mercoledì 15 marzo 2017

Royal Wedding Dresses Exhibition at the Royal Palace of Stockholm: Princess Lilian

Following on my post about Queen Silvia's dress in the Royal Wedding Dresses 1976-2015 exhibition currently being held in Stockholm, we'll have a look at the second dress on display, that of Princess Lilian, Duchess of Halland.

The Princess was born Lillian May Davies on 30 August 1915 in Swansea, Wales and worked as a model in her youth (just how incredibly glamourous was she?). At the start of her modelling career, she dropped an 'l' from her first name, hence Lilian:


While still married to her first husband, Scottish actor Ivan Craig, Lilian met Swedish Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland, at a cocktail party in London to celebrate her 28th birthday. Born on 28 February 1912, Bertil was a naval officer and was in London as the Swedish naval attaché at the embassy.
She later wrote in her memoir: "He was so handsome, my prince. Especially in uniform. So charming and thoughtful. And so funny".
Although Lilian was divorced in 1945, dinastic matters meant her relationship with Prince Bertil got off to a rocky start.
Bertil's older brother, Prince Gustaf Adolf, who was second in line to the throne. died in 1947. As Gustaf Adolf's son, Carl Gustaf, was less than one year old, it seemed likely that when the king died Bertil would have to serve as regent.

Prince Bertil with his nephew Prince Carl Gustaf.

To preserve Bertil's place in the line of succession, the couple chose not to marry, as Lilian's status as a commoner would have been unacceptable to the King. Instead they lived together discreetely, both in Sweden and in a house on the French Riviera, although their relationship was an open secret in Stockholm society. As Prince Bertil remained officially single, over the years he was suggested as match for, among others, Princess Margaret (a somewhat unlikely one, in my opinion, as he was a good 18 years older than her - together below at the wedding of Princess Ragnhild of Norway to Erling Lorentzen in 1953):

Her first public appearance with him was in 1972, at the 90th birthday celebration of King Gustav VI, who had developed a personal liking for her. She became a well-known figure in international society. She and Prince Bertil were married at last in the private chapel at Drottningholm Palace on 7 December 1976. Earlier that year, Bertil's nephew, the new King Carl XVI Gustaf, had married commoner Silvia Sommerlath, thus overcoming all dinastic objections to the union.

The bride was, by then, 61 and the groom 64; they honeymooned in Kenya and at their French villa. Reportedly their only regret was that they had not had children.
Princess Lilian wore an ice blue zibeline silk dress with bell sleeves, made by her long-time friend, dressmaker Elizabeth Wondrak (below), a Londoner who had trained at art school in Bromley before going on to set up her own atelier in Mayfair. One of Ms Wondrak's most loyal customers was Princess Lilian, for whom she designed no fewer than 29 dresses to be worn at various Nobel Prize ceremonies:

For her wedding, Princess Lilian completed her look with a matching headpiece trimmed with thin feathers, a three-strand pearl necklace and a diamond brooch. The bouquet, created by Stockholm florists Anita and Ulf Pelenius, was made of lilies of the valley, the bride's favourite flower, and myrtle. She also wore a mink fur coat and carried a vintage tapestry bag.

Curtseying to the King and Queen after the wedding ceremony:

The wedding reception was held at Drottningholm Palace. One of the invites was also on display:

After the wedding, Lilian threw herself into her royal duties, including attending the Nobel Prize ceremony until well into her old age (shown below with Queen Silvia in 2006):

Following the death of Bertil in 1997 at the age of 84, she continued to undertake royal engagements and to support many of her husband's causes. She retired from public life in 2010 due to her declining health: among other ailments, she suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Princess Lilian died in Stockholm on 10 March 2013, aged 97. Her love of lilies of the valley remained steady throughout the years, as denotes the cushion placed on the coffin at her funeral.

With three more wedding dresses to look at in more depth, keep an eye on this page in the coming days!

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