Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1908-1972)

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– Sibylla

Disinherited

Sibylla Calma Marie Alice Bathildis Feodora was born in Friedenstein Palace, Gotha, on 18 January 1908 and was the eldest daughter of Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Victoria Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein.

Sibylla’s father was the posthumous son of Queen Victoria‘s youngest son, Leopold, Duke of Albany, who had died from a cerebral haemorrhage after a fall in 1884. Charles Edward had inherited the duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1900 after the death of his uncle, Alfred, however he was deposed in 1918 and he lost his British titles the following year as a consequence of the Titles Deprivation Act of 1917. This meant Sibylla and her siblings also lost their entitlement to the titles of Prince and Princess of the United Kingdom, however they maintained links to the British Royal Family.

In November 1931, Sibylla travelled to London to be a bridesmaid at the wedding of her cousin,  Lady May Cambridge, and her fellow bridesmaid, Princess Ingrid of Sweden, introduced her to her brother, Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Västerbotten, the eldest son of  Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden and Princess Margaret of Connaught, a daughter of Arthur, Duke of Connaught. Therefore, Gustaf Adolf and Sibylla were both male line great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria. The couple fell in love and their engagement was announced on 16 June 1932 at Callenberg Castle in Coburg.

Princess of Sweden

Sibylla and Gustaf Adolf were married in a civil ceremony in Coburg on 19 October 1932 and the church wedding followed the day after. While the wedding was lavish, Coburg was dominated by Nazism and the influence was felt which did not go down well in Sweden where the couple did not arrive until a month later. In Sweden, Gustaf Adolf and Sibylla settled into the Haga Palace where their five children were born. They were both keen outdoors people and the prince was a keen rider, even competing in the show jumping at the 1936 Summer Olympics. He served as president of the Swedish Olympic Committee from 1933 until his death in 1947.

Gustaf Adolf was killed in a plane crash on 26 January 1947 at Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen. The prince was returning from a hunting trip in the Netherlands when his delayed plane had to stop in Copenhagen before continuing on to Stockholm. After the plane took off again, it suddenly plummeted from the air, nosediving into the ground where it exploded on impact. An investigation revealed the plane’s captain had failed to perform the final pre-flight check list properly and had taken off not realising that a gust lock on an elevator was still in place.

At the time of his death, Gustaf Adolf had been second in the line of succession for the Swedish throne, however his death sparked a succession crisis as it meant his nine month old son, Carl Gustaf, had to take his place. At the time of Gustaf Adolf’s death, his grandfather, Gustaf V, was already well into his eighties but two of Gustaf Adolf’s brothers had already been barred from the line of succession for marrying commoners. Gustaf V died on 29 October 1950 and was succeeded by his son, Gustaf VI Adolf, and his four-year-old grandson, Carl Gustaf, became the heir apparent of Sweden. Since there was a possibility Carl Gustaf could inherit the throne as a minor, a regent would be required but only one of his uncles, Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland, was eligible for the role.

However, Bertil was in love with Lilian Craig, a Welsh commoner, who he had planned to marry but he put the throne before his own personal happiness to stay in the line of succession. Bertil and Lilian lived together discreetly for decades before they were able to marry but the Swedish public knew about the sacrifice Bertil had been made and they respected him for it. When Carl XVI Gustaf succeed in 1973, he changed the laws forbidding marriage with commoners and Bertil was finally able to marry his sweetheart.

During her widowhood, Sibylla became interested in many environmental issues and she became the highest ranking female at court after the death of Queen Louise in 1965. Sibylla took over many of Queen Louise’s duties and the public grew to appreciate her more. Sadly, Sibylla didn’t live long enough to see her son succeed his grandfather as she died of cancer less than a year before.

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