Who Stole Mary Queen of Scots' Rosary Beads?

·2 min read
Photo credit: Mila Tomsich - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mila Tomsich - Getty Images


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On May 21, Mary Queen of Scots' gold rosary was stolen from Arundel Castle in West Sussex England, along with several other valuable artifacts. The rosary beads, which Mary may have carried to her execution in 1587, are one of the few surviving artifacts left from the tragic royal. After her execution (a grisly affair in which the blade struck three times before successfully beheading her), most of Mary's possessions were destroyed to prevent her from becoming a Catholic martyr. Many believed that Mary, rather than her cousin Elizabeth I, was the rightful queen, a rift intensified by the tensions between the Catholic church (Mary) and the Protestant church (Elizabeth). Despite their close relationship—they wrote to each other frequently growing up and referred to each other as sister—Elizabeth kept Mary imprisoned for 18 years and their legendary rivalry continues to inspire TV shows, movies, and books, from HBO's Mary Queen of Scots to Netflix's Reign.

Photo credit: Epics - Getty Images
Photo credit: Epics - Getty Images

Although it is unclear how the rosary came to the Howard family, it has been in their possession since the 16th century and on display at Arundel Castle. The thieves broke in Friday evening, smashed the display case, and grabbed the rosary along with other silver and gold artifacts. Given the history of the items, they are of "immeasurably greater and priceless historical importance" than their actual materials. This is important to note because expensive goods are often melted down to prevent tracing the item. Historians are optimistic this won't be the case with the rosary because its value lies in provenance, not in costly jewels. The only leads police have reported so far is an abandoned car found on fire in a nearby village shortly after a robbery.

Will the rosary eventually turn up, like other royal jewels in history? Will it become a mystery like the art stolen from the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston? While we love a jewelry mystery, for history's sake we hope it is found soon.

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