STOCKHOLM – She was one of the better kept secrets of Swedens 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 kings blessing to get married.
Lilian died in her Stockholm home on Sunday at age 97. The Royal Palace didnt give a cause of death, but Lilian suffered from Alzheimers disease and had been in poor health for several years.
She met Swedens Prince Bertil in 1943, but his obligations to the throne and Lilians status as a divorced commoner prevented them from making their love public. The couples 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. Hes 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 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 attaché. The couple first laid eyes on each other in the fancy nightclub Les Ambassadeurs shortly before Lilians 28th birthday in 1943. Lilian then invited him to a cocktail party in her London apartment. But it wasnt until he fetched her with his car following an air raid in her neighborhood that the romance blossomed, Lilian recalled in her 2000 memoirs, My Life with Prince Bertil.
He was so handsome my prince. Especially in uniform. So charming and thoughtful. And so funny. Oh how we laughed together, Lilian wrote.
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 Bertils 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.
Bertils father, King Gustaf VI Adolf, ordered him to abstain from marrying Lilian, since that would jeopardize the Bernadotte dynasty. Instead, the couple let their romance flourish in an unofficial manner in a common-law marriage for decades.