Sweden’s playboy crown prince has struck up a relationship with a glamour model who posed topless with a python wrapped around her body.

News of the love affair has captivated Swedish society and put the country’s much-loved monarchy on to the defensive.

Prince Carl Philip, who is second in line to the Swedish throne, broke off his 10-year relationship with an advertising executive after meeting Sofia Hellqvist, a 25-year-old bikini model.

Ms Hellqvist made her name when she appeared in a Swedish men’s magazine with only a pair of bikini bottoms and a snake to preserve her modesty.

While the prince is believed to have met his new girlfriend’s family, it is understood that Ms Hellqvist has not been introduced to any of his relations.

The pair are said to have become close last summer after meeting in the fashionable seaside resort town of Bastad.

They are said to have been on secret trips together in Sweden and New York.

The 30-year-old prince, who drives Porsche racing cars and is regarded as one of the world’s most eligible bachelors, has so far refused to confirm or deny the relationship.

“We have no comment to make at all,” said the head of the royal press department, Nina Eldh.

The prince was ranked ninth in a list of ‘The 20 hottest young royals’ compiled by ‘Forbes’ magazine in 2008 behind Princes William and Harry, who were first and second, and Zara Phillips, who was third.

As the only son of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, the prince was the heir to the throne for a few months after he was born in 1979.

But in 1980 the rules of succession were changed. His sister, Crown Princess Victoria (32) is now the heir.