I’m not one for royalty of any persuasion, though I do love a good “royal story”. In modern times, who can resist the story from beginning to end of Diana, Princess of Wales? As an Australian, it’s equally impossible to not find the story of Mary Donaldson interesting, after all she met Crown Prince Fredrik of Denmark in a dodgy bar in Sydney during the Olympic Games. Who of us hadn’t been in a dodgy bar during the Olympic Games? And in Sweden, it’s the story of Princess Lilian.
Princess Lilian died on the weekend and flags are flying at half-mast today in Stockholm. In fact, I was near the Royal Palace when the roads were closed off, as the King and Queen (and I think the Crown Princess and her husband) drove by (in a carriage), making their way back from Drottingholm, the palace on the outskirts of the city, to the Royal Palace right in the centre of town
I first became aware of the story of Princess Lilian about two years ago when the Crown Princess got married. I remember it was reported at the time the “much loved” Princess Lilian would be unable to attend the wedding due to her condition with Alzheimer’s Disease. On the television this morning, Lilian was described as like the “grandmother” the Crown Princess never had. Despite this, for many years Lilian remained “unrecognised” by the Swedish Royal Family.
Lilian was born in the UK in 1915, married an actor, and later divorced, but not until two years after she began having an affair with Prince Bertil, who was second in line to the throne. Despite the “progressive” persona of Sweden on the international stage, during the 1940s and 1950s there was still a barrier to him becoming King with a divorced wife. If you care to read the Wikipedia Article about her, you’ll see they lived “in secret” for many years.
It wasn’t until the 1970s when the current King took over the throne that Bertil was “off the hook”, and with no chance of him ever becoming King, he and Lilian were finally allowed to marry. With official recognition, she became Princess Lilian, and apparently has been held in high esteem in Sweden ever since. Although I hate to make a dumb-arse comparison, it seems she was a little like the Queen Mother in how she was regarded by the public.
Despite this, there weren’t huge crowds at the Royal Palace today. It was, after all, a work day, and it was also very chilly. There were probably only a hundred or so people standing by as the King and Queen went past in the royal carriage. And of those of us who were in the vicinity, I’d say half of us were tourists. There were indeed probably many more Royal Guards and Police Officers than ordinary Swedish citizens. Presumably when there’s a state funeral there’ll be more people who’ll turn out to observe.
In fact it was probably the Royal Guards I felt most sorry for today. Of the couple of hundred of them who were standing on the roadside as the Royal Procession went past, about half were in sunlight, and the other half were in standing in the shade (and freezing cold). There was one in particular I noticed whose face was almost blue, his bottom lip was trembling, and his legs were shaking. Yes, it was really that cold.