Swansea Pictorial History
Lillian Davies was born on August 30th, 1915 in a tiny mid-terrace house in Garden Street, in the vicinity of what is now the Quadrant Shopping Centre. Her parents were William John Davies and his wife, Gladys. William was a stall holder in Swansea Market, and served as a Private in the Swansea Battalion during World War I.
In her younger days, Lillian worked in the market for her father, and at the Baths Laundry near the Patti Pavilion. Finally, she joined up with three friends and moved to London to seek a new life. Here they originally had jobs such as maids and factory workers.
However, with Lillian being a very glamourous young woman, looking as she did like Marlene Dietriech, and a lover of designer outfits, she eventually took up as a dancer and singer. She began to move amongst the glitterati, moving in the right circles and attending star-studded parties. Within a year of being in London, she was living the high life in a flat in Bayswater.
Lillian's big break came when she was spotted by a fashion agent, and recruited as a potential top model. It was during this period that she dropped the second 'l' from her name. She met and married a Scottish actor called Ian Craig, who was also quite affluent. However, war came and he went off to fight in 1942. They split up in 1943.
Lilian met Prince Bertil, Duke of Holland and Prince of Sweden, at a cocktail party in honour of her birthday, A romance sprung up between the Royal Prince and the Welsh commoner. He was tall and dark, and the assistant Naval Attache at the Swedish Embassy in London.
After the war, the now-divorced Lilian lived in the South of France with Bertil, and later moved to Sweden, where they kept their romance discreet. However, dynastic and political factors prevented their marriage. Lilian was in a similar position to Mrs Simpson, and had she insisted on marriage as a commoner and divorcee, it could have sparked a Swedish constitutional crisis.
In 1947, Bertil's brother, King Gustav Adolf, was killed in an air crash. Bertil took over the title of Prince Regent until his nephew, only a year old at the time of his father's death, was able to ascend to the throne. In 1976, the nephew was crowned King Cal XVI Gustav, and since he had married a commoner himself, he gave Bertil and Lilian permission to wed, 33 years after they had met in London.
They were married on December 7th, 1976, at a low-key ceremony at the Palace church at Drottinghilm Palace. Both the King and Queen attended. Lilian was now 61, and Bertil was 65. At her wedding, the title of "Her Royal Highness, Princess Lilian, Duchess of Hallam" was bestowed upon her.
The period that Bertil held the duties of the Crown were very difficult for Lilian. On the surface, she seemed to be living an exotic lifestyle. There were upmarket residences in London and Stockholm, and a house on the Riviera where Lilian would retreat when Bertil went about his Royal duties. He did take her with him on occasions, but she would stay in the background as much as possible. Although some people knew about her, officially she was a secret.
Prince Bertil was a very well liked and respected man, and the press respected his wish for privacy right up to his death in 1997.
As a widow, Lilian has continued Bertil's official duties, including his patronage of Sports and Motor Sports, and over the years she has played an important role in adding more SOS children's villages in Sweden - an organisation providing orphans with shelter and accommodation.
At the age of 94, she is now the oldest living member of the Swedish Royal Family. She has two stepsisters still living in Swansea.