The Swedish Court today announced some very sad news: Princess Lilian passed away on Sunday, March 10, at the age of 97.
She died peacefully in her home on Djurgarden in Stockholm. The Swedish Royal has been suffering from ill health for some time, and in 2010 it was announced she also had Alzheimer’s disease. Because of it, she was unable to attend the wedding of her niece, Crown Princess Victoria.
Following the Princess’s death, His Majesty the King released the following statement: “It is with great sorrow that I and our family announce that Princess Lilian passed away on Sunday, March 10th. Princess was much loved by our family and we all remember her as a happy, funny and witty person. She was a true joy spreader and had the ability to always create a good and warm atmosphere around her. The youngsters of our family always appreciated Princess’ happy antics and humorous manners… She was always loyal and stood up wholeheartedly for the Royal Family and for Sweden. A very dear and beloved member of the family is now gone.”
Since the Duchess of Halland was member of the Royal Family, a Royal Highness and a Princess of Sweden, she will be accorded appropriate funerals. As per established protocol, her coffin will lie in state at the Royal Chapel, followed by a funeral ceremony that is likely to be attended by representatives of foreign royal families. A procession will then progress through the city to the cemetery at Haga, where the late Princess will find her final resting place alongside her late husband, Prince Bertil.
The Princess was born as Lilian May Davis on 30 August 1915, in Britain, to William and Gladys Davies. Her first husband was British actor Ivan Craig who she was married to from 1940 to 1945.
Lilian first met Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland – the third son of Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden and Princess Margaret of Connaught – in 1943. The couple immediately developed mutual attraction. However, circumstances prevented them from marrying at first.
The first obstacle was of course Lilian’s marriage to Craig, which ended in divorce in 1945. The second one was Prince Bertil’s position. The heir apparent to the Swedish Throne was the Prince’s older brother, Prince Gustaf Adolf; however, he died unexpectedly in 1947, leaving his one-year-old son as the heir to the Throne. There was a very real possibility that should King Gustaf VI Adolf die before the boy’s coming of age, Prince Bertil would have to serve as a Regent. Since the position of a Regent would have been incompatible with a marriage to a divorcee (and a commoner), Lilian and Bertil decided to put duty first and abstain from their plans of a union.
Instead, the couple lived together discreetly for more than 30 years in their private residence in France. The sacrifice eventually proved unnecessary for Gustaf VI Adolf lived long enough to see his grandson reach the age of majority. When Carl XVI Gustaf ascended the throne in 1973, he approved the union of his uncle and Lilian and the two were finally married on 7 December 1976 with most members of the Royal Family (including the King and the Queen) present.
They lived together happily for another 20 years until Prince Bertil’s death on 5 January 1997, with his beloved wife at his side. In 200, Lilian released a lovely biography of her life with her husband which highlights, in a very unassuming way, the deep bond and connection the two had.
A much loved member of the Royal Family, Princess Lilian continued to attend official functions and carry out official engagements until very recently. Unfortunately, her health in last couple of years quickly deteriorated. First, she fell and broke her hip in 2008. A year later, she suffered another fall in her home. Finally, in 2010, it was announced the Princess suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and she retired from public life.
At the age of 97 years and six months, Princess Lilian was the oldest member of the Swedish Royal Family. She was also one of the most popular ones. The union of Prince Bertil and Princess Lilian was, in my opinion, one of the rare true love stories of our times.
May the Princess rest in peace, reunited with the husband she loved so dearly.