Princess Lilian of Sweden died on Sunday "peacefully during the afternoon at her home on Djurgården in Stockholm,” the Swedish Royal Court said. She was 97.
Although a cause of death wasn't given, she had suffered from Alzheimer's disease and had been in poor health for several years.
The princess wasn't born into Sweden’s royalty; she was a commoner and a divorcee who had to keep her romance with Sweden’s Prince Bertil a secret for over 30 years, the Associated Press reported.
Princess Lilian was born Lilian Davies in Swansea, Wales on Aug. 30, 1915. She moved to London when she was 16 to pursue a career in acting and modeling. She later married Ivan Craig, a British actor in 1940, but the couple divorced after World War II. Princess Lilian, at the time of WWII, was working in a factory, while Craig was drafted into service, noted the AP. Craig met someone overseas while Princess Lilian met her future husband, Prince Bertil, at a nightclub in 1943.
Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland, was stationed at the Swedish Embassy when he met Princess Lilian. Prince Bertil was the third son of King Gustaf VI Adolf and Crown Princess Margaret of Connaught.
Prince Bertil and Princess Lilian’s relationship would continue after the nightclub meeting when the Prince picked her up during an air raid, the AP reported.
In her memoirs, “My Life With Prince Bertil,” published in 2000, she recalled, “He was so handsome my prince. Especially in uniform. So charming and thoughtful. And so funny. Oh how we laughed together”
The decades of secret love became a favorite story of Sweden. Prince Bertil was soon placed in succession for the throne and his marrying of a commoner would ruin the Bernadotte dynasty. His oldest brother, Prince Gustaf Adolf, died in a plane crash in 1947 and his second-oldest brother, Sigvard Oscar Fredrik Bernadotte, had married a commoner, removing him from the line of succession, the Daily Mail reported.
Prince Gustaf Adolf had an infant son, Prince Carl Gustaf, who would later become Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden. Because the heir was just an infant, Prince Bertil had to wait until the child came of age and became king before Prince Bertil could marry Princess Lilian.
Prince Bertil agreed to his father’s request to not marry Davies and the couple continued to live together. Their relationship continued and the couple shared a home in the French village of Sainte-Maxime and also spent time in Sweden. Prince Bertil and Princess Lilian were popular in Sweden and the couple’s story captivated the public.
After Prince Bertil’s father died in 1973, Prince Carl Gustaf became King of Sweden and gave consent to Prince Bertil to marry Princess Lilian. The couple, who were in their 60’s, wed on December 7, 1976 at the Palace Church of Drottiningholm, the Daily Mail said.
Prince Bertil died in 1997 and the couple didn't have children.