Atlas with historical notes by Queen Elisabeth auctioned for €1,700


At Christmas 1938, King Leopold III presented his mother, Queen Elisabeth, with an atlas as a gift. The atlas in itself is not of much value, but her notes in red pencil do make it valuable. On Saturday 9 March 2024, it was sold by auction for €1,700 in Bruges.

'Pour ma chère maman de son L. – Noël 1938', the ornate handwriting of King Leopold III reads. At the time, Queen Elisabeth did not know how much she would cherish the gift with her son's heartfelt greeting six years later. On 6 June 1944 (D-Day), the Allies landed in Normandy and Hitler ordered that Leopold be taken away to the mediaeval castle of Hirschstein in Saxony, on the Elbe River. A few days after his arrival on 9 June, his family also arrived. From then until 8 May 1945 (V-Day) at the castle in Laeken, Elisabeth kept track in her atlas with red arrows of how the Americans were advancing from the west and the Russians from the east to see who would arrive at the Elbe River first to free her son and four grandchildren.

King Leopold III and his second wife, Princess Lilian, kept the atlas in the library of their castle in Argenteuil. After her death in 2002, it came into the hands of an anonymous foreign buyer who decided to sell it this year. Last Saturday, it went under the hammer for €1,700 at the Bruges auction house Van de Wiele Auctions. The new owner is the Royal Library (KBR) in Brussels.