The golden rosary held by Mary Queen of Scots at her grisly 1587 execution has been stolen from Arundel Castle in England, one of several “irreplaceable” artifacts police say was taken in the recent raid.
Sussex Police issued a press release on Monday asking for help from the public after thieves made off with roughly CAD $1.7 million (£1 million) worth of gold and silver items stolen from a display cabinet in the castle, the West Sussex seat of the Dukes of Norfolk for more than 850 years.
Police said the castle’s burglar alarm went off at 10:30 p.m. local time on Friday and that police were on the scene “within minutes.”
But they were not quick enough to prevent the thieves from smashing a display case and stealing several items of “great historical significance,” including the gold rosary beads carried by Mary Queen of Scots at her execution, and coronation cups gifted by the queen to the Earl Marshall at the time.
“Other gold and silver treasures” were also taken, but police did not specify the items.
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“The rosary is of little intrinsic value as metal, but as piece of the Howard family history and the nation’s heritage it is irreplaceable,” police said in the statement.
A spokesperson for the trustees of Arundel Castle said while the stolen items have “significant monetary value,” they have “immeasurably greater and priceless historical importance.”
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“We therefore urge anyone with information to come forward to the police to assist them in returning these treasures back where they belong,” the spokesperson said.
Police are now looking into whether an abandoned vehicle found on fire nearby is connected to the raid.
Historian Dan Snow described the stolen rosary as “utterly priceless” in a series of tweets on Monday.
Anyone with information on the raid is being asked to call Crimestoppers.
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Mary Queen of Scots was executed at 44 on the order of her English cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, in a grisly beheading that took three axe blows to sever her head from her body.
The two queens were rivals throughout their lives as Mary, a Catholic, became a figurehead for opponents to the Protestant rule of Queen Elizabeth I during the English reformation period.
Queen Elizabeth I’s father, King Henry VIII, broke with the Catholic Church in order to divorce Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn in the early 1530s.
Boleyn’s mother was a daughter of the second Duke of Norfolk, and the family’s Catholic faith put them frequently in conflict with the Crown following the reformation — the third Duke of Norfolk narrowly escaped beheading by Henry VIII but the fourth Duke of Norfolk was executed in 1572.
The Catholic noble had been plotting to wed Mary Queen of Scots.
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