Saturday, 16 March 2013

Sweden’s beloved Princess Lilian laid to rest

On a beautiful winter day, thousands came out onto the streets of Stockholm to pay their respects as the much-loved Princess Lilian, who died on Sunday at the age of 97, was laid to rest.
The funeral took place in the Palace Church, where the Princess had been lying in state since Friday evening. The oak coffin, designed by Court Architect Ove Hidemark, was draped in the royal standard and rested on a catafalque covered in a dark blue ball with golden crowns. It was surmounted by Princess Eugénie’s crown and a bouquet of lilies of the valley, Princess Lilian’s favourite flowers. The Order of Seraphim, of which Princess Lilian had been a member since 1995, lie on a table to the left, while the coffin’s head end was flanked by that order’s banner and a British flag, lent by the British Embassy to symbolise the Princess’s British origins. The coffin was surrounded by a number of floral tributes.
The Chief Court Chaplain, Lars-Göran Lönnermark, officiated, assisted by the vicar of the Court Parish, Michael Bjerkhagen, and the Rev. Nicholas Howe of the Anglican church in Stockholm. (Although Welsh by birth, Princess Lilian was baptised in the Church of England, but later joined the Church of Sweden). The Chief Court Chaplain gave a brief eulogy, while the other prelates read from the bible, ending with the words of love being greatest of all, which seemed fitting as love was what defined Princess Lilian’s life and caused her to wait 33 years for her prince.
Works by Handel, Beethoven, Vaughan Williams and Roman were performed by a soloist, the chair and the organist, while the psalms sung were the Swedish version of “Amazing Grace”, “Härlig är jorden” and “Abide with me”, the latter in English. Princess Lilian’s British origins were also underlined by the choir performing “Jerusalem” and the service ending with “Auld Lang Syne” played on a bagpipe.
Following the eulogy, the Marshal of the Realm (i.e. Lord Chamberlain), Svante Lindqvist, solemnly removed the crown from the coffin, symbolising that all are equal in death. The Chief Court Chaplain thereafter sprinkled earth from the garden of Princess Lilian’s home, Villa Solbacken, which was followed by a 21-gun salute from the battery at nearby Skeppsholmen.
To the right in the choir sat, in the first row, King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel, Prince Carl Philip, and Princess Madeleine and her fiancé Christopher O’Neill, who will marry in the same church on 8 June.
Behind them in the second row were Princess Margaretha, Princess Birgitta, Princess Désirée, Princess Christina and her husband Tord Magnuson, Princess Astrid of Norway, Countess Gunnila Bernadotte af Wisborg (widow of the late former Prince Carl Johan), Countess Marianne Bernadotte af Wisborg (widow of the late former Prince Sigvard), Dagmar von Arbin (granddaughter of the late Prince Oscar Bernadotte), her brother Count Oscar Bernadotte af Wisborg with his partner Margot Ekelund (the latter not mentioned in the official guest list, for some reason), their sister Catharina Nilert and their cousin Count Bertil Bernadotte af Wisborg with his wife Jill.
In the third row were Princess Christina’s three sons, Gustaf, Oscar and Victor Magnuson (without their partners), Princess Désirée’s daughter, Baroness Hélène Silfverschiöld, who was Princess Lilian’s goddaughter and her bridesmaid in 1976, accompanied by Fredrik Diterle, Countess Bettina Bernadotte af Wisborg (daughter of the late former Prince Lennart), Prince Carl Philip’s girlfriend Sofia Hellqvist, Countess Monica Bonde af Björnö (daughter of the late former Prince Carl Johan), Count Claes Bernadotte af Wisborg (another grandson of Prince Oscar Bernadotte) and his wife Birgitta, and Patrick Sommerlath, a nephew of Queen Silvia.
Princess Lilian’s nearest relative (except her two half-sisters, with whom she had no contact), her cousin Jean Beaumond, was not able to attend. The only of her relatives to attend was one Barbara Davis, but apparently she was not seated with the royal relatives. Opposite the family sat, among others, the Speaker of Parliament, Per Westerberg, and the Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt. Also among the mourners in the half-full church was courtiers, staff, official representatives such as the Archbishop and the County Governor of Hallandia (of which county Princess Lilian was duchess), the three nurses who had taken care of her during her last years, friends and representatives of organisations with which the Princess was affiliated.
The bells of the Cathedral of Stockholm tolled as six officers carried Princess Lilian’s coffin out of the Palace Church at the end of the funeral service. It was then taken in a hearse, followed by the family in some fifteen other cars, at a very slow speed through the centre of Stockholm and out to the Haga Park, where, in a private ceremony, Princess Lilian was interred at the Royal Burial Ground by the side of Prince Bertil, the man whose love eventually made the poor girl from Wales the grand old lady of the Swedish monarchy.


  1. A beautiful ceromony with its perfect mixture of pomp and simplicity where every detail had a significance. The court can still a better events director than most theatre or film directors.
    Personally I was struck by the fact that H.M.the King was appearing in full uniform with honours whereas all others apart from perhaps some court officials were simply dressed in black without decorations. No one seems to have commented on this. I guess it was meant to underline that the King is the King and not just any royal nephew in mourning.

    Martin Rahm

    1. That is one possibility, but personally I think the King in uniform was a natural choice given the significant military presence and involvement in the funeral. (Prince Carl Philip has not worn uniform recently, and Prince Daniel has no uniform).


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