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Take, for instance, this Victorian gilt-tooled red leather document box, right, stamped with the Royal Coat of Arms and the crowned initials VR, which was the highlight of the smalls at Woolley & Wallis’ sale.

The auctioneers had no idea of the provenance of this box or how it had come to leave the offices of Queen Victoria’s household where it presumably saw service.

The interior, lined in green leather, was likewise empty of clues, but the battered condition of the box suggested that it had travelled regularly in the back of carriages.

Measuring 21in (53.3cm) wide, the document box had brass travelling handles and a brass lock stamped Mordan and Co. It would barely have made a couple of hundred pounds without its majestic connections, but royalty has a habit of loosening the purse strings of genuflecting subjects and this case attracted £3100 from the trade.