Flags fly half-mast for Sweden's fairytale princess

STOCKHOLM - Flags flew at half-mast across Sweden on Monday as the country mourned the death of Princess Lilian, a Welsh-born commoner who stole Swedes' hearts by waiting three decades to marry her lifelong love Prince Bertil.

Born Lilian Davies in the Welsh mining city of Swansea in 1915, the princess died at her Stockholm home on Sunday at the age of 97, surrounded by the royal family. She had suffered from Alzheimer's.

Prince Bertil, the uncle of King Carl XVI Gustaf, died in 1997. The couple never had children.

Lilian's sacrifices for her prince endeared her to Swedes, who were gripped by the romantic love affair.

Sweden's two leading dailies, Svenska Dagbladet and Dagens Nyheter, featured pictures of the white-haired princess on their front pages and dedicated several pages to her life, hailing her patience and spry sense of humour in equal measure.

She was like a grandmother to the current royal family, and was often seen together with them at official functions until 2010, when she withdrew from public life due to her health.

"The princess was very much loved by our family ... the kids always appreciated the princess' funny pranks," King Carl XVI Gustaf said in a comment referring to his now-grown daughters Victoria and Madeleine and son Carl Philip.

Bells in Stockholm's churches rang for 10 minutes at 8:00 am in her honour, as flags on all public buildings were ordered to fly at half-mast.

A three-day state visit by Turkey's President Abdullah Gul kicked off Monday as planned, but the palace cancelled Tuesday's planned festivities for Crown Princess Victoria's name day.

During World War II, Lilian worked at a factory in London making radio sets for the British merchant fleet and at a hospital for wounded soldiers.

Her husband, Ivan Craig, an actor she married in 1940, had been drafted into the army.

In 1943, she met Prince Bertil at the posh Les Ambassadeurs nightclub in the British capital, where he was stationed at the Swedish embassy.

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