the disease – which typically progress slowly – tend to incurable, however, these patients can often live with the disease. 

Source: Leukaemia Care

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