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 Swedish Royal 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 II, 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,” Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said in a statement.
The court said in a statement that the princess, born Lillian Davies to a working-class family in Swansea, Wales, in August 1915, died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Stockholm.
Local media said members of the royal family had managed to say their farewells 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-in-line, 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 get married themselves and appear in public.
The prince 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.
After Prince Bertil died, Lilian carried out many ceremonial duties close to his heart, particularly those linked with sport. She wrote a book about their life in 2000, including the pain she felt at not being able to accompany her partner on official duties. She dropped out of the public eye after the court said in 2010 that she had Alzheimer’s disease.