Tudor and Elizabethan North : 1553 to 1603

Edward, Mary, Elizabeth 1547 to 1603

The age of northern suppression that started under the early Tudor monarchs of Henry VII and Henry VIII continued during the rule of Elizabeth I from 1558 to 1603. She crushed the Catholic Rising of the North in 1569 in much the same way her ruthless father had done in the Pilgrimage of Grace of 1536. During this later Tudor era, the hopes, at least of the Catholic elements in the North, were temporarily raised by two Queen Marys.  Before Elizabeth’s accession to the throne, her sister Mary, Queen of England  (1553-1558) or ‘Bloody Mary’ as she is known, set new Tudor standards of brutality in dealing with religious opponents. In Elizabeth’s reign, another Mary, the Queen of Scots (1542-1567) became the focal point for the plotting of northern rebellions. The sisters, Elizabeth and Mary were preceded in England by the short-reigned Lady Jane Grey, who was never crowned and by King Edward VI, whose reign as a minor was dominated by powerful regents


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Jan 28 1547 – KING EDWARD VI

Following King Henry VIII’s, death today, Henry’s ten-year-old son, Edward becomes King of England. Edward, who is the son of Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour, is solidly Protestant. However the real ruler of the kingdom is another staunch Protestant, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. Seymour is the king’s uncle, regent and protector.

Sep 10 1547  – Scots defeated at Musselburgh

On August 28, an army under the command of the new king’s uncle Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford gather at Newcastle where they were mustered by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. On the last day of the month, numbering some 18,000 men and assisted by a fleet of ships under the command Sir George Clinton, they head north to Berwick and camp outside its walls. Crossing the Border, they defeat the Scots on September 10th at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh near Musselburgh.

August 7 1548 – Infant Mary takes refuge in France

The five year old Mary, Queen of Scots is taken by ship from Dumbarton on the Clyde, to France for safety, where she will be raised at the French court. There she is betrothed to the dauphin of France who is the heir to the French throne.

Ford Church and Castle
Ford Church and Castle. Photo © David Simpson 2018

1549 – Ford attacked by French General

Scots, under the leadership of a French General, André de Montalembert, also known as Seigneur d’Essé inflict severe damage upon Ford Castle in north Northumberland. There are about 6,000 troops in Scotland assisting the Scots north of the border but not all Scots are comfortable with the French alliance.

1549 – Book of Common Prayer

The Act of Uniformity is introduced by Parliament, a major event in the continuing move towards Protestantism. It seeks to introduce the Book of Common Prayer, which uses English rather than Latin. Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of Durham, voted against this measure but accepts its implementation.

1550 – Wall repairs at Berwick

Extensive and costly repairs are made to the defences at Berwick.

Norham church
Norham church. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Jun 10 1551 – Peace treaty signed

A peace treaty is signed between the English and Scots at the church of Norham-on-Tweed in England. The French have been assisting the Scots in their war with the English, helping them to liberate castles such as Roxburgh.

Oct 1551 – Duke of Northumberland

John Dudley, the Earl of Warwick becomes the Duke of Northumberland. Last year he ruthlessly mastered a palace coup in which he ousted Edward Seymour and now has all the power as a regent for the 13-year old king. Despite his title, Dudley has no known connection with the county of Northumberland. Seymour will be executed in January 1552.

24 Sep 1552 – Course of the Border

After negotiations that have lasted more than a year, the course of the England-Scotland border is finally settled between the two nations.

Oct 1552 – Bishop of Durham deprived of see

Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of Durham is imprisoned in the Tower of London and deprived of his Bishopric by Parliament. Although he had tactfully supported King Henry VIII’s policies in his break with Rome, Tunstall is still very much a Bishop in the Catholic mould and has objected to the ever-more Protestant religious reforms of King Edward VI’s reign.

Church of St Mary, Gateshead and Tyne Bridge
Church of St Mary, Gateshead and Tyne Bridge : Photo © David Simpson

1553 – Newcastle annexes Gateshead

Newcastle annexes Gateshead as a result of the dissolving of the Bishopric of Durham. Plans are afoot to create a new bishopric at Newcastle, with Nicholas Ridley as bishop, detaching the most northerly section of the Durham diocese. The plans are brought to a halt by the death of Edward VI. The reign of Mary will see the Bishopric of Durham restored.

July 6 1553 – JANE GREY : Nine Days Queen

With the encouragement of John Dudley,  Duke of Northumberland, Edward VI, who was sick, nominated the Protestant, Lady Jane Grey as his successor. She is the great-niece of Henry VIII and has recently married Northumberland’s son. King Edward dies at Greenwich on July 6, On July 10, Jane Grey is proclaimed Queen in London, however Parliament does not accept the succession and proclaims for Henry’s eldest daughter, Mary on July 19, sending Jane Grey to the Tower of London.  The new queen, Mary, enters London on August 9.

July 19 1553 – QUEEN MARY I : ‘Bloody Mary’

Mary I, the new Queen of England is the Roman Catholic daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She becomes Queen of England following her brother Edward’s death. A staunch Catholic, she makes an agreement to marry Philip, the heir to the Kingdom of Spain. She will come to be known as ‘Bloody Mary’ because of her ruthless and deadly persecution of Protestants.

Aug 22 1553 – Duke of Northumberland executed

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland is executed on Tower Hill, London for his plot to install Lady Jane Grey on the throne. Lady Jane Grey and her husband (who is Northumberland’s son) will be executed in February 1554.

St Mary’s church at Gateshead © David Simpson

1554 – Gateshead and Durham bishopric restored

Queen Mary restores the Bishopric of Durham and its Bishop, Cuthbert Tunstall. Gateshead, recently given over to Newcastle, is returned to Durham.

July 25 1554 – Mary marries Philip of Spain

Mary marries the future Spanish king Philip, (who becomes King Philip II of Spain in 1556). Philip is, of course, a Catholic. Meanwhile, north of the Border another Catholic, a Frenchwoman called Mary of Guise, is the virtual ruler or regent in Scotland. She is the widow of the late king, James V and mother to the eleven-year-old Mary Queen, of Scots who is kept in safety in France. Mary of Guise  maintains a strong alliance with the French.

1555 – Saltmeadows sold

The Saltmeadows area of Gateshead is sold to Newcastle Corporation by Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of Durham for 44 shillings per annum in a lease that will last 450 years – supposedly until 2004.

1555 – ‘Martyr’ Ridley burned at the stake

The Northumbrian-born Nicholas Ridley is the most prominent of the Protestants martyrs to be burned at the stake in front of Balliol College, Oxford on Queen Mary’s orders. Ridley, a former Chaplain to Henry VIII, is the Bishop of London. Another prominent martyr is Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester. Bishop Ridley is a member of a noted Tynedale family. Around 300 Protestants will lose their lives in this way in what are known as the Marian persecutions.

Kepier Grammar School
Former Grammar School of 1557 at Houghton : Photo © David Simpson

1557 – Gilpin the Rector

The influential Bernard Gilpin becomes the Rector of Houghton-le-Spring. He will be noted for his trips into Northumberland where he becomes something of an evangelist amongst the rough border folk. Gilpin establishes the Kepier Grammar School in Houghton and is thought to have inaugurated the annual Houghton Feast.

1557 – Gateshead trades

Glovers, Barkers and Tanners are trades receiving the approval of Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall at Gateshead this year.

Apr 24 1558 – Mary, Queen of Scots marries dauphin

Mary Queen of Scots marries the dauphin – the heir to the French throne, in Paris. The Scottish parliament have agreed that should Mary at any point die, then he will inherit the Scottish throne. However the persecution of Protestants in Scotland by Mary’s mother, Mary of Guise, is creating tension north of the Border.


Elizabeth I ascends to the throne following the death of her older sister, Queen Mary I on November 17, 1558 and is crowned Queen of England on January 15, 1559. Elizabeth, a Protestant, is the daughter of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth will be one of Britain’s longest-reigning and most popular monarchs and though a Tudor, will give her name to the Elizabethan age. Like her father and sister before her she will be ruthless in her dealings with political and religious opponents.

Berwick upon Tweed and the Old Bridge
Berwick upon Tweed and the Old Bridge. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Feb 22, 1560 – Treaty of Berwick : Protestant alliance

English and Scottish Protestants sign a treaty at Berwick in which the English agree to provide military aid to expel French Catholic forces north of the border. Ships and mustered men from Newcastle are ordered to help with the effort. Protestants north of the border have been increasingly persecuted by their regent ruler, Mary of Guise and although they have recently regained Edinburgh and ousted Mary as regent they have requested Elizabeth’s help to defend them against the French.

July 1560 – English and French leave Scotland

A treaty is signed in Edinburgh ending the war north of the border, resulting in the agreed departure of both the English and French armies, who are respectively supporting the Protestant and French factions there.

Historic view of Darlington showing the Skerne and St. Cuthbert's church
Historic view of Darlington showing the Skerne and St. Cuthbert’s church

1560 – Elizabethan Darlington

Darlington, like many Northern towns, is an agricultural centre and most of its inhabitants are employed in farm-related industries like weaving, leather, tanning and fulling (cloth-making). Unfortunately, Darlington is also renowned for its unpaved streets and will come to be known as ‘Darnton i’ the Dirt’.

Dec 1560 – Mary Queen of Scots a widow

Seventeen-year-old, Mary Queen of Scots is left a widow, following the death of her husband Francis II, King of France. Mary, a Catholic, will return to her home country. However, in August the Protestant-dominated Scottish Parliament voted to make a break with Rome and the preacher John Knox has many supporters who wish to take reforms further in the roots of what will be called Presbyterianism.

Tynemouth Castle and the bay
Tynemouth Castle and the bay Photo © 2018 David Simpson

1561 – Percy is Tynemouth captain

Sir Henry Percy, the brother of Thomas Percy the 7th Earl of Northumberland becomes the ‘Captain’ of Tynemouth Castle.

1561 – First Protestant Bishop of Durham

James Pilkington is elected as the first ever Protestant Bishop of Durham. Many of the ‘figures of idolatry’ associated with the Catholic church are removed from the cathedral. James is a fanatical Protestant and his presence will be gravely resented by the clandestine Catholic Nevilles of Raby and Brancepeth who are the prominent family in the County of Durham.

Aug 19 1561 – Queen of Scots arrives home

Mary, Queen of Scots arrives home in Scotland, at Edinburgh, arriving by ship at Leith. She was seemingly protected during her journey by fog, that hid her movements from English ships that hoped to intercept her. Mary, who also claims the English throne and does not accept Elizabeth I as Queen is considered a threat to the Elizabethan regime.

July 19 1565 – Queen of Scots marries cousin

Mary Queen of Scots marries the nineteen-year-old Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, her cousin. Both potentially have claims to the English throne. Mary and her new husband are both great-grandchildren of the first Tudor King of England, Henry VII.

March 1566 – Riccio murderers flee to Newcastle

On March 9, David Riccio, an Italian favourite and Private Secretary of Mary Queen of Scots was stabbed to death in a coup in Edinburgh instigated by her husband, the jealous, Lord Darnley. The murderers include the Earl of Morton and Lords Maitland and Lindsay as well as the diseased Lord Ruthven, who all flee to Newcastle where Ruthven dies. Meanwhile, with assistance from the Earl of Bothwell, the pregnant Mary escapes from the  clutches of Darnley and on March 20 takes flight to Dunbar, where she calls supporters to her aid, enabling her return to Edinburgh.

June 19 1566 – Future King James born

A baby boy, James, is born to Mary, Queen of Scots at Edinburgh Castle. He will be the future King James VI of Scotland and James I of England.

Town walls, Berwick
Elizabethan Town walls, Berwick. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Oct 1566 – Queen of Scots at Berwick and Roxburgh

During 1566, Mary Queen of Scots visited the outskirts of the town of Berwick which she inspected from the splendid view at nearby Halidon Hill, under the watchful eye of her guide, the town’s deputy governor. While at Roxburgh Castle in October she takes ill with a disease that comes close to taking her life before she makes a full recovery.

May 15 1567 – Queen of Scots abdicates

On February 10, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, (‘King Henry’), the husband of Mary Queen of Scots is murdered in Edinburgh. The suspects include James Hepburn, Protestant Earl of Bothwell, who marries Mary on May 15. The marriage results in a revolt from opponents and in June, Mary is taken prisoner while Bothwell takes flight. Mary takes ill again and on July 24 and abdicates in favour of her one-year-old son, James VI. Her half brother, James Stuart, Earl of Moray acts as regent for the baby prince.

July 1567 – Darlington school

Queen Elizabeth I establishes by charter a Grammar School in Darlington with the support of Bishop Pilkington of Durham.

May 2 1568 – Scots Queen escapes

Mary,  escapes from imprisonment in Fife and rallies troops in south west Scotland but is defeated in battle by her half brother, the Earl of Moray near Glasgow. She heads to Dumfriesshire and escapes to England across the Solway Firth.

16 May 1568 – Mary lands in England

The Queen of Scots lands at Workington on the Cumberland coast and is at the mercy of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. She stays a night at Workington Hall before officials take her into custody at Carlisle Castle.

July 1568 – Scots Queen held in Wensleydale

Mary, Queen of Scots, seen as a dangerous focus for Catholic rebellion, is kept in custody on the orders of her cousin Queen Elizabeth. She was moved from Carlisle to Castle Bolton in Wenseydale during July will be held in many other places in the North in the coming years.

Bolton Castle Wensleydale © David Simpson 2021

Jan 1569 – Scots Queen moved from Wensleydale

Perhaps, being considered too close to centres of potential Catholic rebellion, Mary Queen of Scots is removed from Castle Bolton in Wensleydale and taken to Tutbury Castle in Nottinghamshire where she is under the watchful eye of Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury. She will later be held at other properties belonging to the Shrewsburys, notably Sheffield Castle in Yorkshire.

Raby Castle
Raby Castle © David Simpson 2018

Nov 1569 – Rising of the North

Charles Neville, the 6th Earl of Westmorland and Thomas Percy the 7th Earl of Northumberland brazenly master a plot to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I and reinstate Catholicism, with Mary, Queen of Scots at the helm. The rebellion will be called ‘The Rising of the North’. The Nevilles, though titled Earls of Westmorland, are the principal family of County Durham, while the Percys are their counterpart in Northumberland. Neville and Percy are names that have long dominated the two counties but their powers have suffered a demise under the centralised government of the Tudors. In addition, the now Protestant church of Durham, has further weakened their influence and threatens their traditional Catholic ways.

Nov 1569 – Neville castles play host to plot

One of the triggers for the rising, other than the presence of Mary Queen of Scots in England, is the recent imprisonment of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk in the Tower of London. Norfolk is England’s leading noble and a prominent Roman Catholic. The rebels intend to see him married to Mary. They also desire the overthrow of William Cecil, Elizabeth’s hated principal adviser and statesmen and perhaps, most ambitiously, they seek to gain the support and alliance of Spain. The detailed plans for the rising are developed in meetings at the Neville-owned castles of Brancepeth and Raby.

Nov 1569 – Queen hears of rebellion

Queen Elizabeth learns of the Northern plot and summons the earls to London to answer to her, which they refuse. Elizabeth’s principal informants in the North are likely to have been her staunch supporter, George Bowes, Constable of Barnard Castle and Thomas Radclyffe, the 3rd Earl of Sussex who is President of the Council of the North at York. This Council is the northern arm of the Tudor regime’s centralised government.

Ribbed vaulting Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral. Photo © David Simpson 2017

Nov 13 1569 – Rebels enter Durham Cathedral

Gathered at Brancepeth, in County Durham the rebels initially number some 1,500 men, with at least 917 drawn from across the county. They seize the City of Durham, from which the Bishop along with the Dean and Chapter have fled. There is little resistance. English prayer books and English Bibles are trampled underfoot and the Catholic mass is reinstated. The mass is similarly reinstated at churches across Durham such as Darlington, Pittington and Sedgefield.

Nov 15 1569 – Rebels march south

The rebels buoyed with local support begin their advance south. Upon reaching Wetherby the rebels muster some 4,000 foot and 700 knights. Men from towns and villages throughout the North East and Yorkshire join the earls, some enthusiastically, some perhaps unwillingly. From here they intend to march south, heading for Tutbury near Nottingham where Mary, Queen of Scots is now held.

Dec 1568 – Barnard Castle besieged

Foreign support does not seem to have materialised for the rising and the Earl of Sussex raises an army of around 10,000 men to pursue the earls and their army. Hearing of this, the rebels abandon a planned siege of York. Somehow, they lose their nerve or change their minds south of Knaresborough and turn their attention northward, returning via Ripon and Richmond. At Richmond one party seems to have broken off and headed for the port of Hartlepool which was secured for the rebels. The main party head north west, towards Teesdale, besieging the castle at Barnard Castle, which surrenders to them on December 14. However, at this point they seem to have lost heart with the threat of Sussex’s army closing in upon them. The leaders head north across the Tyne into north west Northumberland. Heading northward they make their way across the border into Liddesdale, hoping to find support amongst the Scots.

The Rookhope Burn.
The Rookhope Burn. Photo © David Simpson 2018.

Dec 8, 1569 – Raid on Rookhope

Such is the anarchy and opportunism in the border region at this time that Tynedale livestock rustlers raid the neighbouring valley of Weardale. Many Weardale men were away supporting the earls in their rising but the remaining Weardale men repel the raiders. Border raids, though common in Tynedale at this time in history are a rare event as far south as Weardale.

Brancepeth Castle
Brancepeth Castle. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Jan 1570 – Aftermath of the rebellion

Many rebels from the Rising of the North fled north into Scotland where some found favour amongst the Borderers and others were captured. In the aftermath, Raby and Brancepeth Castles are confiscated from the Nevilles by the Crown. The Percy lands and properties are retained by that family due to the faithful support given to Queen Elizabeth by Thomas Percy’s brother, Sir Henry Percy.

Jan 1570 – Executions

There are hundreds – around 450 – executions across the region in nearly every town and village from Wetherby to Newcastle in the aftermath of the rebellion. There are 288 executions across County Durham alone. Charles Neville will eventually escape abroad to safety where he lives in poverty in Flanders for the rest of his days.  Thomas Percy will be captured and executed in 1572.

Jan 1570 – A quota of executions

Elizabeth simply requested a proportional quota of executions perhaps 1 in 3 of those involved and the decision on who to execute was left in the hands of her trusted supporters in the north, amongst them George Bowes who helped instigate the retribution. In the towns and villages notable numbers include 28 hanged in Durham City, 5 in Bishop Auckland, 23 in Darlington and 14 in Billingham. It was mostly the poorest that suffered execution, as hundreds more paid a fine for pardon, though many fines were clearly paid by fearful individuals who were not even involved. Bowes lamented that some of the unfortunate individuals he executed or fined had been forced into supporting the rebellion against their will,

Jan 1570 – Centres of support in the Rising

Proportionally, support for the rebellion seems to have been particularly high in Durham City and Darlington as well as in the Staindrop area in the Earl of Westmorland’s heartland near Raby Castle. Support seems to have been quite low at Gateshead and Sunderland, perhaps because they lay distant from the areas of the rebel’s initial focus. In the George Bowes dominated areas around Barnard Castle and Middleton in Teesdale, support seems to have been non-existent. Some of the most notable supporters were Yorkshiremen such as Richard Norton, Thomas Jenye and Nicholas Morton. Interestingly, one prominent participant in the rebellion was Egremont Radcliffe, half brother of the Earl of Sussex. For a time after the rebellion,  Radcliffe was sheltered by the Border Reiver Scott family of Buccleugh in the borders. Radcliffe eventually escaped to Flanders via the circuitous route of the Orkneys.

The ruins of Holy Cross church, Wallsend
The ruins of Holy Cross church, Wallsend. Photo © David Simpson 2018

1570 – Witches at Wallsend

In this year it is said that a member of the Delaval family, returning, one evening from Newcastle to Seaton Delaval encountered a gathering of witches at the Holy Cross Chapel in Wallsend. He is said to have captured one of them and had her burned to death on the beach at Seaton where she briefly rose high into the air after muttering some spell but the flames still took her life.

1571 – Harrogate Spa

A spring is discovered at Harrogate in Yorkshire, that is thought to have beneficial qualities for improving health. It will attract many visitors.

Aug 22 1572 –  Rebel Percy beheaded at York

Thomas Percy, the Earl of Northumberland who was one of the chief planners of the Rising of the North was captured in Scotland by James Douglas the 4th Earl of Morton and handed over to the English for a fee. He is transported to York where Elizabeth I orders his execution. He is beheaded at Pavement in the city. Charles Neville, the other chief of the rising fled to Flanders, supposedly upon hearing of Percy’s capture and betrayal.  Neville will seemingly end his life in poverty.

1572 – Pallion sold

The Bowes family sell Pallion near Sunderland to the Goodchild family.

Carter Bar, Northumberland
Carter Bar, Northumberland © David Simpson 2020

1575 – Reidswire Fray

One of the last battles between the English and Scots took place near the Carter Bar on the England-Scotland border this year. The battle called the Reidswire Fray broke out following an argument between a Warden of the English Marches and the Keeper of Liddesdale on a supposed day of truce. The English side came off worst and George Heron of Chipchase, Keeper of Tynedale and Redesdale numbered among the dead.

1579 – Newcastle plague

Plague is so bad at Newcastle that the Mayor writes to Yarmouth warning ships not to visit Newcastle for coals.

Saxon church, Hart Village.
Saxon church, Hart Village. Photo © David Simpson 2018

1582 – Hartlepool witchcraft

A sorcerer from Hart village near Hartlepool serves penance by sitting in Durham Market Place, Hart Church and Norton-on-Tees church while wearing a paper hat.

1583 – Guild of Brewers

The Guild of Brewers is established in Newcastle.

Durham Market Place
Durham Market Place. Photo © David Simpson 2017

4 March 1583 – Gilpin hit by ox in market place

Bernard Gilpin, the noted Rector of Houghton-le-Spring dies after being knocked down by an ox in Durham market place.

May 7 1585 – Darlington fire

273 houses are destroyed in a Darlington fire. The fire affects High Row and Skinnergate, leaving 800 people homeless. Figures may have been exaggerated to encourage charitable donations but flames could be seen from Roseberry Topping.

1586 – Mary Queen of Scots executed

Mary Queen of Scots is executed at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire on Elizabeth’s orders.

1588 – Northern plagues

A Hartlepool plague killed 89 last year. 1,726 die in Newcastle this year.

1588-94 – Priests and Catholics executed

In 1588, three Roman Catholic priests are executed at Durham, the first of many during the reign of Elizabeth I, who forbids Roman Catholic priests from practising. In 1593, a member of the Lambton family is executed at Newcastle for being a Roman Catholic priest. At Dryburn in Durham City, John Speed, a layman, and John Bost (or Boste), a Roman Catholic priest, are executed. Other executions take place at Gateshead and Darlington.

1590 – Grammar Schools

Yarm Grammar School is established. Recently established schools include Newcastle (1525), Berwick (1559), Guisborough (1561) and Darlington (1567).

Lumley Warriors, Chestr-le-Street church
Lumley Warriors, Chester-le-Street church.

1594 – The Lumley Warriors

Fourteen stone effigies of the Lumley family are squeezed into Chester-le-Street church by John Lord Lumley, some with their feet removed to fit them in. Lumley is keen to promote his family’s genealogical heritage but it is believed that some of the effigies, including one uprooted from Durham Cathedral churchyard, are not Lumleys at all.

1597 – More plague

Plague ravages Newcastle, Darlington (killing 340), Aycliffe, and Chester-le-Street. It will return to Durham and Darlington next year.

1601 – Death of a Northern rebel

Fifty-nine years old, Charles Neville, the one time 5th Earl of Westmorland and former owner of Brancepeth and Raby Castles in County Durham, dies in relative poverty in exile in Flanders. In his later years he had lived on a small pension paid by King Philip of Spain.

1603 – Queen dies

Elizabeth I dies and is succeeded by James VI of Scotland, the son of Mary Queen of Scots. He is the first king of both England and Scotland.


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