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The Tudors: Season One, Episode Two

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

There is a lot going on in this episode, which covers the Field of the Cloth of Gold, the arrest and execution of the Duke of Buckingham, the birth of Henry Fitzroy, and the affair between Henry VIII and Mary Boleyn. I am going to focus on a few points there were either accurate or inaccurate about this episode.

I became very distracted at the Field of the Cloth of Gold by the actions of Charles Brandon. This event happened at Calais in June of 1520. I will go more into the difference between the historical Brandon and the fictional one in future episodes, but at this time he was not some roaming stud looking for French women. Why not? Because he was married to Henry’s sister, Mary, in 1515, and she didn’t die until 1533. I went into this in the first post, but for me it was just hard to move past while I was watching.

While in France, King Francis I points out Mary Boleyn to Henry, and calls her his “English Mare,” because he “rides her so often.” Henry becomes jealous that a member of his court is sleeping with Francis, and sends for her himself, beginning an affair with her. Mary may have been Francis’ mistress, but she did not become Henry’s mistress at Calais. She had returned to England in 1519, when she was married to William Carey, and was in the household of Queen Katherine. We don’t know when she became Henry’s mistress, but estimates have their affair starting in 1521, after the summit. Later in the episode, Henry tosses her away seemingly out of nowhere- “leave.” In reality their affair ended sometime between 1524 and 1526, though since it was never publicized we do not know the exact date. We do know that it was longer than a few months. We know there was a relationship because when Henry petitioned the pope for a dispensation to marry Anne Boleyn in 1527, the reason that was given as to why a dispensation was needed was Henry’s familial knowledge of her sister. And we all know how that turned out…

When they all return to England, Henry is furious because Charles V of Spain has been named the Holy Roman Emporer. This is out of the timeline. In reality Charles was made Emporer in 1519, a year before the summit.

As well, when they return to England Bessie Blount gives birth to Henry Fitzroy, the king’s bastard son. This is juxtaposed against the treason of Buckingham, as the noblemen are giving Henry his Christmas gifts when she is in labor. The real Fitzroy was born in June of 1519, a year prior to the summit in Calais. In comparison, the Duke of Buckingham was executed in 1521, which is shown later in the show, and seems to be in the correct time.

One of the biggest errors that drives me nuts is the interaction between Charles Brandon and Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, when Brandon presents him with his father’s ring and makes a vague threat against him and his son’s futures if he fails to give the verdict of guilty against Buckingham. Norfolk says that his father was executed by Henry VII. There were two Thomas Howards that were the Dukes of Norfolk, the 2nd and the 3rd Dukes, father and son. Because Anne Boleyn later calls him “Uncle,” this makes him the 3rd Duke of Norfolk. It was the 2nd Duke who presided over Buckingham’s trial, and it was the last thing he did before retiring from court.

So here are the actual facts- The 1st Duke of Norfolk, John Howard, died at Bosworth in 1485. It was his death that may have pushed Richard III into his “suicide run.” His son, the 2nd Duke, was restored to the peerage by Henry VII, and died in 1524. This was Anne Boleyn’s grandfather, the father of her mother. The 3rd Duke was Thomas Howard, Anne Boleyn’s uncle, who was active in court before and after she was queen. He was also a Catholic, who put his other niece, Catherine Howard, forward as Henry’s future mistress and queen. Henry VII did not execute any of the Dukes of Norfolk, and it was not Anne Boleyn’s uncle who presided over the trial of the Duke of Buckingham. Therefore, this entire interaction makes no sense. There seems to be an inability of TV shows to put forward the line of the Duke of Norfolk accurately. The 1st Duke was left out of “The White Queen,” and in the “Six Wives of Henry VIII” he inaccurately states that his father was executed by Henry VII as well. I do not know if this is because the 2nd and 3rd were both named Thomas, or if the Howards are just disliked, but these little changes do not make any sense to me.

I am not sure which pope is supposed to be shown dying in this episode, because none died in 1521. The pope at that time was Leo X, Giovanni de Medici, who reigned from 1513 to 1523. When the cardinals speak of how the next pope must be an Italian, it confuses the issue further, because the following pope, Adrian VI, was Dutch.

One of the best moments in this episode happens in two parts. It starts with Cardinal Wolsey telling Sir Thomas More about how he will have to give up what he treasures most to keep the love of a king. It culminates at the end of the episode when Wolsey and Henry are approaching Wolsey’s new palace and Henry pushes the cardinal to give it to him. Clearly it was what Wolsey treasured, and to keep the king’s affections he had to give it away.

There was a lot to comment on in this episode, so I had to explain the parts that bothered and impressed me the most. Was there something that bothered you, that I failed to mention? Please leave a note in the comments!

 

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The Tudors: Season One, Episode One

WARNING- Contains spoilers

Any work of fiction, either on film or in a book, has to show you what normal is before the real plot can begin. Plot arcs must start low before rising in exposition. If the audience doesn’t understand how the characters normally act and what their lives have been like there is no way to understand how much change happens once the plot begins to move.

This episode does a very good job of showing us what “normal” was for the character “Henry VIII” and his court. We see a young king who spends his days working on the problems of the realm and international politics, while playing games with his friends, interacting with courtiers and spending time with his wife and mistress. At the end of the episode we get the first look at Anne Boleyn, but Henry has not seen her or her sister Mary yet.

The very beginning of this episode shows an English ambassador being murdered by French soldiers while at the court of the Duke of Urbino. This man is later referred to as Henry’s “uncle,” which immediately causes confusion. Henry had no blood uncles. His father, Henry VII, was an only child, and his mother’s two brothers went missing in the Tower in 1483 and were believed to be dead. The only uncles Henry had were from the marriages of his mother’s sisters, or his half-great-uncles from Margaret Beaufort. After looking at the husbands of the sisters of Elizabeth of York the only one that could be a candidate for this position was William Courtenay, the Earl of Devon, but he was not stabbed to death in Urbino and this show is too late to show a reaction to his death. He died in 1511 of “pleurisy” and was buried at Blackfriars. I believe this was invented to give the show more drama to the show, to give Henry more of a reason to hate the French and seek war against them as revenge.

Many other writers have already pointed out many things from this episode that are inaccurate, such as the lack of a historical Anthony Nivert or how Katherine of Aragon was actually a redhead or that Thomas Tallis was not at court as a young man. I am going to try to give those issues limited space.

My best guess as to the date of this episode comes from Bessie Blount’s pregnancy. Her child was born in 1519, and after she was married to Gilbert Tailboys. This means that the episode takes place in 1518 to early 1519. This will create many problems in future episodes, because Henry’s sister Mary was widowed by Louis XI of France in 1515, and married Charles Brandon in the same year. This means that the entire setup for Bradon’s character (played by Henry Cavill) is inaccurate, even before his marriage to “Margaret Tudor” is shown in upcoming episodes.

Henry had always had mistresses, and according to The Other Tudors by Philippa Jones (2009, Metro Books), Henry was a man fueled by romance and was a serial monogamist. He had regular and long-term mistresses, often staying with one mistress for years. This is not the Henry we are given in The Tudors. We are given a lusty and whoring king, more along with the reports of the sexual appetites of Henry’s grandfather, Edward IV. I have read several authors who believe that Henry’s later appetites for food and women were an attempt to emulate his grandfather. Did Henry have meaningless one-night-stands with random women at court? Perhaps. But in his account ledgers he is shown as giving gifts to one specific mistress at a time who was well-known at court and in rumor.

Jones also points out in her book that Henry seemed to sour on his mistress when she would become pregnant, quickly finding her a husband and having nothing to do with her again. Her argument is that he may have found the production of a child as a betrayal since he had spent years of bed sport with these women without ever making a child, showing that they were using some form of birth control. He may have seen these pregnancies as a deliberate way to try to force his hand in their relationship, and he may have resented it. Of course this is speculation, but we do know that the pregnancies of his mistresses appeared close to the end of their relationships. The show does display this well, and when we learn that Henry’s paramour Bessie Blount is pregnant, Henry pretends he is learning who she is for the first time. In the history we know that married Sir Gilbert Tailboys and had three children with him. The marriage seems to have been a happy one that was entered into after the birth of her child, so the character’s statement that her husband was threatening her with scandal and the convent is a fabrication.

I have to admit that there is a point of confusion for me when the Duke of Buckingham makes a comment that Henry’s only claim to the throne was a “bastard’s on his mother’s side.” I am not sure if he is referring to Richard III’s claim that Elizabeth of York and her siblings were bastards, or if he is referring to Henry VII’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, since she was the only blood claim to the English throne that he had. The Beauforts started out as bastards and had been barred form the throne by Henry IV after they had been legitimated by Richard II and the pope. Buckingham’s comment works in both ways, even though his father had rejected Richard’s claim of bastardy of Elizabeth of York when he helped to plan the rebellion against Richard that we associate with his title, the Rebellion of 1483. In the same way he showed that he did not care about Henry VII’s Beaufort blood being a bastard line, because he agreed that if his rebellion had been successful he would have welcomed Henry of Richmond to the throne. We have no way of knowing if he was serious or if he planned to take the throne for himself, as he was executed for his efforts in the rebellion.

The girl who plays the child Princess Mary is just too darn cute! I adore the actress Sarah Bolger, who later plays an older Mary, and I became very excited when I heard her work on the video game “Bioshock.” But little girl Mary is adorable, and a wonderful casting. Wrong hair color, but I don’t think they could ask a child to dye her hair.

One of the biggest plot points of this episode is the setup for the Field of Cloth of Gold. This expedition to France happened in 1520. The other was the introduction of the lovely Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn. I will be discussing these topics more in future episodes.

Additional Reading:

The Creation of Anne Boleyn

The Tudors Wiki

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The Tudors- Background

In 2007 Showtime began the produce and air the historical drama The Tudors. The show takes place over 4 seasons, between the 1520s and the 1540s and focuses on the life of King Henry VIII. It begins with Henry’s youth and intrigue with Anne Boleyn and ends with the production of the famous Holbein painting just prior to Henry’s death in 1547. With the title saying “Tudors” plural, I half-expected the show to continue in future seasons with the lives of Henry’s children, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, but it did not.

This drama comes from Michael Hirst, who cut his teeth in historical costumed dramas with the feature film Elizabeth I in 1998. I remember going to that film in high school (receiving extra credit in my English class for seeing it), and and I loved it. Michael Hirst guarantees a visually-stimulating show, with unbelievably beautiful costumes, sets and props. His productions often blend the line of fact in fiction because while he attempts to keep to the history he deliberately breaks from it for story or to make production easier. Hirst got rid of Henry’s sister Mary, blending a general idea of her person into Henry’s sister Margaret (this causes several problems later in the series), because he didn’t want two “Princess Mary Tudor”s on the call sheet- the king’s sister and daughter shared the same rank and title at one point in their lives. After the cancellation of The Tudors, Hirst went on to create Camelot, The Borgias, and Vikings.

The show cast Irish star Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry, Maria Doyle Kennedy as Katherine of Aragon, Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn, and Henry Cavill of Superman fame as Charles Brandon. Cavill apparently auditioned for Henry but in the end was cast as the rakish Brandon, as whom he gives an a commanding performance. Especially towards the end of the show, as Brandon ages Cavill becomes the sexiest men on the show, at least in my opinion.

Casting Meyers as Henry caused several problems in the show. Firstly, he doesn’t have the full presence of the actual king. Henry VIII was more of his grandfather, Edward IV, than his father, Henry VII, but Meyers looks more like VII than VIII. Meyers just isn’t a large enough man. His physical appearance became more of a problem as the show went on because Meyers would not gain weight and refused to wear a fat suit. I can’t imagine that he took the roll without thinking that one day the character was going to have to be fat. It is not as if he could claim that he had no idea that Henry VIII was fat towards the end of his life, when he couldn’t ride and play sports anymore. I’ve always wondered if Cavill would have put the suit on?

Natalie Dormer was one of the break-away stars of this show. She went on to feature films and Game of Thrones, but continues to be the mental image for many when they think of Anne Boleyn. A stunningly beautiful woman, Dormer dyed her hair a dark brown to play Anne. According to Susan Bordo’s The Creation of Anne Boleyn, Anne’s “dark features” did not mean that her hair was almost black in color. On the contrary, her hair being called dark just means that she was not a blonde, which was the popular “romantic” hair color. Bordo believes that Anne’s hair was in fact light brown, as it is shown in the National Portrait Gallery portrait.

Some of the worst deviations from the history happen due to what I call a “Hirst wink-wink.” This happens in all of his productions. The show will diverge and a character will make an announcement that “nobody must know of this having happened,” as though the history is wrong and Hirst alone stumbled into the truth. “This is what really happened, wink-wink, but the history was deliberately changed, wink-wink, which is why you’ve never heard of it before, wink-wink!” Whenever you hear a character comment that nobody must ever know that this happened you are viewing an alteration to the know history.

But what is it that can make a viewer, even one like me who knows better, watch this show again and again? Because we want to think that we are flies on the wall to what happened. It may be flawed, but it is the best chance we have of watching Henry VIII live and love, at least until a time machine is invented. The story, the train-wreck knowledge that the wives of this man are going to end badly, that he will get fat and sick and mean, keeps us watching.

The show is available on Netflix Streaming, and the DVDs are available for purchase. At times Showtime will include it in their On Demand offerings for subscribers.

One note about watching- this show is one that you want to watch in HD. The costumes are amazing pieces of work, and in HD you can see every little thread and texture. The jewels and sets have amazing details, as do the hairpieces, and if you can you’ll want to be able to see every one of them.

Another note is that every time I watch it, our puppy Henry Rex goes nuts when he hears his name coming from our speakers! It’s very, very cute!

EDIT: Susan Bordo has pointed out to me that she believes Anne Boleyn had dark auburn hair. I apologize for the error.

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The White Queen- Episode 10, The Finale- Part Two

Image

The cast of “The White Queen,” as themselves.

 

…A continuation of White Queen Episode 10- Part One

The show’s version of the Battle of Bosworth Field has several inaccuracies in it. In the show it takes place in a forest, though quite clearly by definition it was at Bosworth Field.  The snow on the ground and the bare trees makes it look like the episode was filmed in winter. The actual Battle of Bosworth was on August 22, and there is no snow mentioned in any reports. We are shown a battle that was very small, at most two dozen men fighting, and that Henry had little support from any Englishman or Welshman. The actual estimates from the battle total almost 20,000 men, divided roughly into 5,000 for Henry, 10,000 for Richard, and about 5,000 with Thomas and William Stanley.

When Richard says that he will wear his battle crown so that “Tudor can find me,” it’s clear that they have removed the standard bearers. Bearers were important in a battle since they stood next to the king and kept his standard up so that the men knew he was alright. It was a position of great honor, and it was very dangerous. If you handled the standard you could not wield weapons. The advancement of Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, is due to his father, William Brandon, having died at Bosworth holding Henry VII’s standard, possibly cut down by Richard himself. Charles was a toddler at the time, and the king took responsibility for his upbringing as a thank-you to his father’s sacrifice.

John Howard, the 1st Duke of Norfolk has been removed as well, and his void seems to be filled by Sir Robert Brackenbury, who also died at Bosworth. After the betrayal of Buckingham, Norfolk was one of Richard’s few remaining friends, and had been raised in the peerage by the king. His death at Bosworth is considered one of the turning points to Tudor. He was the great-grandfather of both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.

There is debate about the location of the two Stanley armies, but the show has deleted William Stanley entirely, even though he has been referenced in dialog. The Stanley brothers were pivotal to the outcome of the battle due to the size of their armies, but nearly sat at the sides for the entire time. The actual events, as best we know from accounts, are as follows:

The battle started with Henry shooting his cannons. Richard and Henry sat towards the back of both sides, as the lords took out their regimens. Richard sees that Norfolk goes down, and begins what some historians have called a “suicide run” toward Henry. He makes it far enough to possibly kill Brandon, and Henry’s standard begins to slip. When William Stanley sees it start to go down, he starts his charge on the side of Henry. Seeing his brother go to battle, Thomas Stanley orders his charge. Richard is taken out by unknown soldiers. The battle is over, and Henry is the victor.

There is a very pretty myth that Thomas Stanley sees Richard’s battle crown on a bush, picks it up and places it on Henry’s head. Then the whole field kneels to their new king. There is no contemporary evidence of the origin of this story, but it does create a striking picture.

The fate of Richard’s body has been in the news recently, after his skeleton was discovered buried under a parking lot in Leicester. After Bosworth, Richard’s corpse was found on the field and Henry ordered that he be given a proper, Christian burial. That’s not what happened. Instead it was stripped, slung over the back of his horse (which is said to have been “limping”), and paraded around the county before being dumped into a grave in Grey Friars’ church yard. Why was he treated so badly? The stories about how he was such a great and loved king, that the hatred of him is all propaganda, is not true either. Remember the execution of Lord Hastings? It is one of the most important moments in Richard’s reign, because with that one action, the lords turned on him. They didn’t trust him, which is a separate issue than the disgust they felt if they believed that he was the one that ordered the deaths of his nephews. This enmity ran deep, so when the lords were left to deal with Richard’s burial, they wanted to disrespect him as much as they could. On a political level, showing the people his corpse ensured that nobody would claim to either be him or to rise up in his name.

This of course brings us to the show’s battle aftermath, when Margaret Beaufort comes out and orders that everyone stay on their knees, since she was now “Margaret Regina.” The insistence that everyone must bow to her, as a queen, is nonsense. Her official title at court was the Countess of Richmond and Derby (after Thomas Stanley became the Earl of Derby), and Henry bestowed on her the title “Our Lady, the King’s Mother.” She signed documents as “Margaret R”, but that may have stood for Richmond. She was an influential person at court, but while Elizabeth Woodville was there, she deferred to her, following her in processions and giving her precedence at events. She was not a monarch. After Elizabeth of York died, Margaret took over some of her duties, which should have been temporary. Once Henry remarried those duties would have been taken over by the new queen, but he didn’t marry again, so Margaret continued with them until 1509.

After the battle Henry became King Henry VII, dating his reign from the 21st of August, so that he was the monarch on the field, not Richard. He married Elizabeth of York, and the marriage grew to be one of love and support. They had four children who lived to adulthood, though the eldest, Arthur, died when he was 15. Elizabeth died almost a year later, and Henry never got over the loss. He was known for his business sense and for his thriftiness, and left his son, Henry VIII, a fortune. Henry’s reign became the age of the “Tudors,” who reigned for 118 years, and gave us two of the most well-known monarchs in English history- Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. He is the ancestor of the current royal house, through his daughter Margaret and the Stuarts. Not bad for a man who spent 14 years in exile, never knowing if he would return home or get his title and lands back!

Starz has bought the option for creating another miniseries based on Gregory’s book The White Princess. I do not know when the production will begin on it, but I look forward to seeing how that stands up to the history!

Further reading:

The Tudor Tattler- “The Tudor Tart: Elizabeth of York”

CNN- “New mystery at Richard III burial site: a coffin inside a coffin”

The Creation of Anne Boleyn- “Is Elizabeth Woodville Philippa Gregory’s Apology to Anne Boleyn?”

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The White Queen- Episode 10, The Finale- Part One

ImageThe Cast of “White Queen” in their costumes.

 

WARNING: This contains LOTS of spoilers.

This post has been cut into two parts, for ease of reading.

The episode starts with the restoration of Elizabeth Woodville to a peaceful life away from court, and Elizabeth and Cecily of York to positions in Anne Neville’s household at court. Margaret Beaufort is still under the care of her husband, Thomas Stanley, who enjoys taunting her about her possessions and the state of her rebellion. Richard III and Anne’s son, Edward, becomes sickly and dies. In the show, Anne takes his death as evidence that Richard was the one who killed the princes. Richard is not able to convince her that he is innocent. Anne falls ill after her son passes, and eventually dies at Westminster.

The show capitalizes on a budding romance between Elizabeth of York and Richard III, started before Anne has died. Richard claims that he is encouraging rumors of their affection so that Henry Tudor will be shamed and lose the support of those loyal to Elizabeth. Richard says that there is no actual love between them but we quickly see that this is not true, as Elizabeth tells Richard, “I’m in love with you,” and they start kissing. He loses his temper and throws her out of court when Anne dies, because her presence has caused rumors to circulate that the king has murdered his wife to make way for his niece, which hurts his honor.

This relationship is not a complete invention of Philippa Gregory, but very close to it. The origin of this story is from the reign of James I, based on a letter which is now long gone, so we do not know exactly what was said and how much of it was up to interpretation. Because we don’t know what it said, we are left to guess, which is what Gregory has done with this plot. If the standard of evidence we require becomes none that say it’s not true, we can make any statement and stir up doubt. I can say that when Richard III was a baby, his father dropped him and that’s what caused his spine to curve. It’s something I made up, but since you can’t say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it didn’t happen, it quickly becomes accepted as truth. In five years, students coming into college courses will ask their professors about how Richard was dropped as a baby. Enough years go by, and it’s accepted as fact.

Let me be very clear here- it is not based on any evidence we actually have. This relationship is supposed to be romantic, but it’s disturbing. The papal dispensations which were granted so that cousins can marry are twisted to include uncles and nieces, as if this could have been a viable option. It wasn’t. Since the pope did not always grant dispensations to cousins, and I can’t imagine any pope supporting the marriage of two so closely related. Oedipus has nothing on this story. As for the marriage to her, he was recorded as trying to arrange a marriage for her outside of England, and anything involving the two of them is only rumor without evidence to bolster it.

This reaches its climax when Elizabeth of York sneaks out of her mother’s house to Richard’s tent, to have sex with him. She returns and her mother smiles at her, as if she were pleased that they were now lovers. I have only one reaction to this: EW. It’s disgusting.

Thomas Grey is not just still in England after the 1483 rebellion, but free to roam where he pleases. Elizabeth Woodville charges him with traveling to Flanders to collect “Perkin” from the Warbecks. As I stated in earlier posts, there is no evidence that either she or her children had any connection with Perkin Warbeck. At the end of the episode, this boy comes to Grafton, and when he vows revenge for the death of his brother, Elizabeth tells him that she wants him to live with her in peace. The real Perkin Warbeck didn’t step foot in England before 1495, and then he was in Scotland. He was not raised in the English countryside. This twist only makes his claim to be Richard, Duke of York, even more implausible. This scene shows Elizabeth very disinterested in the politics, and it does not seem as though she even wants to return to court, preferring to stay at Grafton. After Henry VII’s victory, she came with her daughter and was very involved with the politics of court until she retired to Bermondsey Abbey in 1487.

We see Henry and Jasper selecting prisoners from a French prison, but the show doesn’t explain how they got to France or why they left Brittany. After the rebellion of 1483, the number of men surrounding Henry swelled into the hundreds, as nobles and their retainers fled from England. Richard was not sending any money to Brittany to help cover Henry and Jasper’s expenses, so the cost of this mock-court rested on Duke Francis II. The upkeep was very expensive and caused resentment in the Duke’s advisors. In 1484, Francis fell ill again, and his advisors made a deal to turn Henry over to Richard. Jasper, who had more freedom than Henry, was the first to cross into France, and two days later Henry and a group of 5 to 13 men followed.  He joined with Jasper in Anjou, and they were welcomed by Charles, given lodging and money. Henry left behind more than 400 English exiles, and once Francis was well enough to know what had happened, he permitted them to travel to France to be with Henry. It was King Charles who supported Henry’s final campaign in 1485.

The show has Margaret and Elizabeth of York fighting and torturing each other. There is no basis for this. Some historians believe that because of her strong personality and influence over her son, Margaret was, as David Starkey called her, the “Mother-in-law from hell.” Others think that she was one of Elizabeth’s most trusted friends. It comes down to a matter of opinion.

Elizabeth of York is not the only one to sneak around to the battle camps. In the episode, Margaret makes a trip to see Thomas Stanley, and when she leaves she runs into Jasper Tudor. He takes her to Henry’s camp, and she stays there until the end of the battle. In reality Margaret was not at Bosworth, nor are there any records that say that she saw Henry before his victory. On the contrary, one of the first things he did once he won was to go and see her, since it had been 14 years since they were last together.

To be continued…

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