Prince Bertil of Sweden and Lilian Davies Craig after the announcement of their engagement, Oct. 1976.
Photo (c) Getty Images / Keystone.

In December 1985, Prince Bertil and Princess Lilian of Sweden, Duke and Duchess of Halland, paid a visit to the United States. During that time, the royal couple were guests of the Swedish-American Council of Greater Boston and the Swedish Council of America. While resting at their rooms at the Westin Hotel, both the prince and princess gave separate interviews, while expressing nearly identical sentiments, about their love for one another and their life together. Bertil and Lilian had married nine years before in 1976, after beginning a relationship in 1943.

Princess Lilian of Sweden.

Princess Lilian:

In a loving relationship a sense of humour is important. You have to laugh at the pressures in your life. Especially, you have to laugh at yourself. 

Companionship is one of the things that has made our relationship. We have always enjoyed doing the same things. We take long walks together. I love my husband’s loyalty towards his duties, his job. Besides, he’s a very good chef.

We wed late. Too late to have children. We had to wait such a long time to get married. I regret not having children. But now the queen’s children are like my grandchildren. I makes up. Well, not quite.

We were not allowed to be seen in public for many years. I missed being with my husband. Sometimes I felt it wasn’t nice. But it was nice that we were together, anyway. That made it less of a strain. We were always very much in love. We enjoyed every moment we were together.

My wedding day was the happiest day of my life. I was as nervous as a kitten. I had butterflies in my tummy. When we exchanged vows, I was afraid I wouldn’t even remember my husband’s name. I wore a wonderful pale blue gown.

Before our wedding, my husband asked: ‘What will you wear on your head? We are of a certain age, so you cannot wear a tiara.’ It was supposed to be a secret, the way I looked, so I just replied: ‘A hat.’ And he pressed on: ‘But what kind of a hat?’

I thought he was being too curious. He wouldn’t be put off. So I told him I was wearing feathers in my hair. Well, I’ll never forget the astonished look on his face. ‘Feathers?’ he said and went silent. Actually, I wore a hat covered with feathers that were dyed to match my wedding gown. He told me then that I was a beautiful bride.

My husband is an ordinary man. He doesn’t behave like a prince. When I have company, he helps me in the kitchen. We get dressed up for the job, like the Nobel Prize (award ceremonies), but as soon as we get home, we get into our favourite clothes: sweaters and trousers.

I’m a feminist. The first feminist decision I made was to live with the man I love. I chose to be with the prince. It was a long wait (marriage). But good things are worth waiting for, and my husband is a good man. Now I feel the challenge of our life is to do our job, to help the king and queen as much as we can.

Prince Bertil of Sweden in 1964.
Photo by Bergne Porträttstudio AB.

Prince Bertil:

I have always done my best to be a good prince. I have always had an agreeable life. I’m a prince, but I still like to do ordinary things, live an ordinary life. I am a very ordinary person. 

We have a house on the outskirts of Stockholm. We have a house in the south of France. We live simply. My office is in the palace. There, I have a suite, a great room for great receptions. But it’s just part of the job.

I love the married life. I love my wife. She’s very sweet. Love is the most important aspect of anyone’s life. We’ve been together from the very first. The big regret I have is that I married late. We would have liked to have children.

All those years not being married wasn’t easy. But we were very lucky. The Swedish press was very understanding, touch wood! It’s really remarkable. I think they (the press) liked me. If they had wanted to be ruthless, they could have written badly about us and perhaps ruined our life. I asked them not to write about us at all, and they didn’t. 

My wedding day was the happiest moment of my life. The first priority of our lives is that we always loved one another. We were comrades. We were friends. We helped each other. And all that loyalty still continues.

I was never bitter about not being able to marry. It was difficult for my father to give us permission to marry. I understand that. I had promised my father that I’d stay with him, to help him with his work. He was a wonderful man. I could talk to him about anything. Nothing every embarrassed him. 

I performed my duties, and I waited. No, we waited 33 years. That’s a long time. But we were happy together, so it was not as bad as it may seem. We had a pleasant life. What was difficult was that she was not allowed to appear at my side in public. That hurt me. But what could I do? Somehow, we got used to it. Somehow. But she had courage. Now that the Swedish people know her, they love her. Even my father was kind to us. I know he liked her.

I’m 73 years old now. I still drive a car, but I don’t race. I raced cars in 1936. I liked knowing how the engine stood up under pressure. I liked knowing how I stood up under pressure. I’ve always thought the sportsman was a happy man. I loved sports – any kind of sports. A sportsman is competitive. I like competition, especially on the Olympic level. The rivals are at war with each other. Yet the overriding spirit is unity. I do love unity.

I came to the United States first in 1938 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the first landing of Swedes in Wilmington, Del. We came by ship. My father fell ill. Kidney trouble. He got very sick. He said to me: ‘You have to take over.’

I had never made a speech in my life. I was rather shaken at the prospect, very nervous. I was put in front of first-class professional speakers, like President Roosevelt. It was a big challenge. It was something I had to do. So I did it.

No one threw rotten eggs at me. I believe that was my real beginning, my baptism.

Prince Bertil and Princess Lilian in 1995.
Photo (c) Getty Images / James Andanson.

Prince Bertil died in 1997 at the age of eighty-four. Princess Lilian passed away in 2013 at the age of ninety-seven. The couple had been together for fifty-four years and married for twenty-one. They are buried together at the Royal Cemetery in Solna. 

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