Charlotte (1840-1927), the daughter of Leopold I and the sister of Leopold II of Belgium, was married to Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian (1832-67).
They lived at Miramare Castle in Trieste, Italy, built for Ferdinand in 1856-60, until 1864, when Maximilian was created Emperor of Mexico. He was installed as a puppet emperor, backed by Napoleon III of France, to succeed the republican president Benito Juárez.
It was a short-lived reign in uncertain and difficult political circumstances. Three years later in 1867, while Charlotte was back in Europe seeking aid on her husband’s behalf, Maximilian was executed alongside two of his generals by Mexican republicans (a scene famously depicted in paintings by Manet).
Leopold II then asked the Belgian court secretary Adrien Goffinet to repatriate Charlotte, who was in a fragile emotional state, to Belgium.
Leopold offered the sceptre to Baron Goffinet in gratitude for his help and it passed down in the family until it was consigned to the auction held by the Hôtel des Ventes de Monte Carlo in Monaco on July 18.
The 22ct gold sceptre, which measures 13½in (34cm) and is preserved in its original shaped case, is set with pearls, diamonds, emeralds and rubies and is decorated with leaves and flowers. It is surmounted by an imperial crown with an eagle with outstretched wings, and a crowned cypher over the inscription San Jaun del Rio 1864.
The sceptre also has the signature of the goldsmith Jose Maria Larralde and contains a document signed by Angel M Dominguez relating the different honorary marks that the Municipal Council of San Juan del Rio wished to establish following the accession to power of Maximilian and Charlotte.
It sold at the HVMC auction for €120,000 (£103,450), plus 25/23/20% buyer’s premium, against a guide of €100,000-200,000.
The auction house has since announced that the purchaser of the sceptre is the CRTrieste Foundation which is loaning it to Charlotte’s former home, the Historical Museum of Miramare Castle, where it will be on display to the public.