Sweden mourns British-born secret love princess

Sun Mar 10, 2013 3:50pm EDT
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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The British-born Swedish princess whose secret 33-year romance with her royal husband became Sweden's best-known love story, died on Sunday at the age of 97, the court said.

Princess Lilian was the commoner wife of Prince Bertil, who died in 1997. They met and fell in love in London during World War Two, but had to keep their relationship secret for decades for the sake of the crown and to avoid a constitutional crisis.

"It is with sorrow that I have learnt that H.R.H. (Her Royal Highness) Princess Lilian is dead," Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said in a statement.

"A much loved and appreciated member of the royal family has now passed away," he added.

The royal court said in a statement that the princess, born Lillian Davies to a working class family in Swansea in August 1915, died peacefully in her sleep in the afternoon at her home in Stockholm. Local media said members of the royal family had managed to make their farewells to Lilian before she died.

Lilian, a divorcee, and Prince Bertil had to keep their love secret as Bertil's elder brother and heir to the throne, Prince Gustaf Adolf, had died in a plane crash in 1947 while the next brother, Sigvard, waived his right to the throne by marrying a commoner.

That left Bertil next in line until his infant nephew, Crown Prince Carl Gustaf came of age. If Prince Bertil had married a commoner he would have had to renounce his right to the throne, probably sparking a constitutional crisis.

It was not until after the crown prince became king in 1973, and married a few years later, that Prince Bertil and Lilian could finally get married themselves and appear in public.

The prince also had a house in the south of France and that was where the couple were most relaxed in the times before they could officially become a couple.   Continued...

Princess Lilian of Sweden is seen in this December 10, 2005 file photo provided by Scanpix. REUTERS/Henrik Montgomery/Scanpix