Sweden farewells Lilian, an unlikely princess | News | DW | 16.03.2013
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Sweden farewells Lilian, an unlikely princess

Sweden has held a state funeral for Princess Lilian, a Welsh-born commoner who married her prince after a secret 30-year romance. Lilian died last Sunday in Stockholm, aged 97.

Born Lilian Davies in the Welsh mining city of Swansea in 1915, the princess was the widow of Prince Bertil, the uncle of the current reigning Swedish monarch, King Carl Gustaf.

The pair met during World War II in London when she was working in a factory making radios and he was a naval attache. But as she was divorced and a commoner, the pair were unable to marry until 1976 as their union would have led to a constitutional crisis in Sweden.

In 1947, Bertil was suddenly faced with the possibility he could be King, after his older brother and heir to the throne, Gustav Adolf, was killed in a plane crash. The next in line to the throne was the infant Carl Gustaf, meaning Bertil and Lilian had to wait to marry until he came of age, otherwise Bertil would have lost his place in the line of succession.

Bertil's father, King Gustaf IV Adolf, refused to give his blessing to the marriage so as to not jeopardize the future of the monarchy.

Princess Lilian of Sweden died last Sunday, aged 97. (Picture: Reuters) REUTERS/Janerik Henriksson/Scanpix/DW)

Princess Lilian of Sweden died last Sunday, aged 97

So for more than 30 years, until after the king's death in 1973, Lilian was forced to maintain her relationship with Bertil in secret, unknown to the Swedish people, and with no official role in the royal family.

One of King Carl Gustaf's first moves as monarch was to allow Bertil and Lilian to wed. When they did marry in 1976, she was 61, he was 64.

Sweden's 'secret' princess

Lilian, who was a former fashion model, was given an official role in the royal family and was hugely popular with the Swedish people. She was seen as a grandmother to the current royal family, and was pictured together with them at official functions until 2010, when she retired from public life.

Prince Bertil died in 1997. In recent years, Lilian suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

Her funeral on Saturday in the Stockholm Royal Chapel was officiated in both Swedish and English, and attended by dignatries including the Danish Queen, Margrethe.

"It was a declaration of love, to be there without being seen," said Bishop Emeritus Lars-Goeran Loennermark at the service.

"In this life choice of hers, there must have been a lot of pain," he said, referring to how long Lilian had to wait until she was able to marry Bertil, who himself once said one of his biggest regrets was the couple not having children in order to protect the throne.

Lilian was laid to rest in the Haga Park royal cemetery on the outskirts of Stockholm.

jr/jlw (dpa, Reuters, AFP)