Swansea to Stockholm: Princess Lilian's extraordinary love story
The Welsh-born Princess, who has died at the age of 97, lived a life centred on her beloved Prince Bertil
PRINCESS Lilian of Sweden, the "beautiful girl" from Swansea who met and married a handsome prince, has died at her home in Stockholm at the age of 97. At first glance, her life seems like a fairytale, but it was far more complicated than that. Here are five things you may not know about the Welsh-born royal who waited 33 years to marry her prince.
Her origins were humble. Lilian Davies was a "blue-eyed beauty" born in Swansea in 1915, says the Daily Telegraph. At the age of 16, she moved to London where she worked as a fashion model and took small parts in films. It was in London that she met the British actor Ivan Craig, whom she married in 1940.
She met her prince during World War II. After Craig was drafted into the British army, Davies worked in a factory making radio sets for the merchant navy. She first saw Prince Bertil of Sweden shortly before her 28th birthday at the London club Les Ambassadeurs. Davies invited Bertil to a cocktail party at her apartment, but it wasn’t until he picked her up in his car after an air raid that their romance began to blossom. "He was so handsome, my prince. Especially in uniform. So charming and thoughtful. And so funny," she wrote in her 2000 memoirs.
They waited 33 years to marry. Davies had an amicable divorce from Craig in 1945. When Bertil returned to Sweden, his relationship with a divorced commoner "became an issue". The prince had become a possible heir to the throne after the death of his older brother in an air crash. Two of his brothers had already made themselves ineligible for the crown by marrying commoners. Horrified that Bertil would follow the same path, his father, King Gustaf VI Adolf, told him he couldn’t marry Lilian because it would jeopardise the survival of the Bernadotte dynasty.
The Swedish people learned to love her. Davies was forced to remain "discreetly" in the background as the couple split their lives between Stockholm and a house in the French village of Sainte-Maxime. Despite the fact they weren't married, and she wasn't an official member of the royal family, "Lilian's charm and warm personality soon won the Swedes over", says The Independent.
They finally married in 1976. Davies was 61 and the prince 64 when the king finally gave the couple his permission to marry. She became Princess of Sweden after they tied the knot at the Drottningholm Palace chapel near Stockholm. The couple never had any children, but the princess remained devoted to her husband until his death in 1997. "If I were to sum up my life, everything has been about my love," she said in an interview on her 80th birthday. "He's a great man, and I love him." She remained active in public life into her early 90s, attending the Nobel Prize (pictured above with US professor and Nobel Prize winner Peter Agre) adorned in royal jewels. ·