11 June 2015

Royal Brides of Sweden

Foto Kungahuset.se / The Royal Court, Sweden
When Sofia Hellqvist marries Prince Carl Philip of Sweden this Saturday, she will become only the fifth bride to marry into the Swedish royal family in the last 100 years. This is due partially to the plethora of Swedish princesses that have been born versus Swedish princes. Carl Philip has two sisters and no brothers--and his sisters have both had daughters but no sons so far. Their father, King Carl XVI Gustav had four sisters and no brothers. His father, Prince Gustaf Adolf did have three brothers and only one sister (who became Queen Ingrid of Denmark), but his brothers did not pick out suitable brides, which leads us to the other reason for so few royal brides in Sweden: the dynastic rule against "unequal marriages" was not overturned until the 1970s. Therefore, when the current king's uncles wanted to marry commoners, they had to give up their titles and rights to the throne. Of the three uncles, only his uncle Prince Bertil did not surrender his title. Instead, he lived with his lady love for three decades until the rules were changed and he finally married her and made her Princess Lilian when they were in their sixties!

So, let's take a look at the ladies who most recently married Swedish princes:

As I mentioned King Carl XVI Gustav's uncle Bertil fell in love with Lilian Davies Craig when they were both still young. In fact, it is said that they met at her 28th birthday party in London. Born in Wales in 1915, she became a fashion model, then married a Scottish actor during World War II. While he served overseas, she took up a job in a radio factory and helping at a hospital for wounded soldiers. It was during his absence that she and Bertil fell in love. Fortunately for her, after the war, her husband also wanted to marry someone else. In the 1940s, Bertil became second in line to the Swedish throne after his infant nephew. Therefore, he felt honor-bound to abide by the dynastic rules against unequal marriage. If anything were to happen to baby Carl Gustav, there was no one else to be king because women could not succeed at that time, and his brothers had married commoners. He and Lillian lived together quietly, spending much of their time in France, where they had a home. Once Carl Gustav succeeded the throne, he changed the marriage rules so that he could marry his own commoner and clearing the way for Bertil to marry Lillian in December 1976. Bertil passed away in 1997, but Lillian continued to be a beloved member of the Royal Family. She passed away shortly before Princess Madeleine's wedding in 2013 at age 97. Crown Princess Victoria paid tribute to her by wearing one of her tiaras to the wedding.

Silvia Sommerlath also waited for her prince, but not nearly as long. Born in Germany, she is also half-Brazilian. She worked for the Argentine consulate in Munich and it was there that she met her future husband during the 1972 Olympics. The king at the time, Carl Gustav's uncle would not relax the dynastic rules, so they had to wait until after his death. The couple was married in June 1976. It was the first time a reigning Swedish king had married since 1797, and Silvia became the first nonroyal European consort in the modern era. Today, four decades later, only one royally born consort remains: Britain's 94-year-old Duke of Edinburgh, who was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. Silvia has become very well-respected as co-founder of the World Childhood Foundation, which focuses on protecting children from sexual abuse in 17 countries across Europe, Asia, South America and North America.

She is also involved in number of other areas including advocacy for people with handicaps, dementia and dyslexia (with which her husband lives) as well anti-drug issues.

The widowed Sibylla with her five young children.
By SCANPIX  (svd.se) via Wikimedia Commons
Before Silvia, the most recent woman to marry a Swedish prince was her mother-in-law, Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who married Prince Gustav Adolf in 1932. The couple, who were second cousins, had four daughters followed by their only son. However, their marriage was cut short in 1947 when the prince was killed in a plane crash. This left Sibylla as a single mother to five children aged three to 12. For the next two decades, Sibylla had a somewhat less public role but moved to forefront when her husband's stepmother, Queen Louise died in 1965. With her children mostly grown and married, Sibylla became the Senior Princess and official hostess for her father-in-law, King Gustav VI Adolf. She died of cancer only a year after his death, and did not witness the marriage of her son to his commoner wife.

Photo by Jaeger (Hofatelier Jaeger),
Axel Eliassons Konstförlag
Silvia's bridal predecessor was the aforementioned Queen Louise. At the time of her marriage to Crown Prince Gustav Adolf, she was known as Lady Louise Mountbatten, but she had been born Princess Louise of Battenberg. She was the youngest sister of Princess Alice, mother of the current Duke of Edinburgh, and the famous Earl Mountbatten of Burma. The family had surrendered their German royal titles in 1917 at the height of anti-German feeling in their adopted English homeland. Louise was Gustav Adolf's second wife. The first, the very popular Princess Margaret of Connaught, who was Louise's cousin, died following a surgery in 1920, after 15 years of marriage. Louise had no living children of her own, which is not terribly surprising considering she was already in her forties at the time of their 1923 wedding. However, she was a kind and loving stepmother to Margaret's five children. Louise became Queen in 1950, when her husband succeeded his father. Louise was renowned for her democratic spirit and was responsible for modernizing some aspects of the court, like ending the presentation of debutantes in favor of hosting a luncheon for career women.

Margaret and Gustav Adolf with
four of their five children

By Bain News Service
via Wikimedia Commons
These four are the only women to marry Swedish princes within the last 100 years. Just over 100 years ago, there were still not that many more. In 1905 Gustav Adolf married Margaret of Connaught. (Their only daughter grew up to be Queen Ingrid of Denmark, mother of the current Queen Margrethe II--the Scandinavian royals are all closely related.) In 1908, his younger brother Vilhelm married Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia--they divorced six years later and she always claimed that he was a homosexual although he later had a long-term mistress. In 1897, their uncle Prince Carl married Princess Ingeborg of Denmark and their father King Gustav V married their mother Victoria of Baden in 1881.


  1. Nice article. It will be interesting to see what Princess Sofia makes of her new royal role. Hoping that people give her a chance to prove herself.

  2. And aren't you proud of me for not commenting about Sofia's past? I'm trying to move on...