Arundel Castle burglary: What are Mary Queen of Scots’ rosary beads?

The theft of over £1million of ‘irreplaceable’ historical artefacts from Arundel Castle sparked a police investigation on Friday (May 21).

Monday, 24th May 2021, 3:34 pm

One of the relics includes a set of rosary beads once held by Mary, Queen of Scots, as she prepared for her execution on February 8, 1587.

Also known as Mary Stuart, the former queen of Scotland was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I in 1586.

Undated handout photo issued by Sussex Police of a display cabinet along the public route in the castle from which a set of "irreplaceable" gold rosary beads carried by Mary Queen of Scots to her execution in 1587 were taken, among other historic treasures worth more than £1 million stolen in a raid at Arundel Castle. Other items taken in the burglary of the West Sussex castle include coronation cups given by Mary to the Earl Marshal as well as gold and silver items. Issue date: Sunday May 23, 2021. PA Photo. Staff were alerted to the break-in at 10.30pm on Friday May 21, after a burglar alarm went off and police were scrambled to the scene. See PA story POLICE Castle. Photo credit should read: Arundel Castle/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

She held the now stolen rosary beads – a set of beads used by Catholics to assist in their prayers – up until a few moments before she was beheaded.

They were then bequeathed to the Countess of Arundel, from whom it descended to the Howards of Corby.

Eventually they were obtained by the Duke of Norfolk, whose current descendent Duke Edward Fitzalan-Howard, formerly known as the Earl of Arundel, now owns them.

According to historical charity The Stewart Society, the rosary beads are hollow spheres of gold, wrought with simple patterns and connected by small gold rings.

The garlands of beads are divided into five ‘decades’ separated by five larger beads or ´gauds´ on which the Our Father is said, hence the old name for a rosary: ´a pair of paternosters´.

A gold cross hangs from them and from each arm of the cross, and the foot, a large drop pearl hangs.

In each of the four angles is an open flower, once enriched with white enamel. On the cross hangs a gold figure of Jesus being crucified, with traces of white enamel on his loin cloth.

Above his head is a small tablet, also once white enamelled, with the traditional letters INRI filled in black.

The back of the cross has a gold figure of the Virgin Mary, once enamelled in blue. Winged cherubs are above her head and below her feet.

Sussex Police aid the rosary has little value as metal, but as a piece of the Howard family history and the nation’s heritage, it is ‘irreplaceable’.

Several cups given to the Earl of Arundel by various monarchs upon their coronations were also stolen, as well as other gold and silver treasures.

A spokesman for Arundel Castle Trustees said; “The stolen items have significant monetary value, but as unique artefacts of the Duke of Norfolk’s collection have immeasurably greater and priceless historical importance.

“We therefore urge anyone with information to come forward to the police to assist them in returning these treasures back where they belong.”