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Princess Lilian laid to rest in Sweden

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  • Princess Lilian laid to rest in Sweden

    Sweden bid fair well to Princess Lilian who died in her 98th year at her Stockholm home on Sunday, 10th March, surrounded by the royal family with a state funeral. In 2010, the Royal Court announced she was suffering from Alzheimer's and that she would not be participating in Crown Princess Victoria's wedding in June that year. Her late husband Prince Bertil, an uncle of King Carl XVI Gustaf, died in 1997.

    She was born Lillian May Davies in Swansea, Wales, on 30th August 1915, the daughter of William Davies and his wife, Gladys Mary Curran. She originally spelt her name with two “l”s, but changed to Lilian when she adopted a career variously described as fashion model, ballerina and singer. In September 1940 she married the Scottish actor Ivan Craig (1912 - 1995), whose career never flourished beyond bit parts such as 2nd policeman in Murder at the Windmill in 1949 and Lord Blackheath in four episodes of Ivanhoe in 1958. He served in Africa during the WWII.

    In the early 40s Lilian Davies worked at a factory in London making wirelesses for the Royal Navy, and at a hospital for wounded soldiers. In 1943, she met Prince Bertil of Sweden at the Les Ambassadeurs nightclub in London, some say at a cocktail party to mark her 28th birthday, others at a nightclub called Nuthouse; yet another version placed their meeting on the London Underground. She divorced Ivan Craig in 1945 on amicable terms, her husband having also met someone new while abroad.

    During World War II Prince Bertil was stationed at the Royal Swedish embassy as a naval attaché. He was the third son of the then Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf, later King Gustaf VI Adolf (1882 – 1973) and a great-grandson of Queen Victoria through his late mother, Princess Margaret of Connaught (1882 – 1920).

    On 26th January 1947, Prince Bertil's eldest brother and heir presumptive Prince Gustaf Adolf (*22nd April 1906), died in a plane crash in Denmark, leaving behind a nine-month old son who was second in line to the throne and would one day inherit the throne as King Carl Gustaf (*30th April 1946).

    Prince Bertil's two other brothers had already renounced their succession rights. Their father ascended the throne as King Gustaf VI Adolf in 1950 and Prince Bertil became heir presumptive and no 2 in the line to the throne. As long as his nephew, Crown Prince Carl Gustaf, was a child, Prince Bertil would have to serve as Regent of the Kingdom until his nephew coming to age.

    A big responsibility was put on Prince Bertil’s shoulders and for the future of the Monarchy he followed his father’s advice and did not marry Lilian Craig. Prince Bertil and Lilian Craig had moved to Sweden in 1957, living in Villa Solbacken on Djurgården in Stockholm. She stayed in the shadows, but the couple lived together openly, if discreetly at their homes in southern France and Stockholm. They remained together until Prince Bertil’s death in January 1997.

    When Prince Bertil's father died in 1973, his nephew Carl XVI Gustaf ascended the throne. King Carl Gustaf allowed Bertil and Lilian to marry, which they did on 7th December 1976, 33 years after their first meeting.

    She was 61, he was 64.

    Prince 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.

    "In this life choice of hers, there must have been a lot of pain," he said, referring to how long Lilian had to wait until she was able to marry Bertil.

    Princess Lilian was laid to rest next to her husband in the Haga Park royal cemetery on the outskirts of Stockholm.