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The Tudors And The Stuarts – Overview of the Royal Dynasty

(See Main Article: The Tudors – Overview of the Royal Dynasty)

The Tudors are one of the most remarkable dynasties in English history. Henry VII, of Welsh origin, successfully ended the Wars of Roses and founded the House of Tudor.  He, his son Henry VIII, and his three children Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I ruled for 118 eventful years.

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The Stuarts were the United Kingdom’s first kings. For the first time, two thrones were combined when King James VI of Scotland became also King James I of England.

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The Tudors – Society

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tudors society

Tudors society was steeped in the medieval tradition in England, yet it also embraced the changing social norms of early modern Europe. During the Tudor period people were grouped in a hierarchical system with the King at the top. The nearer to the top of the system you were, the richer you were. If you were born poor there was little chance of you becoming rich. People were taught by the church that their position in life was determined by God. However, it was through the church that some men who were born poor managed to become very rich and powerful indeed.

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This diagram shows the structure of Tudor society.

The Church

During the Tudor period the church was very powerful, owning large amounts of land. The people were very religious and attended church services. The church was able to control people’s lives by preaching what they wanted them to believe. During the reign of Henry VIII the church became less powerful as Henry made himself head of the church, dissolved the monasteries and confiscated their land.

Archbishops

Archbishops were very powerful. They owned large amounts of land and were very rich. They were able to influence the King or Queen and played a part in the government of the country. After the Reformation, Archbishops only remained powerful if they supported the monarch.

Bishops

The Bishops of the most important churches were rich and powerful, playing a part in the government of the country. After the Reformation they only remained in position if they supported their monarch.

Clergymen

Clergymen were poorly paid but were highly respected members of the community that they served. As well as delivering church services they were responsible for the education of those members of the community that could afford to pay, for visiting the sick and counseling the bereaved.

The King or Queen

The Tudor monarch was at the head of the social system. He or she was the richest person in the land, owning vast amounts of land and many palaces. Both rich and poor alike were bound to serve their monarch, failure to do so often resulted in death. The monarch made all the laws of the land and although there was a court system, few judges would dare to pass judgement against the King’s wishes. Until Henry VIII broke away from Rome (the Reformation) and formed the Church of England, Monarchs were subject to obey the Pope. The Tudor monarchs, with the exception of Henry VII, and Mary I who returned the Church to Rome, were head of the Church, the Judiciary and the Government.

Gentlemen

Gentlemen were born rich and came from families with titles – Barons, Earls and Dukes. Most owned large country estates and were often given important positions in government. The Monarch would visit his most notable subjects when he or she went on a progress and they would be expected to provide board and lodging for the King and his court. Sometimes this could be as many as 300 persons. If summoned to court a gentleman, or other member of his family, would have to leave their home and travel to London to be with the King.

Yeomen and Citizens

Both yeomen and citizens were fairly wealthy men. They were not born members of the gentry, but were rich enough to own their own houses and employ servants. Yeomen either owned their own land or rented land from gentlemen which they farmed. They were successful farmers and were rich enough to be able to afford labourers to do the heavy farming jobs for them. Citizens lived in the towns. They were rich merchants and craftsmen. Merchants made their living by trading goods with ship owners. Craftsmen were skilled men who could command a good price for the goods that they made.

Laborers

Labourers worked for Yeomen or citizens and were paid a wage for their work. Labourers were employed to do the heavy back-breaking jobs on the farms or in the craft shops. In 1515 an act was passed which fixed a labourers wage at 3d per day for winter months and 4d per day for summer months with bonuses to be paid at harvest time. A labourer could expect to work from sunrise to sunset in the winter and from sunrise to early evening in the summer. Sundays and major saint’s days were free. Skilled workers were to be paid 5d per day during the winter and 6d for summer days.

The Tudors – Monarchs

The Tudors monarchs reigned from 1485 until 1603. There were five crowned Tudor monarchs; Lady Jane Grey reigned as Queen for only nine days. The Tudor kings and queens were very powerful and they are noted for the numbers of people executed during the period.

 

The Tudors – Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots

(See Main Article: The Tudors – Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots)

Elizabeth I (1533-1603) became Queen of England in 1558 after her sister Mary died.

She was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and had had a troubled childhood. Her mother had been executed when she was three years old and her father had married four more times. The only constant person in her life was her nanny, Kat Ashley.

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Her father had separated the church from Rome and Elizabeth was a Protestant.

When Elizabeth’s sister Mary, a Catholic, came to the throne in 1553 she made England Catholic again and Elizabeth was put into the Tower of London so that she could not lead a Protestant rebellion against Mary and take her place on the throne.

When Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558 she made England Protestant. Consequently she had many Catholic enemies who wanted to see her replaced by Mary Queen of Scots. In 1558 Mary Queen of Scots, granddaughter of Henry VIII’s elder sister Margaret, had challenged Elizabeth for the throne of England, but had failed. The Catholics believed that because Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate in 1536, Mary’s challenge to the throne was stronger than Elizabeth’s.

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587) was the daughter of James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise. She became Queen of Scotland when she was six days old after her father died at the Battle of Solway Moss.

A marriage was arranged between Mary and Edward, only son of Henry VIII but was broken when the Scots decided they preferred an alliance with France. Mary spent a happy childhood in France and in 1558 married Francis, heir to the French throne. They became king and queen of France in 1559.

Sadly, Francis died in 1560 and Mary, not wanting to stay in France, returned to Scotland. During Mary’s absence, Scotland had become a Protestant country. The Protestants did not want Mary, a Catholic and their official queen, to have any influence.

In 1565 Mary married her cousin and heir to the English throne, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. The marriage was not a happy one. Darnley was jealous of Mary’s close friendship with her secretary, David Rizzio and in March 1566 had him murdered in front of Mary who was six months pregnant with the future James I. Darnley made many enemies among the Scottish nobles and in 1567 his house was blown up. Darnley’s body was found inside, he had been strangled.

Three months later Mary married the chief suspect, the Earl of Bothwell. The people of Scotland were outraged and turned against her. She was removed from the throne and fled to England. She appealed to Elizabeth for help and support, but Elizabeth, suspicious that she was going to raise Catholic support and take the throne of England, kept Mary a virtual prisoner for the next eighteen years.

In 1586 letters sent to Mary by a Catholic called Thomas Babington, were found. The letters revealed a plot to kill Elizabeth and replace her with Mary. Elizabeth had no choice but to sign Mary’s death warrant. Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle on February 8th 1587.

The Tudors – Discoverers and Explorers

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In the Tudor period Europeans began to explore the world more than ever before. Some of those who left their homeland and journeyed across the seas were looking for new lands and peoples to trade with, some were looking for better and quicker routes to China and India.

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) was an Italian explorer who, financed by the king and queen of Spain, set sail to find a new route to India.

He left Europe early in September 1492 and when land was sighted one month later he believed he had found India and named the native people living there, Indians.

Columbus had not reached India as he thought but had reached Central America. He claimed the land for Spain and from 1492 onwards Europeans began to settle in America. They called it the New World.

Ferdinand Magellan

Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) was a Portuguese explorer and the first sailor to sail all around the world.

He did not discover America because he sailed around the bottom of South America.

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Magellan also named the Pacific Ocean.

Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake (1545-1596) was a British explorer and navy captain. He was financed by Queen Elizabeth to discover lands and riches for England. Drake was the second man to sail all around the world and was knighted by the queen for his services to the country.

In 1588 he was one of the Captains that sailed to meet and defeat the Spanish Armada. It is a well known legend that he insisted on finishing a game of bowls before going to his ship.

Walter Raleigh

Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) was an adventurer and explorer who became one of queen Elizabeth’s favorites after putting down a rebellion in Ireland. Elizabeth gave him land and the position of captain of the Queen’s Guard.

Raleigh led an expedition to the New World and claimed North Carolina and Virginia for England. Virginia was named after Elizabeth who was known as the Virgin Queen because she never married.

In the New World Raleigh discovered potatoes and tobacco and brought them back to England.

While Raleigh had been in the New World Elizabeth had found herself a new favorite, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.

In 1592 Elizabeth found out that Raleigh had married one of her maids. She was very angry and put him into the Tower of London. When he was released three years later he left England for the New World in search of gold.

Walter Raleigh had always had enemies and after Elizabeth’s death they convinced James I that he did not support the king, a crime punishable by execution. Raleigh was not executed but was sent to the Tower of London where he spent his time writing. It is thought that his unfinished book ‘History of the World’ was written at this time.

In 1616 he was released from the Tower and once again set off to search for gold. However, while on his expedition he destroyed a Spanish town in the New World. The king of Spain was furious and demanded that Raleigh be punished. James decided to use the execution notice served on Raleigh in 1603. Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded at Whitehall in 1618.

The Tudors – The Spanish Armada

(See Main Article: The Tudors – The Spanish Armada)

Shortly after Elizabeth’s accession to the throne of England, in 1559, a peace treaty was signed between England, France and Spain bringing peace to Europe.

A typical Elizabethan galleon

Without the burden of having to pay for a war, England became prosperous and in 1568 Elizabeth used money to increase the size of the navy. The new ships that were built were faster and easier to steer than before.

At the end of the year the English navy seized a treasure ship bound for the Netherlands, which was controlled by Spain. Philip II of Spain was very cross and relations between England and Spain worsened.

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Francis Drake

Philip was also annoyed that Elizabeth had restored Protestantism in England. His anger with England increased further after Elizabeth knighted Francis Drake. The countries of Europe had an agreement that there would be free trade between them, Drake, however, preferred to trade privately and Philip saw Elizabeth’s knighthood of him as an insult to the free trade agreement and began to prepare for war.

After the Protestant leader of the Netherlands, William of Orange, was assassinated, Elizabeth provided Drake with a navy of 25 ships and told him to harass Spanish ships. The English sailor did as he was asked and took Spanish possessions from Colombia and Florida. Philip retaliated by seizing all English ships in Spanish ports.

Elizabeth allied England with the Protestant Dutch states who wanted freedom from Spain and sent an English army to assist them.

Philip made plans for a fleet of 130 Spanish ships to block the Channel and allow the Duke of Parma to invade England.

Mary Queen of Scots

When Elizabeth ordered the execution of Catholic Mary Queen of Scots in 1587, Philip increased the numbers of ships bound for England and planned an invasion force. Once again his plans were upset by Drake who managed to enter Spanish waters and burn large numbers of the ships bound for England.

The Armada set sail from Lisbon on May 28th 1588 but encountered storms and was forced to put in to the port of Corunna to make repairs. It was July 1588 before Philip’s Armada was ready to set sail again.

29th July 1588

The Armada under the control of Medina Sidonia, reached the western approaches to the English Channel. Warning beacons were lit all along the South Coast and the English navy was put to sea.

The English defending fleet, commanded by Lord Howard of Effingham, included ships captained by Drake, Frobisher and Hawkins. Effingham sailed in the ‘Ark Royal’, which had been built for Raleigh in 1581, while Drake captained ‘The Revenge’. However, instead of concentrating all his resources in the straits of Dunkirk as Philip had thought he would, Effingham stationed a large contingent at Plymouth to shield the south-west coast from a direct landing.

The story is told that Drake was playing a game of bowls when the Armada was sighted, but insisted on completing the game before setting sail.

Many of the Armada’s Captains favoured a direct assault on England, but Medina Sidonia’s orders strictly forbade this. The fleet therefore sailed on from the Lizard to Calais to meet the Duke of Parma. However, on reaching Calais, the Duke of Parma was not to be seen. The Armada dropped anchor to await his arrival.

armada route

Route taken by the Spanish Armada.

8th August 1588

At midnight, Howard sent eight fire ships into the congested Spanish ranks. Many Spanish Captains cut their cables in their haste to escape the flames. They blundered away from the blaze straight into the gunfire of the waiting English. Unfortunately for the Spanish, their firepower was vastly inferior to that of the English.

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A change of wind blew the Armada North out of the range of English fire. However, the wind became a gale, and the Spanish were driven further North and many were dashed on the Northern rocks. The survivors were forced to make their way around the Orkneys and down the Irish coast. The remains of the proud Armada limped home to Spain.

Defeated Spanish Armada

The Tudors – Elizabethan Poor Law 1601

(See Main Article: The Tudors – Elizabethan Poor Law 1601)

Before the Reformation it had always been considered Christian duty to carry out the instructions laid down in Matthew chapter 25 – that all Christians shall:

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Welcome the stranger
  • Clothe the naked
  • Visit the sick
  • Visit the prisoner
  • Bury the dead.

After the Reformation, many of these values disappeared and the poor were left without help. It became increasingly clear that something had to be done to help those who were genuinely in need, and something else had to be done about the increasing numbers of those who chose to beg and steal rather than work.

In 1552 Parish registers of poor were introduced. This meant that there was now an official register of poor in a parish.

In 1563 Justices of the Peace were given the power to raise funds to support the poor. Categories were also drawn up for the different types of poor and beggars that were found on the streets.

Deserving Poor This category was for those people who wanted to work but were unable to find suitable employment. These people were to be given help in the form of clothes, food or maybe money. (Outdoor Relief)

Or

Those who were too old, young or ill to work. These people were to be looked after in almshouses, orphanages, workhouses or hospitals. Orphans and children of the poor were to be given an apprenticeship to a tradesman. (Indoor Relief)

Undeserving Poor Also called idle beggars or sturdy beggars, this category was for those who could work but chose not to. They were to be whipped through the town until they learnt the error of their ways.

In 1572 it was made compulsory that all people pay a local poor. The funds raised were to help the deserving poor.

In 1597 It was made law that every district have an Overseer of the Poor. The overseer had to do the following things:

  • Work out how much money would be needed for the numbers of poor in that district and set the poor rate accordingly
  • Collect the poor rate from property owners
  • Relieve the poor by dispensing either food or money
  • Supervise the parish poor house

In 1601 An act of Parliament called The Poor Law was passed by Parliament. The Act brought together all the measures listed above into one legal document.

The Stuarts- Interesting Facts on the First Kings of the United Kingdom

(See Main Article: The Stuarts- Interesting Facts on the First Kings of the United Kingdom)

The Stuarts were the United Kingdom’s first kings. For the first time, two thrones were combined when King James VI of Scotland became also King James I of England.

Click here to see more posts in this category. Scroll down to see more articles about the history of Stuarts.

Tudor and Stuart Timeline

The Tudor and Stuart Monarchs and some of the main events of their reigns

Why is Guy Fawkes Celebrated?

Also known as Bonfire Night or Firework Night, Guy Fawkes is celebrated every year on the 5th of November in England (and some other countries). The history of Guy Fawkes dates back to 1605, when a group of Catholic extremists planned to assassinate King James I and hopefully get a catholic monarch on the throne. Guy Fawkes was the unfortunate soul who was put in charge of guarding the explosives that they have placed underneath the House of Lords. He was discovered and arrested, bringing an end to the Gunpowder plot and saving the king’s life. To celebrate the fact that their King survived an attempt to kill him, people lit bonfires all over London. A couple of months after the incident, the “Observance of 5th November Act” was passed as an annual public holiday.

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Interesting Facts about Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes has been celebrated for over 400 years already, although Guy was not the main conspirator. Legend has it that the word, “guy” actually used to mean “ugly and repulsive,” after the name of Guy Fawkes. After years frequent use, it lost the negative connotation and just became a synonym for “man.” The 2,500kg gunpowder stashed beneath the House of Lords had the potential of causing damage in a 500 meter radius, according to the estimates of physicists.

The Stuarts – The Pilgrim Fathers

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487px-Sir_Walter_Ralegh_by_'H'_monogrammist.jpg

When James I came to the throne, he adopted a moderate Protestant religious policy. Both Catholics and Puritans were forbidden to practice their religions. Many extreme Puritans left England for Holland where Puritanism was accepted.

In 1607 Walter Raleigh had founded the colony of Virginia in America and a number of English companies had begun trading tobacco and other products between the colony and England.

One stock company, anxious to protect their business interests in Virginia recruited 35 members of the radical, Puritan, English Separatist Church, who had fled to Holland. The stock company agreed to finance the voyage for them and in return they would look after the company’s business in Virginia. Other Puritans keen to start a new life in America joined the voyage.

Mayflower sets sail

The Mayflower left the port of Southampton in August 1620 but was forced to put into Plymouth for repairs. The 102 passengers and 30 crew eventually left Plymouth for America on 16th September 1620 and steered a course for Virginia. The ship was a double-decked, three-masted vessel and initially the voyage went well but then storms blew up which blew them off course.

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Land was sighted on November 9th and anchor was dropped. A landing party of sixteen men left the ship on November 15th but failed to find a suitable site to establish a settlement. They set sail again and resumed their search. On December 17th they reached Plymouth Harbour and dropped anchor.

On December 21st the first of the Pilgrim Fathers set foot on what would become Plymouth settlement. The harsh winter weather meant that they were unable to build adequate shelter and many of the travellers died during that first winter. Those that survived the winter went on to build houses and defences. In the late spring of 1621 a native American Samoset Indian offered to show the settlers how to farm the land and become self-sufficient if the men would help them fight a rival tribe. The settlers agreed and the Plymouth settlement flourished.

The Pilgrim Fathers

The Stuarts and Their Monarchs: 1603 – 1714

(See Main Article: The Stuarts and Their Monarchs: 1603 – 1714)

The first English monarch of the Stuarts, James I of England and VI of Scotland, succeeded to the throne of England when Elizabeth I died. He was the son of Mary Queen of Scots by her second husband Lord Darnley, and great-great grandson of Henry VIII’s sister Margaret.

In all there were seven monarchs among the Stuarts: James I, Charles I, Charles II, James II, William III and Mary II Anne. The period from 1649 to 1660 was an interregnum (time without a monarch), that saw the development of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell.

James I (1603 – 1625)

James I

The accession of James VI of Scotland as James I of England, united the countries of England and Scotland under one monarch for the first time.

James believed in the Divine Right of Kings – that he was answerable to God alone and could not be tried by any court. He forbade any interpretation of church doctrine different to his own and made Sunday Church-going compulsory. Catholics were not allowed to celebrate Mass and he refused to listen to Puritan demands for church reform, instead authorising use of the King James Bible that is still in existence today.

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James I also introduced English and Irish Protestants into Northern Ireland through the Ulster Plantation scheme and tried to keep England at peace with the rest of Europe. Although he was a clever man, his choice of favourites alienated Parliament and he was not able to solve the country’s financial or political problems. When he died in 1625 the country was badly in debt.

Charles I (1625 – 1649)

Charles I

(See Main Article: The Stuarts – Charles I – The Slide to Civil War)

Charles I came to the throne after his father’s death. He did not share his father’s love of peace and embarked on war with Spain and then with France. In order to fight these wars he needed Parliament to grant him money. However, Parliament was not happy with his choice of favourites, especially the Duke of Buckingham and made things difficult for him.

In 1629 he dismissed Parliament and decided to rule alone for the next 11 years. Like his father he also believed in the Divine Right of Kings and he upset his Scottish subjects, many of whom were Puritans, by insisting that they follow the same religion as his English subjects. The result was the two Bishops Wars (1639-1640) Charles’ financial state had worsened to such a degree that he had no choice but to recall a Parliament whose condemnation of his style of rule would lead the country to Civil War and Charles I to his execution in 1649.

Interregnum Oliver Cromwell (1649 – 1658)

Oliver Cromwell

In 1649, Oliver Cromwell took the title Lord Protector of the newly formed republic in England, known as the Commonwealth. His parliament consisted of a few chosen supporters and was not popular either at home or abroad.

Cromwell disliked the Irish Catholics and, on the pretence of punishment for the massacre of English Protestants in 1641, he lay siege to the town of Drogheda in 1649 and killed most of its inhabitants. Having conquered Ireland he declared war on the Netherlands – England’s greatest trade rival. He went on to establish colonies in Jamaica and the West Indies.

Although he faced opposition from those who supported Charles I’s son, Charles II, as the rightful King, (especially the Scots), Oliver Cromwell succeeded in establishing a sound reputation for the Commonwealth by the time of his death in 1658. He was succeeded by his son Richard, who had no wish to rule.

Cromwell’s opponents were easily able to overthrow him and after a period of anarchy the monarchy was restored with the accession of Charles II.

Charles II (1660 – 1685)

Charles II

After the execution of his father in 1649, Charles assumed the title Charles II of England, and was formally recognised as King of Scotland and Ireland.

In 1651 he led an invasion into England from Scotland to defeat Cromwell and restore the monarchy. He was defeated and fled to France where he spent the next eight years.

In 1660 he was invited, by parliament, to return to England as King Charles II. This event is known as the Restoration.

He is known as the ‘Merry Monarch’ because of his love of parties, music and the theatre and his abolishment of the laws passed by Cromwell that forbade music and dancing.

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Charles was extravagant with money and was forced to marry Portuguese Catherine of Braganza for the large dowry she would bring. He continued to have money problems and allied England with France, a move that led to war with the Dutch and the acquisition of New Amsterdam (now New York) for England. Charles II died in 1685.

James II (1685 – 1688)

James II

James II succeeded his brother Charles to the throne. After the Restoration he had served as Lord High Admiral until he announced his conversion to Roman Catholicism and was forced to resign.

He succeeded despite the passing of the Test Acts in 1673 (which barred all Roman Catholics from holding official positions in Great Britain) and the efforts of Parliament to have him by-passed. The Duke of Monmouth immediately mounted an uprising against James II but it was crushed and a series of treason trials known as the Bloody Assizes followed. The Lord Chief Justice, George Jeffreys, sentenced more than 300 people to death and had another 800 forcibly sold into slavery.

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The Bloody Assizes led to an increasing number of calls for James to be replaced by his son-in-law, William of Orange and in 1688 the Dutchman was invited to take the English throne. William’s subsequent invasion of England and accession to the throne is known as The Glorious Revolution. James fled to France where he lived until his death in 1701.

William III  (1688 – 1702) and Mary II (1688 -1694)

William III and Mary II

William III and his wife Mary II (daughter of James II), were proclaimed joint sovereigns of England in 1688 following the Glorious Revolution. They were accepted by Scotland the following year, but Ireland, which was mainly Catholic, remained loyal to James II. William led an army into Ireland and James was defeated at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Mary II died in 1694 and William ruled alone until his death in 1702.

Queen Anne (1702 – 1714)

Queen Anne

Queen Anne was the sister of Mary II and was married to Prince George of Denmark. She was a committed Protestant and supported the Glorious Revolution that deposed her father and replaced him with her sister and brother-in-law. In 1707 the Act of Union formally united the Kingdoms of England and Scotland. She was the last monarch of the Stuarts, as none of her eighteen children survived beyond infancy.

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