It’s one of my all time favourite royal wedding dresses and just a glimpse of it can make me feel ever so slightly emotional. For not only was the pale blue gown worn by a lass called Lilian from Swansea on a cold, December day in 1976 a masterclass in elegance and chic, it was also the wedding dress of a princess decades in the making. It’s now forty four years since Prince Bertil of Sweden wed Lilian Craig in a ceremony that set the seal on a love story that has its own place in royal history. On the anniversary of one of the most romantic royal nuptials of all, Royal Central remembers the wedding dress of Princess Lilian of Sweden.
Lilian Craig met Prince Bertil during World War Two and after that conflict ended, their minds turned to marriage. But Lilian, a divorcee with no royal blood, didn’t exactly tick all the boxes on the still strict list of who to marry that dominated the Swedish Royal Court at the time. Besides, the Swedish succession was precarious to say the least. Only men could succeed. Two of Bertil’s brothers had already given up their rights while his older brother, Gustaf Adolf, had been killed in a plane accident in 1947 leaving a nine month old son and four daughters. Bertil knew his marriage to Lilian could leave his monarchy rather vulnerable. So the pair lived together and put weddings on ice.
Until 1976. That nine month old boy had grown up to be King Carl XVI Gustaf who wasn’t just devoted to his dutiful uncle, he was set on changing royal rules, too. Carl Gustaf married Silvia Sommerlath, his own non royal bride, in June 1976 and was in the front row on December 7th that year when Bertil and Lilian did their own ‘I doing’ at the Chapel at Drottningholm Palace.
The bride wore blue, a rather clever choice really as brides had been using the shade for centuries before the 19th century vogue for white. The dress itself was designed by Elizabeth Wondrak and made of shantung silk. It’s very simple and very seventies, with bell sleeves and a sleek silhuouette fanning out into a flared skirt. Lilian, a bit of a style icon, chose a feathered hat rather than anything sparkly for her hair, and added some rather classy pearls to complete the look. Finally a princess herself, her first outfit as a fully fledged royal was well worth that (very long) wait.
Prince Bertil and Princess Lilian continued to love out their fairytale for another two decades and, although their long wait to wed meant they never had a family of their own, they were devoted to the three children of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia. Bertil died on January 5th 1997 at the age of 84, safe in the knowledge that the throne he had sacrificed so much to protect was secure. Princess Lilian died on March 10th 2013. They are buried together at the Royal Cemetery at Solna.
Lydia Starbuck is a pen name of June Woolerton who has written extensively on royal history. Her book, A History of Royal Jubilees, is available now. She is also the author of a popular cosy mystery, All Manner of Murder.