Police have questioned a man in connection with the theft of rosary beads which belonged to Mary Queen of Scots.
The beads are said to have been carried by Mary, the Catholic first cousin once removed of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I of England, when she was went to her execution at Fotheringhay Castle in 1587.
They were taken from Arundel Castle, the ancestral home of the Catholic Duke of Norfolk in south England, during a raid in May by a gang who climbed through a window and forced open a display cabinet, taking gold and silver items together valued at about £1 million.
According to Sussex Police, the man, aged 45, was arrested at an address in Eckington, Worcestershire, in a joint operation with Gloucestershire Constabulary, West Mercia Police and Thames Valley Police. He has since been released under investigation.
Eight warrants were executed by Sussex officers at addresses in Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.
Specialist search officers from Sussex Police and detection equipment have been deployed as part of the operation which continues. No warrants were executed or arrests were made in Sussex.
Six other men who were also arrested were interviewed by Gloucestershire and West Mercia officers in relation to alleged burglary, assault and drugs offences, all unrelated to the burglary at Arundel Castle.
Detective Inspector Alan Pack of Sussex Police said: “Our investigation into the Arundel Castle burglary remains live and this action marks a significant step in our enquiries.
“I would encourage anyone with further information about this burglary to contact us, and also remind people that the insurers have offered a substantial reward should any of the property be recovered intact. You can also contact us either online or by calling 101, quoting Operation Deuce.
“We are very grateful for the co-operation of West Mercia, Gloucestershire and Thames Valley Police whose assistance demonstrates how together we will take action to seek to disrupt criminality of all kinds.”
None of the stolen artefacts has so far been recovered.
A statement issued by Arundel Castle Trustees at the time of the theft said that although the stolen items had significant monetary value, as unique artefacts of the Duke of Norfolk’s collection they have “immeasurably greater and priceless historical importance”.
Mary, the mother of the future King James I of England, was beheaded because she was a threat to the Protestant nobility as many English Catholics supported her potential accession following the excommunication of Elizabeth by Pope St Pius V in 1570.
She spent nearly 19 years in custody before she was finally accused of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth and sentenced to death for high treason.
Most of her possessions, or anything touched by her blood, were burned following her execution so that they could not be revered by Catholics as relics.
Apart from the rosary, those possessions which survived include her Book of Hours, an illustrated prayer book which she gave to Elizabeth Curle, one of her ladies, on the eve of her execution.
The book was later given to the Society of Jesus and in July 2020 it was sold it at auction at Christie’s, London, to an anonymous buyer for £311,250.
In June a reward was offered on the basis that any items stolen are returned in their original, undamaged, condition, subject to specific conditions, and anyone with information is asked to contact Simon Jones at loss adjusters Quadra Claims Services Ltd, email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 0161 838 6600.
(Picture courtesy of Sussex Police)
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