Sweden bids farewell to its Welsh-born Cinderella, Princess Lilian

STOCKHOLM (AFP) - Sweden's Welsh-born Princess Lilian, who waited three decades to marry her prince, was buried on Saturday after thousands of Swedes paid their respects to one of the most popular members of the royal family.

A casket draped in Sweden's blue and yellow flag was placed on a catafalque and topped by a crown once belonging to Sweden's Princess Eugenie at the Stockholm Royal Chapel funeral, which was officiated in Swedish and in English. Skies were clear and temperatures hovered around zero as the funeral cortege then advanced through the Swedish capital, before the princess was laid to rest at the royal burial grounds in Haga Park on the outskirts of the city.

The former factory worker met the Swedish Prince Bertil during World War II, when he was stationed at the Swedish embassy in London. The couple's romance flourished, and she moved in to his London flat after hers was damaged in an air raid.

However, the prince's father, King Gustaf VI Adolf, refused to give his blessing to a marriage so as not to jeopardise the future of the monarchy.

When Bertil's eldest brother, Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf, died in a plane crash, he left behind an infant son who would one day inherit the throne. But Bertil's two other brothers had already relinquished their places in the line of succession by marrying commoners, and Lilian was forced to stay in the shadows.

Once the new king married in 1976, one of his first moves was to allow Bertil and Lilian to wed, which they did in December 1976, 33 years after meeting. She was 61, he was 64.

Bertil, who died in 1997, once said that one of his biggest regrets was that the couple had to sacrifice having children in order to protect the throne.

"It was a declaration of love, to be there without being seen," Bishop Emeritus Lars-Goeran Loennermark said at the service, referencing the Welsh-born princess' 33-year wait before being able to marry her lifelong love,

"In this life choice of hers, there must have been a lot of pain," he said.

Apart from the Swedish royal family, Denmark's Queen Margrethe II and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt were among the invited guests.

Sweden's Queen Silvia held the hand of her son Carl Philip as the now-grown children of King Carl XVI Gustaf said farewell to the woman dubbed by Swedish media as "the grandmother they never had".

Born Lilian Davies in the Welsh mining city of Swansea in 1915, Princess Lilian died on Sunday at the age of 97, after suffering from Alzheimer's.

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