A Ford Escort that was once owned by Diana, Princess of Wales has sold at auction to a museum in Chile for £52,640.

Lady Diana Spencer was given the silver 1.6L Ghia saloon by the Prince of Wales as an engagement present in May 1981, two months before they were married in July 1981.

She often drove it to watch Charles play polo, and the bonnet features a silver frog – a copy of the original mascot which was given to the princess by her sister Sarah and which Diana kept when she sold the car.

The princess stopped using the vehicle soon after giving birth to Prince William in 1982, and it was later bought for £6,000 by an antiques dealer.

The 1981 silver Ford Escort 1.6L Ghia saloon once owned by the Princess of Wales

Credit: PA

Auctioneer Lewis Rabett polishes the 1981 silver Ford Escort 1.6L Ghia saloon

Credit: PA

The current owner kept the car's origins a secret for 20 years

Credit: Pa

It had belonged to a royal fan since around 2000, who drove it only sparingly without disclosing its history to her friends.

The vehicle was sold on Tuesday in an online auction by Reeman Dansie, of Colchester, Essex, to a telephone bidder for £52,640.

The hammer price was £47,000, exceeding the pre-auction estimate of £30,000 to £40,000.

The car still carries its original registration, WEV 297W, as well as its original paint and upholstery, and has 83,000 miles on the clock.

Lewis Rabett, of Reeman Dansie Auctions in Colchester, Essex, said the winning bid came from a museum in the South American country of Chile and the car will be shipped there.

"The interest has been considerable pre-auction," he said.

"Ending up in South America is testament to the level of interest globally that there’s been in the car.

"It’s also testament to Diana and her enduring legacy."

Diana, Princess of Wales was hugely popular in Chile and in 2010 the Museo de la Moda in Santiago paid £192,000 for one of her first official gowns.

The museum said at the time that it was willing to pay the princely sum because it was an important piece of fashion history.

The Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge will come together on Thursday, July 1, to unveil a statue in memory of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, in Kensington Palace’s Sunken Garden.