Swedish Princess Dies: Lilian’s Love Story Captivated a Nation; She was 97

Monday, 11 Mar 2013 09:17 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Sweden's beloved Princess Lilian, whose forbidden romance with Prince Bertil captivated a nation, has died at 97.

A Welsh-born commoner born Lillian May Davies and a divorcée, Princess Lillian was a former British model who appeared in such fashion magazine as Vogue before World War II.

Though the pair had met at previous social engagements in London, their friendship did not begin until 1943 when Lillian was rescued during an air raid by Prince Bertil who found her on the street and drove her to safety.

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At the time, Lillian was still married and working in a factory that made radios for the Royal Navy while also treating wounded veterans returning from the battlefield.

At the conclusion of World War II, Lillian's Scottish husband, who had been serving in the British Army overseas, returned and informed her that he had met someone else during the war. The two amicably divorced.

In the years after the war, Lillian and the prince grew close.

In her 2000 memoir, "My Life with Prince Bertil," Lillian wrote: "He was so handsome my prince. Especially in uniform. So charming and thoughtful. And so funny. Oh how we laughed together."

Due to her common status and the fact that she had previously been wed, the pair was forbidden from getting married by the kind of Sweden, King Carl XVI Gustaf, who feared the union would represent a risk to Sweden's ruling family – the Bernadotte dynasty.

Consequently the couple lived in a common-law marriage discreetly for more than 30 years in a private retreat in a house in Sainte-Maxime, France. Thirty-three years after they met, the couple – then in their sixties – were granted permission to wed by the new king, Carl XVI Gustaf, Prince Bertil's nephew.

When asked in 1995 about her husband, the petite Swedish princess said, "If I were to sum up my life, everything has been about my love," adding "He's a great man, and I love him."

Though initially frowned upon, the couple's commitment and Lillian's reported wit, along with a favorable press, eventually won over the vast majority of Swedes. In 1976, she was officially given her title Princess, Duchess of Halland.

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After the prince's death in 1997, Lillian went on to perform ceremonial roles for the royal family throughout Sweden, including at the Nobel Prize banquet, until the onset of Alzheimer's prevented her from doing so in 2006.

The couple had no children.

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Dutch Queen Beatrix Abdicating; Son Will be King

News Media Shift From Royals to Real Life

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