Princess Lilian, a Swedish tale of forbidden love, dies at 97

2013-03-11T00:00:00Z Princess Lilian, a Swedish tale of forbidden love, dies at 97The Associated Press The Associated Press
March 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

STOCKHOLM - She was one of the better kept secrets of Sweden's royal household: a commoner and divorcée whose relationship with Prince Bertil was seen as a threat to the Bernadotte dynasty.

In a touching royal romance, Welsh-born Princess Lilian and her Bertil kept their love unofficial for decades and were both in their 60s when they finally received the king's blessing to get married.

Lilian died in her Stockholm home on Sunday at age 97. The Royal Palace didn't give a cause of death, but Lilian suffered from Alzheimer's disease and had been in poor health for several years.

She met Sweden's Prince Bertil in 1943, but his obligations to the throne and Lilian's status as a divorced commoner prevented them from making their love public. The couple's sacrifices and lifelong dedication to one another gripped the hearts of Swedes.

"If I were to sum up my life, everything has been about my love," the witty, petite 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 Aug. 30, 1915, she moved to London at 16 to embark on a career as a model and an actress, showcasing hats and gloves in commercials and taking on small roles in movies. She met British actor Ivan Craig, whom she married in 1940.

After World War II broke out, Craig was drafted into the British army while Lilian stayed behind in London, working at a factory.

At the time, Prince Bertil was stationed at the Swedish Embassy in the British capital as a naval attaché. The couple first laid eyes on each other in the fancy nightclub Les Ambassadeurs shortly before Lilian's 28th birthday in 1943. 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's father, King Gustaf VI Adolf, ordered him to abstain from marrying Lilian, since that would jeopardize the survival of the Bernadotte dynasty.

In 1976, some 33 years after they first met, the new king finally gave them the approval they had been waiting for. That year, Lilian, or "Lily" as the prince used to call her, became princess of Sweden and duchess of the southern province of Halland.

Prince Bertil died in the 1997 of unspecified lung problems. Lilian took over some of her husband's duties, especially as an award presenter for sports groups.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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