Why we’re talking about . . .

Arundel Castle heist: how did thieves steal Mary Queen of Scots’ gold rosary beads?

Police investigating abandoned burnt-out car believed to be connected to £1m robbery

Police are appealing for help to recover gold rosary beads carried by Mary Queen of Scots at her execution that have been snatched in a raid on Arundel Castle.

The beads are among gold and silver historic treasures worth a total of £1m stolen on Friday -  just days after the West Sussex castle reopened to the public for the first time this year, following the easing of Covid lockdown restrictions.

Police arrived within “minutes” after a burglar alarm at the castle - home of the Duke of Norfolk and his ancestors for more than 850 years - was tripped at around 10.30pm, reports The Argus. But the thieves had already “smashed their way” into a cabinet display on a public route that contained the artefacts, says the regional news site. 

Sussex Police told the BBC that the thieves entered through a window.

The stolen rosary beads have “little intrinsic value” as metal, but “as a piece of the Howard family history and the nation's heritage it is irreplaceable”, said police. 

The Scottish queen was clutching them when she was executed by axe at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire in 1587, at the age of 44, after being held in captivity for 18 years by her cousin, Elizabeth I.

Historian and BBC presenter Professor Kate Williams tweets that the beads are “particularly significant” because “so much of her belongings” were taken or lost after Mary fled Scotland, while the possessions she had at Fotheringhay Castle were “nearly all burned to stop them becoming relics”.

“Even her heart was removed and hidden in the ground,” Williams writes. 

Other items taken during last week’s raid include coronation cups given by the Scottish monarch to the then Earl Marshal, a title held by the Norfolk family for more than 500 years.

Officers are now examining an abandoned 4x4 saloon car found on fire in the nearby village of Barlavington that is believed to be linked to the robbery, said Detective Constable Molly O’Malley of Chichester CID, who is leading the investigation, dubbed “Operation Deuce”.

O’Malley urged anyone who saw “suspicious activity” around the castle on Friday to contact police online or through 101, adding: “If you are offered or hear of anyone offering for sale any of the items stolen, we would also like to hear from you.”

A spokesperson for Arundel Castle Trustees also urged “anyone with information to come forward to the police to assist them in returning these treasures back where they belong”.

Recommended

Is now a good time to fix your energy bills?
Woman reads utility bill
In Depth

Is now a good time to fix your energy bills?

Quiz of The Week: 18 - 24 June
Ed Davey and Richard Foord
Quizzes and puzzles

Quiz of The Week: 18 - 24 June

Immunotherapy, unions and a house revival
Medical scan
Podcasts

Immunotherapy, unions and a house revival

The road to a second Scottish independence referendum
Nicola Sturgeon
The latest on . . .

The road to a second Scottish independence referendum

Popular articles

The Mediterranean cities preparing for a tsunami
A tsunami in 2011 in Japan
Fact file

The Mediterranean cities preparing for a tsunami

Are we heading for World War Three?
Ukrainian soldiers patrol on the frontline in Zolote, Ukraine
In Depth

Are we heading for World War Three?

When is the next UK general election?
A sign directs voters to a polling station
In Depth

When is the next UK general election?

The Week Footer Banner