Chimneys and fires

the merchants house (Circa 1558) Avoncroft nr Bromsgrove: Photo by Ruth 1066 on Flickr : click image

The black and white appearance of housing has become very closely associated with the Tudor period – arguably it is the most widely recognised architectural style – in the world?

Perhaps this is why the header image at the top of ‘Tudor Stuff’ shows such a building (actually it is the side of Anne Hathaway’s cottage). As will be discussed on this blog at a later date, this association may not be completely accurate. However, in this post I decided to look at other features of period architecture.

Tudors by the fire by Ruth1066 on Flickr : Click image


In previous times, homes would burn wood on open fires in the middle of the house. The smoke from this was vented through an opening in the roof. Take a look at the picture at the top of this post – the Merchants house at Avoncroft museum. This house which was built in approximately 1558 did not have a chimney – note the opening on the left hand side of the roof.

As coal use became more widespread the need for chimneys to take away the increased smoke became necessary. Also, anyone who has ever tried to light a coal fire will know that the downdraft from the chimney is really important in getting the fire going.

At this time, a lot of land and property was passing from religious institutions to a new class of wealthy landowner. Many of these people built large houses and an important reason for these houses was to show off wealth and prestige. One way of doing this was to incorporate lots of chimneys into the design – coal was still relatively scarce & this was a way of demonstrating wealth.


Fire was an ever-present risk – especially amidst closely packed timber and thatched houses. Although some areas required people to have a bucket on standby, there was little in the way of fire fighting equipment or organisation.

In the long winters nights people would have gathered around the fire, partly for the warmth but also because this would have been one of the main sources of light.

A lot of superstitions grew up around fire – for example coals burning in a hollow heap is a sign that a parting is soon to occur. Cinders flying from the fire might mean a birth was to take place whereas in other areas it was the custom to spit on cinder – if it crackled this meant wealth was on the way.


Many of the chimneys in this period feature extravagant brickwork – brick making and layingbecame well recognised crafts during the Tudor period.

On big projects, bricks were made on site by specialist craftsmen. The bricks produced had a tendency to vary in size – necessitating quite thick layers of mortar to straighten things out.

In places bricks were deliberately discoloured to make elaborate patterns when laid – as can be seen in this example from Hampton Court.

decorated tudor brickwork by rabinal on flickr (click image)

decorated tudor brickwork by rabinal on flickr (click image)

If anyone knows of any good examples of Tudor structures & especially if there are any good pictures  then please let me know – I would happily make some space on the blog for them.




elizabeth death bed


In the spring of 1603, Elizabeth had been Queen for 44 years, and it was clear she would die without an heir. Robert Devereux (1566-1601) had been executed on Tower Green on 25th February 1601, and this appears to have had a huge impact on Elizabeth who is reported to have missed him a great deal.  Some writers say she may have feared she was losing her hold on state affairs.  Elizabeth must have felt very much alone as many of the men she had loved, and who had shared her life, had gone.

March 1603 – the Queen is fading

In March 1603 Elizabeth was described as being unwell and seemed depressed.   She took up residence in one of her favourite palaces – Richmond – close to the River Thames.   She refused to allow herself to be examined, and she refused take to her bed – standing for hours on end.  As her condition deteriorated her ladies-in-waiting spread cushions on the floor, and Elizabeth eventually lay down on them.  The painting shown below depicts this scene beautifully.  Elizabeth lay on the floor for nearly four days – mostly without speaking.

The death of Queen Elizabeth 1st : Paul Delaroche (1828)

The death of Queen Elizabeth 1st : Paul Delaroche (1828)

She grew weaker and weaker until her servants insisted on making her more comfortable in her bed.   Elizabeth’s Councillors gathered around her bed, and it is said that gentle music was played to soothe her.

Cause of death?

Elizabeth had not named yet named a successor, but she made a sign to Robert Cecil which he took to be an indication that she wished James to succeed her to the throne. Death finally came on 24 March 1603, and she is said to have yielded ‘mildly like a lamb, easily like a ripe apple from the tree’.

Elizabeth was buried without post mortem so the cause of her death remains unknown. She is generally believed to have died of blood poisoning, possibly caused by her white make-up – ceruse – a mixture of white lead and vinegar; the lead in the make up being highly poisonous. It is also possible that she simply died of old age.

At her funeral on 28 April, the coffin was taken to Westminster Abbey on a hearse drawn by four horses hung with black velvet

At her funeral on 28 April, the coffin was taken to Westminster Abbey on a hearse drawn by four horses hung with black velvet

Elizabeth’s body was embalmed and laid in state in a lead coffin at Whitehall – having been carried from Richmond to Whitehall at night on a barge lit with torches.  On the day of her funeral on 28 April the coffin was taken to Westminster Abbey on a hearse drawn by four horses robed in black velvet. In the words of the chronicler John Stow:

“Westminster was surcharged with multitudes of all sorts of people in their streets, houses, windows, leads and gutters, that came out to see the obsequy, and when they beheld her statue lying upon the coffin, there was such a general sighing, groaning and weeping as the like hath not been seen or known in the memory of man”

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Over one thousand official mourners joined the funeral procession; and this crowd was swelled by the many Londoners who watched the procession go by. The coffin was covered with a purple velvet cloth, purple signifying royalty. The coffin was covered by a large canopy which was held by six Knights of the Realm. On top of the coffin was placed an effigy of Elizabeth, as she would have appeared dressed in the finest of clothes. The effigy was so life-like it made onlookers gasp. The chief mourners were all dressed in black – in cloth which varied according to their rank.

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This long procession wound its way to Westminster Abbey where Elizabeth was first buried in the vault of her grandfather, King Henry VII.  Her successor, James I, erected the large white marble monument to her memory in the north aisle of the Lady Chapel at a cost of £1485, and her body was moved to it in 1606. Elizabeth I was the last monarch buried in the Abbey to have a monument erected above her.





Autumn pathway by littlespelk on Flickr - (Click image)

Autumn pathway by littlespelk on Flickr - (Click image)

As I have been driving around the last few weeks I have noticed how fantastic the  autumn colours are this year. I was trying to think of a reason to get a hint of the autumn into a Tudor Stuff post. I had also been trying to thing of a good reason to add a few more of the great pictures I have seen on Flickr. This post then is the result of my looking for the best Tudor related autumn photos that I can find.

So, in no particular order here are my choices.

First up is Autumn pathway (top of post) by ‘littlespelk’ from North Yorkshire – this is a lovely image that has had over 750 views on Flickr & has drawn a lot of attention and comment.  Quick quiz time (no prizes) – where was it taken?

Secondly is a picture entitled ‘Dovecote, Athelhampton’ which was taken by ‘Gazzat’ from Somerset. According to the photographer this house is appearing in the film ‘From time to time’ which is currently being filmed.

Dovecote, Athelhampton by Gazzat on Flickr

Dovecote, Athelhampton by Gazzat on Flickr

This picture (below) features a place not far from where I live and is one that we have featured previously on Tudor Stuff (see here and here). This is a photograph of a little church in the grounds of Coughton Court.

St Peter Church, Coughton by Arden 58 on Flickr

St Peter Church, Coughton by Arden 58 on Flickr

The next picture to catch my eye was this shot (below) of Upnor Castle in the Medway, Kent.  This atmospheric image was taken by ‘Olddanb’. Apparently, Upnor castle was built during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the first to protect shipping in the Medway.

Upnor Castle by olddannb on Flickr

Upnor Castle by 'olddannb' on Flickr

The picture below is by a photographer who calls himself ‘Flash of light’ on Flickr ( we have used his work before).  I love looking at landscape photography, I have even occasionally managed to take a decent photo. This guy however, consistently takes wonderful photos – if you get a minute have a look at his work on Flickr or on his website, it is well worth the effort.

River Severn, Autumn by Flash of light on Flickr

River Severn, Autumn by Flash of light on Flickr

The last two photos are part of a collection posted on Flickr by Steve Ward ‘Swardy’.  He has taken some photos of Packwood House – another local (to me anyway)  Tudor house and one that is shortly to get it’s own Tudor Stuff post. I could easily have used all of his photos for this post but settled on just two examples  – take a look at his other photos on Flickr and you will see why I had a hard time choosing.

Side of the House - Swardy on Flickr

Side of the House - Swardy on Flickr

To complement the last image of this post I have included Shakespeare’s sonnet 104 which has an appropriate theme:

To me, fair Friend, you never can be old,

For as you were when first your eye I eyed

Such seems your beauty still. Three winters’ cold

Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride;

Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d

In process of the seasons have I seen,

Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d,

Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.

Ah! yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,

Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived;

So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,

Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived:

For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred,

Ere you were born, was beauty’s summer dead.

More Autumn leaves Swardy (again)

More Autumn leaves Swardy (again)

To end with I decided to add a distinctly un-Tudor but appropriate video from You Tube. By the way – if you know of any better autumnal Tudor photos just let me know.



Ingram Frizer - killed Marlowe in self defence?

The Elizabethan period produced many characters whose names live on for their creative genius. One of these was the poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe (See these earlier posts about Marlowe here & here) As well as being famous for his writing, Marlowe had also achieved notoriety. In the summer of 1589 he was involved in a sword fight in which a man was killed, he had previously been accused of forgery, blasphemy and having unorthodox religious views – on top of all this he was suspected to be homosexual.

St Nicholas Church, Deptford taken by Robot in Catford (Click image)

That Marlowe was stabbed to death in a house in Deptford London is a well known fact. However, the circumstances surrounding this death have been the subject of much debate.

A great reckoning in a little room (As you like it: Shakespeare)

The official story is that on the evening of May 31st 1593 Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer in a house in Deptford, London. Also present were two other men, Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley. Over the course of the day the four men had met, eaten and played backgammon. Following a walk in the garden they had returned to the room when an argument broke out over the bill to be paid.

Ingram Frizer was sitting at a table between Poley and Skeres when Marlowe, who had been lying on a bed, suddenly jumped up, snatched Frizer’s dagger and hit him on the head with the pommel (apparently this is where the term to ‘pummel’ comes from). Frizer sustained several cuts to his head from this attack. In the ensuing struggle Frizer managed to force the dagger from Marlowe who received a fatal wound to his right eye, according to the inquest;

“the said Ingram, in defence of his life, with the dagger aforesaid of the value of twelve pence, gave the said Christopher a mortal wound above his right eye, of the depth of two inches and of the width of one inch”

At the inquest, Frizer’s plea of self-defence was accepted by the coroner. Marlowe, at the time one of the literary greats of Elizabethan England was buried on the 1st of June 1593 in St Nicolas’s church in Deptford. Although the church is still there, the exact site of Marlowe’s burial is unknown.

In a time where people routinely carried weapons such as daggers and swords it is perhaps no surprise that occasionally these got used. Certainly at the time it seems to have been accepted that Marlowe’s death was simply the result of a drunken argument. However, over the years a great deal of suspicion has grown up about what actually happened that night. Although Marlowe is known primarily as a poet and playwright there was another, less public side to his life.

Deptford Strand 1623. Detail taken from map on Wikimedia commons: Click image

Deptford Strand 1623. Detail taken from map on Wikimedia commons: Click image

Undercover work and connections

It is agreed that Marlowe did perform some kind of undercover work which took him away from his Cambridge studies during 1585. This was probably for the spy master Walsingham and probably involved him in spying upon Catholic sympathisers. At this time, Cambridge was the focus of government suspicion because of concerns about students being drawn to outlawed Catholic circles. A secret recruitment network for dissident priests had been established there and the authorities were keen to gather as much information as possible about secretive Catholic activities. When Marlowe left Cambridge in 1597 it seems likely that he would have maintained his undercover contacts and also perhaps the undercover work?

Christopher Marlowe?

Christopher Marlowe?

Over the years many questions have been asked about the men who were with Marlowe at his death, Nicolas Skeres, Ingram Frizer and Robert Poley. All of these men have been linked to the murky world of Elizabethan espionage.

Both Frizer and Skeres had previously been in trouble for fraud. Nicholas Skeres had identified himself as a servant of the Earl of Essex at an earlier court hearing whilst Frizer was in the service of Walsingham. Robert Poley was also a Walsingham employee and had played an important role in the betrayal of the Babington plot conspirators. Another connection to the authorities can be found in the house owner, Eleanor Bull who was a (fairly distant) relative of Lord Burghley.

A fatal argument – or something more sinister?

Although the official investigation suggested that Marlowe’s death resulted from a drunken fight amongst acquaintances it seems certain that things are not so simple. As we have seen, it is a fact that all of the participants in Marlowe’s death can be linked to the world of espionage as well as to powerful (and ruthless) players in this game. Was Marlowe deliberately killed though? In his book (The Elizabethan Secret Services), Alan Haynes concluded that a political assassination was unlikely ‘even in that gloomy decade’ – why not simply lock him up if the authorities wanted to silence him?

In contrast, Charles Nichol comes to a slightly different conclusion in his book about Marlowe’s death. In Nichol’s carefully researched and argued account he concludes that the purpose of the meeting was to try and secure Marlowe’s co-operation – and failing this, to silence him forever.  Marlowe had fallen foul of the powerful Earl of Essex and the meeting was an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Marlowe to be a bit more compliant – there could be only one outcome, a political murder.

The Marlowe society takes a different view however and you are recommended to check this out here

It is hardly surprising that a lot of stories have been told about this incident, it is also understandable that the story may have grown in the telling. Imagine the fuss if something like this were to happen today – not only a famous poet and playwright stabbed to death but also a secret service connection – what would the media and the blogosphere make of that!

According to Hilary Mantel there are many references to Marlowe’s fate throughout the works of Shakespeare. Apparently the first part of Act 3 in Romeo and Juliet refers to the circumstances of his death.

Live by the sword – die by the sword?

To me it seems likely that the old saying ‘live by the sword – die by the sword’ applies to Marlowe. Given his history of unconventional beliefs and behaviour as well as the dangerous company he was keeping, it does not seem so very surprising that he met his death in the manner that he did. Despite there being many gaps in our knowledge of his life it is clear that his 29 years were surprisingly eventful and one can only wonder about what he would have achieved had he lived longer.

If you want to read more about the life and death of Marlowe then I strongly recommend ‘The Reckoning’ by Charles Nicholl.  I have already mentioned Alan Haynes’ book about the Elizabethan secret services which devotes a chapter to the death of Marlowe.

Marlowes burial place taken by Boats & Bees on Flickr (Click image)

Marlowe's burial place taken by Boats & Bees on Flickr (Click image)


The Marlowe society website

Thanks to Lee Durkee for advice about the correct size ruff for ‘Ingram Frizer’

Thanks also to James O’Hanlon for agreeing to appear as Ingram Frizer.



Saxon Gold

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We hope you will forgive us for straying from the Tudor theme of the blog to write about the wonderful discovery of a huge hoard of Anglo Saxon gold near our home city of Birmingham.  The find, the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found, is believed to date back to the Seventh Century.  It contains around 5kg of Gold and 2.5kg of silver, far bigger than the famous find at the Sutton Hoo burial site.

A Staffordshire field.

Amazingly the gold was not unearthed due to careful historical research – rather it was found by a 55-year-old Staffordshire metal detectorist called Tony Herbert, as he searched a field near his home with his 14-year-old metal detector.  He had been a keen metal detector for 18 years, and I find it hard to imagine how excited he must have been to unearth such awe-inspiring treasures.

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Spirits of yesteryear.

He said: “I have this phrase that I say sometimes; ‘spirits of yesteryear take me where the coins appear’, but on that day I changed coins to gold.  I don’t know why I said it that day, but I think somebody was listening, and directed me to it.  Maybe it was meant to be, maybe the gold had my name on it all along, I don’t know.  My mates at the (metal detecting) club always say if there is a gold coin in a field I will be the one to find it. I dread to think what they’ll say when they hear about this.”

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Warlike items.

Many of the items in the hoard are warfare paraphernalia, including sword pommel caps and hilt plates, often inlaid with precious stones.  The seven warring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms comprised Wessex, Essex, East Anglia, Northumbria, Mercia, Sussex and Kent. The Mercians dominated the middle of the country, below the Humber and down to London – where we live in Birmingham is in the middle of Mercia.  The hoard points back towards a time of war, and also of great wealth, at least for those with political power.  There is biblical slogan etched along a strip of golden banding on one of the pieces.  It reads,

“Rise up, O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face.”

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The gold points back to the time of the writing of the great Anglo Saxon poem Beowulf. There is a theory that Beowulf was Mercian in origin, and is about the mindset of these aristocratic warriors.  I find these lines send a shiver up my spine!  The translation from Old English is by Seamus Heaney.

A newly constructed

barrow stood waiting, on a wide headland

close to the waves, its entryway secured.

Into it the keeper of the hoard had carried

all the goods and golden ware

worth preserving. His words were few:

“Now, earth, hold what earls once held

and heroes can no more; it was mined from you first

by honourable men. My own people

have been ruined in war; one by one

they went down to death, looked their last

on sweet life in the hall. I am left with nobody

to bear a sword or burnish plated goblets,

put a sheen on the cup. The companies

have departed.

The hard helmet, hasped with gold,

will be stripped of its hoops; and the


who should polish the metal of the

war-mask sleeps;

the coat of mail that came through all fights,

through shield-collapse and cut of sword,

decays with the warrior. Nor may webbed mail

range far and wide on the warlord’s back

beside his mustered troops. No trembling harp,

no tuned timber, no tumbling hawk

swerving through the hall, no swift horse

pawing the courtyard. Pillage and slaughter

have emptied the earth of entire peoples.”


tudors photo

Where her fair breasts at liberty were let,

Whose violet veins in branched riverets flow,

And Venus’ swans and milky doves were set

Upon those swelling mounts of driven snow;

(Excerpt from ‘Mortimer and Queen Isabella at Nottingham castle’ by Michael Drayton 1563 -1631)

‘Her breasts were naked for the day was hot’

(Excerpt from ‘Armida entertains Rinaldo’ by Edward Fairfax d 1635)

In the previous post about Tudor boobs I had wanted to include a photograph I had seen of a short-lived fashion trend  from London in the 1960’s. I clearly remember having seen a woman photographed in the street wearing a dress which exposed her breasts. Sadly, I couldn’t find it – as you can imagine, a Google search for ‘woman’ and ‘breasts exposed’ manages plenty of hits! ( 9,610,000 last count) – unfortunately it wasn’t a very good way of researching my blog post.


I still keep noticing good examples of this trend for breast exposure in the Tudor period – I found this example (below) the other day in the Roxburghe ballads accompanied by ‘Celia’An excellent Ballad of a Prince of England's Courtship to the King of Frances Daughter, and how the Prince was disasterously slain ; and how the aforesaid Princess was afterwards married to a Forrester.

Come, my CELIA, let us prove,
While we may, the sports of love ;
Time will not be ours for ever :
He at length our good will sever.
Spend not then his gifts in vain.
Suns that set, may rise again:
But if once we lose this light,
‘Tis with us perpetual night.
Why should we defer our joys ?
Fame and rumor are but toys.
Cannot we delude the eyes
Of a few poor household spies ;
Or his easier ears buguile,
So removed by our wile ?
‘Tis no sin love’s fruit to steal,
But the sweet theft to reveal :
To be taken, to be seen,
These have crimes accounted been.

Come, my CELIA, let us prove,

While we may, the sports of love ;

Time will not be ours for ever :

He at length our good will sever.

Spend not then his gifts in vain.

Suns that set, may rise again:

But if once we lose this light,

‘Tis with us perpetual night.

Why should we defer our joys ?

Fame and rumor are but toys.

Cannot we delude the eyes

Of a few poor household spies ;

Or his easier ears beguile,

So removed by our wile ?

‘Tis no sin love’s fruit to steal,

But the sweet theft to reveal :

To be taken, to be seen,

These have crimes accounted been.

A mystery solved!


As mentioned at the top of the post I was no closer to finding out who it was in the original 1960’s photo until I happened to chance across it in an unexpected place.

I was lucky enough to have seen the Clash when they came to The Top Rank Suite in Dale End, Birmingham (about 1978 I think)I have been a fan ever since.  The first Clash album is one of my favourites and I especially like the song ‘Janie Jones’  which is one of the best songs on it.

I have always played the guitar – excruciatingly badly I admit – but it keeps me happy. I was trying to play ‘Janie Jones’ and decided to look up the chords on-line , I also wondered why the song was called Janie Jones and looked that up too.

I came across this website telling the story of Janie Jones, who was a London Madam, pop star and friend to the Clash. Check out her 1965 single ‘Witches brew’ and notice the picture that is 8 seconds in.

Mystery solved! – this is the photo of Janie taken as she attended the 1964 premiere of the film ‘London in the raw’  – this is the image I recall seeing on TV sometime in the past.

So – for the first ( & possibly last) time ever I have an excuse to put a Clash video on a blog about the Tudors! This is a video from 1977 – around the time that I saw them, what a great band and what a great front man Joe Strummer was –

RIP Joe.

He’s in love with rocknroll woaahh
Hes in love with gettin stoned woaahh
Hes in love with janie jones
But he dont like his boring job, no…

An he knows what hes got to do
So he knows hes gonna have fun with you
You lucky lady!
An he knows when the evening comes
When his job is done hell be over in his car for you

An in the in-tray lots of work
But the boss at the firm always thinks he shirks
But hes just like everyone, hes got a ford cortina
That just wont run without fuel
Fill her up, jacko!

An the invoice it dont quite fit,
Theres no payola in his alphabetical file
This time hes gonna really tell the boss
Gonna really let him know exactly how he feels
Its pretty bad!




This post continues the Civil war theme of last week with a look at how the musket was used and also what might happen if a person was hit.

Maintaining a constant rate of fire.

As you can see from the previous post, firing the gun was not an easy process. An experienced person might manage just under 3 shots a minute but the rate of fire would most often be about one shot every 30 seconds. In order to maintain a constant volley of fire, groups of musketeers were arranged in ranks. Whilst the person at the front would be firing, the three people behind would be re-loading. As the first person discharged his gun he would retreat to the back of the line and begin re-loading,  the gunner at the front would then fire before returning to the back to load again. In this way the gunners would advance across the battlefield towards the enemy lines – firing more or less continually.

Comparison with the longbow.

Before this period the English longbow was the most feared weapon on the battlefield. It is interesting to note that the longbow has a longer useful range  than the more technologically advanced musket. It is estimated that a longbow could shoot an arrow up to at least 180 yards – compared to 70 to 100 yards for the musket. There is an idea that the musket was used because it was easier and quicker to train someone to use it. Another idea is that the longbow simply fell out of fashion – eventually there were less people who could use them in battle.

The Musket ball and it’s effectiveness.

12 bore musket ball

12 bore musket ball

This is a 12 bore musket ball and it measures about 3/4 of an inch in diameter. The term ‘bore’ comes from the number of balls that can be made from a pound of lead. It is possible to make 12 of these balls from a pound of lead. Sixteen bore shot was also commonly made i.e. 16 smaller balls from a pound of lead.

As stated in the last post test firing has revealed these guns to be much more accurate than expected but what effect did they have ?

It is generally thought that at up to a range of 30 yards the ball would go straight through a man. At a greater range it would still be enough to cause very significant injuries. At this time,  any serious wound would be almost certainly prove to be fatal. In his excellent book about the Civil War, Trevor Royle describes the death of a soldier called Gabriel Ludlow who was  wounded in the battle of Marston Moor

his belly broken and bowels torn, his hip bone broken, all the shivers and the bullet lodged in it’

Of course,  for poor Gabriel and thousands of others like him there was little chance of survival. The wound would have fragments of cloth and dirt driven into it, although not immediately fatal,  it would certainly become septic quite soon – causing a prolonged and painful death to the victim.

Just in case all this hasn’t put you off why not learn to be a Musketeer yourself?

(This is the second of a two part post – see also ‘Musket’



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