If this were a fairy tale, it would start with something like, "Once upon a time, a beautiful woman fell in love with a charming prince."
Swedish Princess Lilian passed away on March 10 at the age of 97. The only thing she was known for more than her love for Prince Bertil was the fact that they had to keep their romance under wraps for 33 years.
Lilian met the prince in London in 1943. He was a playboy whose looks and wits were a magnet for many ladies.
"He was so handsome, my prince especially in uniform," Lilian later wrote. "So charming and thoughtful. And So funny. Oh, how we laughed together."
Lilian was a fashion model, actress and ballerina. She later wrote that their romance took off after he fetched her in his car after a bombing raid on London.
Lilian was married to Scottish actor Ivan Craig at the time. However, he also met someone else during his deployment abroad, so they split amicably. At that point, you would think there was nothing left standing between her and the love of her life. Nothing, maybe, except the king himself.
The Swedish royal family rules banned any contender for the crown to marry a commoner such as Lilian. Prince Bertil was a possible heir to the throne and a potential regent to his cousin, who was a baby at the time. Bertil's two brothers had already married commoners, so they were out of the throne-taking game. His third brother had died in a plane crash.
King Gustav VI Adolph became concerned that Bertil's marriage to Lilian would spark a constitutional crisis. In the end, he told Bertil and Lilian to abstain from tying the knot.
But their romance was too strong to give up on. Even though "I do's" were off-limits, the couple stayed together in a common-law marriage. They spent time between a house in France and the Swedish capital of Stockholm, where Lillian had to keep a low profile.
Lilian's charm won over the hearts of her husband's nation over time. Magazines showed the pictures of them playing golf and riding on his motorcycle. She was accepted by the royal family as well.
Her sense of humor helped a lot. When Prince Bertil had to use a walker after an operation, she nicknamed it his "Bugatti."
By the 1970s, things had changed in the Swedish royal family as the new king, Karl XVI Gustaf, was himself married to a commoner. So, there was really no reason to keep Lilian and Bertil from marrying each other.
The new king gave them his blessing to make things official, and the couple were married in 1976. Lilian got her well-deserved wedding at a royal palace outside Stockholm. She officially became Princess Lilian and the Duchess of Halland, a southern province in Sweden. The couple were in their 60s at the time, but they never had any children.
Princess Lilian stayed active in the public life all the way into her 90s. She attended Nobel Prize ceremonies wearing her royal jewelry.
The romance also made Bertil popular among the Swedes, who nicknamed him "Prince Charming." They stayed devoted to each other until his death in 1997. He passed away in their residence with Princess Lilian by his side.
Lilian's age and illness later took a toll on her. She started battling Alzheimer's disease and withdrew from public life three years ago.
She described her life in simple terms on her 80th birthday. She said "If I were to sum up my life, everything has been about love. He is a great man and I love him."