Sibylla Calma Marie Alice Bathildis Feodora was born on 18 January 1908 in Gotha, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (now Germany) at Friedenstein Castle. Her parents were Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Princess Victoria Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. Sibylla had one older brother, Johann Leopold, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; two younger brothers, Prince Hubertus of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Friedrich Josias, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; and one younger sister, Princess Caroline Mathilde of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. It was through her father that she was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.
Sibylla began her schooling, like many royals and nobles during this time, at home. She would also attend Gymnasium Alexandrinum in Coburg and then Kunstgewerbeschule in Weimar, Saxony.
She was in London in November of 1931 to be a bridesmaid for the wedding of Lady May Abel Smith and Henry Abel Smith. One of the other bridesmaids was her second cousin and then Princess Ingrid of Sweden, who introduced her brother, Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Västerbotten to Sibylla. Gustaf was the eldest child of the future King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden and Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden.
The engagement of Sibylla and Gustaf was announced on 16 June 1932 at Callenberg Castle in Coburg. They married on 19 October of that same year in a civil ceremony at Veste Castle, with a religious ceremony following on 20 October at St. Moritz Church – both in Coburg. It was officially celebrated in the Nazi-controlled town, as the President of Germany, Paul von Hindenburg made sure that no honours were spared. The wedding consisted of many Nazi influences. Four thousand members of the Nazi party were part of the torchlight procession after the large reception on 19 October. Adolf Hitler, who had not yet become Chancellor, wrote to Charles Edward to congratulate his daughter on her engagement. The Nazi relations were not accepted well in Sweden, and Gustaf’s grandfather, King Gustaf V of Sweden refused to attend.
Upon the marriage, Sibylla became Princess Sibylla of Sweden, Duchess of Västerbotten. They spent their honeymoon in Italy, and then they returned to Stockholm on 25 November 1932. Sibylla’s royal duties began just a few days after their arrival when she presented the winner of a fencing tournament a prize with Princess Ingrid. Along with being a lover of sports, she was a great supporter of the Swedish Girl Guides movement.
Princess Sibylla and Prince Gustaf lived in Haga Palace and would go on to have five children: Princess Margaretha, Princess Birgitta, Princess Désirée, Princess Christina, and Prince (now King) Carl Gustaf of Sweden. They had homes in Ingarö and Storlien, as well. She was known to speak German with her children at home and was never able to become fluent in Swedish. Princess Sibylla was never truly able to feel at home in Sweden due to her German ties, the crimes of the German state during World War Two, and her father’s ties with the Nazi party, which she was constantly reminded of in Sweden.
Tragedy struck on 26 January 1947, when Prince Gustaf Adolph was killed in a plane crash at Copenhagen Airport, in Copenhagen, Denmark. Their youngest child, Prince Carl Gustaf was moved to second in the line of succession before becoming The Crown Prince in 1950 at the young age of four.
After her step-mother-in-law passed away in 1965, she was the most senior Princess of Sweden. Her popularity grew due to her humour and “sense of self-irony” being more well-known. She would die from colon cancer on 28 November 1972. Less than a year later, her son would become King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden on 15 September 1973.
During her lifetime, she held the following honours from Sweden: Member Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Seraphim; Member of the Royal Family Order of King Gustaf V; and Member of the Royal Family Order of King Gustaf VI Adolf. She held Knight Grand Cross of the Saxe-Ernestine House Order from her home House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. She held the following foreign honours: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Special Issue from West Germany and Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau from the Netherlands.