Sweden's Princess Lilian, a Welsh-born model who became a "much-loved" member of the royal household, passed away on Sunday aged 97. "It is with sorrow that I have learnt that Her Royal Highness Princess Lilian is dead," Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said, adding that Lilian was "a much loved and appreciated member of the royal family".
A statement published on the Royal Court's website said that the Princess, who suffered from Alzheimer's, went "peacefully during the afternoon in her home on Djurgården in Stockholm." Lilian was a beloved aunt to Sweden's current king, King Carl Gustaf. She wed Carl Gustaf's uncle, the late Prince Bertil, in 1976 – 33 years after they first fell in love against the dramatic backdrop of the World War II. The Welsh model and divorcee met her Prince while he was stationed at the Swedish Embassy in London. When he drove to find her during an air raid in her neighborhood, love blossomed. In her memoir, My Life with Prince Bertil Lilian said: "He was so handsome my prince. Especially in uniform. So charming and thoughtful. And so funny. Oh how we laughed together".
Succession laws prevented the couple from marrying, meaning that Lilian and Bertil lived as a common law couple for three decades before she could be officially welcomed into the royal family.
Their enduring love story and dedication to one another captured the hearts of Swedish people and royal watchers around the world. When Prince Bertil passed away in Stockholm in 1997, his wife took over some of her husband's duties and steadily increased her public profile. Lilian was regarded as a grandmother to younger Swedish royals Prince Carl Philip and his sister Madeleine. Sadly, her Alzheimer's meant she missed out on Crown Princess Victoria's wedding to Daniel Westling, Duke of Vastergotland, in 2011.