King of racing! Grand Prix-winning 1934 Bugatti once owned by Leopold III of Belgium sells for a record-breaking £9.5MILLION at auction
- Bugatti once owned by Leopold III of Belgium sold for £9,535,000 in London
- Belgian king purchased the Bugatti Type 59 sport in 1938 after his wife’s death
- Car was driven to victory in the 1934 Belgium Grand Prix by René Dreyfus
A vintage Bugatti once owned by King Leopold III of Belgium has been sold for more than £9.5million at auction.
The Bugatti Type 59 sport was driven to victory in the 1934 Belgium Grand Prix by French racing driver René Dreyfus before being bought by the Belgian royal in 1938.
Leopold III, who reigned from 1934 until 1951, is the grandfather of the current Belgian King Philippe, 60.
A vintage Bugatti (pictured) from 1935, once owned by King Leopold III of Belgium, was sold for more than £9.5million in London on September 5
King Leopold III (pictured), the grandfather of the current Belgian Monarch King Philippe, was a car aficionado
The Bugatti Type 59 sport was driven to victory in the 1934 Belgium Grand Prix by French racing driver René Dreyfus. Pictured, drivers racing around the course
The car changed owners several times in the decade since, but has remained in its original state.
The historic model had been expected to fetch £10million but eventually sold for £9.535million at London’s Gooding & Co last week.
The auctioneers claim it is the most expensive Bugatti ever sold at auction.
Admired by classic car aficionados, the Bugatti Type 59 sport was first rolled out in 1934 and benefits from an illustrious history.
It was initially part of the Bugatti Works Grand Prix team between 1934 and 1935, and helped racer René Dreyfus reach third place at the Monaco Grand Prix and first place at the Belgium Grand Prix in Spa.
In 1937, it was modified to suit racing events, where it dominated the competition.
The vehicle (pictured recently) was purchased by King Philippe in 1938 and passed from one owner to the next until the recent auction
Kept in its original condition, the car broke records fetching nearly £10million at the Gooding and Co auction
A year later, it was painted in black and sold to the Belgian monarch, known for his love of sports cars, especially Bugatti models, and motorbikes.
Everything in the car has remained in good condition, including maps and manuals present in the door by the driver’s side.
The brown leather seat and steering wheel were also left in its original condition – and even a fire extinguisher is still resting below the passenger seat.
Leopold III’s love of racing cars was well-known, but the early years of the King’s reign were marked by tragedy when his first wife Princess Astrid of Sweden died in a car crash with him at the wheel in Lake Lucerne in Switzerland in 1935.
King Leopold’s first wife Princess Astrid (pictured together in 1926) died in a car accident in Switzerland in 1935, when she was 29
The accident, which happened only 18 months after Leopold III ascended the throne of Belgium, was caused by a momentary lapse of attention from the monarch who was trying to find his way on a map his wife was holding.
The couple, who were a love match, had married in 1926, seven years before Leopold became king.
Princess Astrid, who was 29 at the time of her death, had already given birth to the couple’s three children, Princess Joséphine-Charlotte, and Prince Baudouin (who would become King Baudouin of Belgium) and Prince Albert (who would succeed King Baudouin after his death in 1993 and become Albert II).
In 1941, Leopold III remarried and wed Lilian, Princess of Réthy, who gave him three children: Prince Alexandre of Belgium, Princess Marie-Christine, Mrs Gourgues and Princess Marie-Esméralda, Lady Moncada.
King Philippe, the current monarch of the nation, is the son of Albert II and grandson of King Leopold III.
Who was King Leopold III of Belgium?
Born in 1901 in Brussels, King Leopold III ascended the Belgian throne in 1934.
He married his first wife Princess Astrid of Sweden in 1926 after the couple formed a genuine love connection.
Astried died in 1935 following a car accident by Lake Lucerne in Switzerland, when she was just 29.
The couple had three children together, Princess Joséphine-Charlotte, and Prince Baudouin (who would become King Baudouin of Belgium) and Prince Albert ( who would succeed King Baudouin after his death in 1993 and become Albert II).
King Leopold III of Belgium making a broadcast speech, possibly around the time Belgium was invaded by the Nazis during the second World War
He tried to keep Belgium neutral during World War II but eventually surrendered to the Nazis after it was invaded in May 1940.
This decision made him very unpopular both at home and abroad. Leopold III was put under house arrest until the end of the war.
Following Astrid’s death, Leopold III remarried in captivity in 1941, tying the knot with Lilian, Princess of Réthy.
The couple had three children: Prince Alexandre of Belgium, Princess Marie-Christine, Mrs Gourgues and Princess Marie-Esméralda, Lady Moncada.
The royal family moved to Germany and then Austria in 1944, and were banned from re-entering Belgium after the war.
Leopold’s brother Charles acted as regent during his period.
The family’s return to the country caused a civil war, which was only appeased by his abdication under pressure from the government in favour of his son Baudouin in 1951.
King Leopold III died in 1983 in Brussels.
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