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Friday 22 August 2014

Princess Lilian of Sweden dies

Published 10/03/2013 | 18:46

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Princess Lilian of Sweden, who was born in Wales, has died aged 97

Welsh-born Princess Lilian of Sweden has died at home in Stockholm, aged 97, the Royal Palace has said.

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Lilian met Sweden's Prince Bertil in 1943, but the prince's obligations to the throne and Lilian's status as a divorced commoner prevented them from making their love public, and it would take more than 30 years before they could marry. The couple's sacrifices and lifelong dedication to one another gripped the hearts of Swedes.

Prince Bertil died in the couple's residence Villa Solbacken in Stockholm in 1997. The couple never had any children.

"If I were to sum up my life, everything has been about my love," the princess said of her husband when she turned 80 in 1995. "He's a great man, and I love him."

Born Lilian Davies in Swansea, Wales, on August 30, 1915, the blue-eyed beauty moved to London as a 16-year-old to embark on a career as a model and an actress, showcasing hats and gloves in commercials and taking on small roles in films. She met British actor Ivan Craig, whom she married in 1940.

After the Second World War broke out, Craig was drafted into the British army while Lilian stayed behind in London, working at a factory making radio sets for the British merchant fleet and serving at a hospital for wounded soldiers.

At the time, Prince Bertil was stationed at the Swedish Embassy in the British capital as a naval attache. The couple first laid eyes on each other in the nightclub Les Ambassadeurs shortly before Lilian's 28th birthday in 1943. Lilian then invited him to a cocktail party in her London apartment. But it wasn't until he fetched her with his car following an air raid in her area that the romance blossomed, Lilian recalled in her 2000 memoir, My Life With Prince Bertil.

Lilian was still married at the time, but the situation resolved itself since Craig, too, had met someone else during his years abroad in the army, and the couple divorced on amicable terms. Upon Bertil's return to Sweden, however, his relationship with a commoner became a delicate issue. Bertil became a possible heir to the throne when his eldest brother died in a plane crash, leaving behind an infant son - the current King Carl XVI Gustaf. Two other brothers had dropped out of the line of succession by marrying commoners.

Bertil's father, King Gustaf VI Adolf, ordered him to abstain from marrying Lilian, since that would jeopardise the survival of the Bernadotte dynasty. Instead, the couple let their romance flourish in an unofficial manner, living together in a common-law marriage for decades.

In 1976, some 33 years after they first met, the new king finally gave them the approval they had been waiting for. Prince Bertil died in the couple's residence Villa Solbacken in Stockholm in 1997 after unspecified lung problems. Lilian took over some of her husband's duties, especially as an award presenter for various sports associations.

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