Despite living in Sweden for more than sixty years, the Welsh-born Princess Lilian of Sweden, who died last month at the age of 97, always preferred to speak English in public as well as in private. The fact that she mostly stayed at home during the many years when she was the secret partner of Prince Bertil meant that she had little chance to become integrated in Swedish society and to learn and use the language. Prince Bertil also spoke fluent English (his mother being a British princess), and many Swedes were so eager to show off their English that they responded in English when Lilian addressed them in Swedish. The way Queen Silvia is routinely mocked for her Swedish might perhaps also have seemed off-putting to Princess Lilian.
Thus, all Princess Lilian’s interviews were given in English, with one exception. In the summer of 1996, when she and Prince Bertil, who was ailing and would pass away in January 1997, for the last time spent the summer in their house in Tylösand in Halland (Halland being Prince Bertil’s dukedom), she received a journalist from Sveriges Radio Halland and in this interview the Princess for once spoke Swedish publicly. The interview (external link) is now available online, but it is hard to agree with the fawning journalist when he insists that “the Princess speaks excellent Swedish” - and Princess Lilian herself had enough self-insight to protest that she certainly did not.
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