For more than 400 years, Arundel Castle has served as the seat of the Duke of Norfolk, historically regarded as England’s premier lay Catholic.
Thieves targeted a display cabinet along the route walked by members of the public visiting the castle. In addition to the rosary beads, they took several cups commemorating royal coronations, and other gold and silver items.
A spokesman for Arundel Castle’s trustees said: “The stolen items have significant monetary value, but as unique artifacts 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.”
Police said they were examining a 4x4 vehicle found abandoned and ablaze in the nearby village of Barlavington to see if it was linked to the robbery.
Detective Constable Molly O’Malley, of Chichester CID (Criminal Investigation Department), said that the castle had only reopened to visitors on May 18 after closing during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
O’Malley appealed to potential witnesses to report suspicious behavior in the days before the theft as well as anyone seeking to sell the stolen items.
As the curator of the Stonyhurst Collections, Jan Graffius oversees a vast assembly of Catholic martyrs’ relics at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, northwest England.
“The real value of items like Mary Stuart’s rosary cannot be measured in financial terms,” she said.