Princess Lilian of Sweden: Swansea pays tribute

Welsh-born Princess Lilian met Prince Bertil in London during World War II

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Tributes have been paid to one of Swansea's "most famous daughters", Princess Lilian of Sweden, who has died at the age of 97.

Born Lilian Davies in 1915 she became a model in London where she met Prince Bertil during World War II.

The couple fell in love in what Swedish media described as a real-life Cinderella story.

Swansea mayor Dennis James said the princess stayed "proud of her Swansea links" and raised its profile abroad.

The king of Sweden said she was "very much loved by our family" and he paid tribute to her sense of humour.

Start Quote

The kids always appreciated the princess' funny pranks”

End Quote King Carl XVI Gustaf

James Savage, managing editor of English-language online newspaper The Local in Sweden, told BBC Radio Wales that the princess's Swansea background was "very much part of her identity".

"She was one of the most senior members of the Swedish royal family," he said.

"She was sort of the grand old lady of the royal family, a sort of a Queen Mother figure," he said.

"On major royal occasions it would be the king, the queen, their three children and Princess Lilian, so she was a very well known figure."

Swansea mayor and councillor Dennis James said: "This is a time both to mourn her passing and celebrate her 97-year life.

"Princess Lilian was one of Swansea's most famous daughters.

"Despite moving to London as a 16-year-old and then to Sweden, she remained proud of her Swansea links and this helped raise the city's profile across Scandinavia and the rest of the world.

"On behalf of the city and county of Swansea, I'd like to send my condolences to her family and friends."

The princess died at her Stockholm home on Sunday, surrounded by the royal family. She had suffered from Alzheimer's.

Her late husband Prince Bertil, uncle of King Carl XVI Gustaf, died in 1997.

It was the king's ascension to the throne in 1972 that paved the way for the couple to marry as they previously faced objections because of Lilian's status as a divorced commoner.

Swedish newspapers dedicated several pages to her life, hailing her patience and sense of humour.

"The princess was very much loved by our family ... the kids always appreciated the princess' funny pranks," said King Carl XVI Gustaf, in a comment referring to his now-grown daughters Victoria and Madeleine and son Carl Philip.

The princess never had any children of her own.

Wartime romance

During World War II, Lilian Davies worked at a factory in London making radio sets for the British merchant fleet and at a hospital for wounded soldiers.

Her first husband, Ivan Craig, whom she married in 1940, had been drafted into the army.

Princess Lilian and King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden Princess Lilian seen in 2006 with King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden

In 1943, she met Prince Bertil at the Les Ambassadeurs nightclub in the English capital, where he was stationed at the Swedish embassy.

Their romance flourished, and she moved into his London flat after her home was damaged in an air raid.

She divorced in 1945 on amicable terms, her husband having also met someone new while abroad.

In 1947, Bertil's eldest brother, Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf, died in a plane crash, leaving behind an infant son who would one day inherit the throne.

Bertil's two other brothers had already relinquished their places in the line of succession by marrying commoners.

The prince's father, King Gustaf VI Adolf, refused to give his blessing to a marriage between Bertil and Lilian, so as not to jeopardise the future of the monarchy.

And she was forced to stay in the shadows, but the couple did live together unofficially at their homes in southern France and Stockholm.

When Bertil's father died in 1973, his nephew Carl XVI Gustaf ascended the throne.

And once the new king married in 1976, one of his first moves was to allow Bertil and Lilian to marry, which they did in December 1976, 33 years after meeting.

She was 61, he was 64.

Bertil once said that one of his biggest regrets was that the couple had to sacrifice having children in order to protect the throne.

Hugely popular in Sweden for his romance with Lilian and known as "the prince of cars" for his love of fast vehicles, Bertil died in 1997 aged 84.

The princess retired from public life in 2010 due to poor health.

Her funeral is to be held on Saturday at the palace, and she will be laid to rest at the royal burial grounds in Haga Park on the outskirts of Stockholm, next to Bertil.

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