The Story Of The Third Dutch War




We come now to the story of the third Dutch war, perhaps more frequently

called the second, from the fact that it was the second war with Holland

in the reign of Charles II.

War was declared by Charles on the 28th of March, 1672; Louis XIV. of

France agreeing to join with the English against the Dutch, and sending

the Count d'Estrees, Vice-admiral of France, with a large squadron, to

join the English fleet.

The French squadron arrived at St. Helen's on the 3rd of May, and the

king immediately went down to Portsmouth; and, to show his confidence in

his new ally, went on board the French admiral, where he remained some

hours. The English fleet sailed to the Downs, the Duke of York, as

high-admiral, wearing the red, and the Earl of Sandwich, the blue. Here

the French squadron joined them, their admiral bearing the white flag;

the united fleet consisting of one hundred and one sail of men-of-war,

besides fire-ships and tenders. Of these the English had sixty-five

ships of war, carrying four thousand and ninety-two pieces of cannon,

and twenty-three thousand five hundred and thirty men. The French

squadron consisted of thirty-six sail, on board of which were one

thousand nine hundred and twenty-six pieces of cannon, and about eleven

thousand men. The Dutch, in the meantime, were at sea with a very

considerable fleet, consisting of ninety-one stout men-of-war,

fifty-four fire-ships, and twenty-three yachts. On May the 9th they were

seen off Dover, and the 13th of the same month a Dutch squadron chased

the Gloucester, and some other ships, under the cannon of Sheerness.

The English fleet were at anchor in Solebay on May 28th, when the Dutch

fell in with them; and, if they had not spent too much time in council,

had entirely surprised them. As it was, many of the English captains

were forced to cut their cables, in order to get into the line in time

for the battle. The engagement began between seven and eight in the

morning, when De Ruyter attacked the red squadron in the centre, and

engaged the admiral, on board of which was the Duke of York, for two

hours, forcing His Highness at last to remove to another ship. The Dutch

captain, Van Brakell, attacked the Earl of Sandwich in the Royal

James; and while they were engaged, almost all the squadron of Van

Ghent fell upon the earl's ships. His lordship behaved with amazing

intrepidity; killed Admiral Van Ghent with his own hands, sank three

fire-ships and a man-of-war, that would have laid him on board; but when

he had lost all his officers and two-thirds of his men, his battered

ship was grappled and set on fire by a fourth fire-ship.

In this distress, it is said, he might have been relieved by his

vice-admiral, Sir Joseph Jordan, if Sir Joseph had not been more

solicitous about assisting the duke. It is said that when the earl saw

Sir Joseph sail by, heedless of the condition in which he lay, he said

to those about him, "There is nothing left for us now but to defend the

ship to the last man," and those who knew him best knew quite well that

by the last man he meant himself. When the fourth fire-ship had grappled

him, he begged his captain, Sir Richard Haddock, and all his servants,

to get into the boat and save themselves, which they did; but many of

his men would not leave their admiral, and continued to make fruitless

efforts to quench the fire until the ship blew up about noon.

The death of Van Ghent, with the furious attack of part of the blue

squadron, coming in, though too late, to the Earl of Sandwich's

assistance, threw this part of the Dutch fleet into very great confusion

and forced them to stand off. This gave an opportunity for the blue

squadron to join the red and to assist the Duke of York, who, deserted

by the French, was in the utmost danger of being destroyed by the two

squadrons of De Ruyter and Bankert. About this time Cornelius Evertz,

vice-admiral of Zealand, was killed, and De Ruyter and Allemand narrowly

escaped being burnt by fire-ships; but, when the English thought

themselves secure of victory, the scattered squadron of Van Ghent came

in to the assistance of their countrymen, and again rendered doubtful

the fortune of the day.

It is said that all this time the French, who composed the white

squadron, instead of seconding the efforts of the English, kept as far

out of danger as they could, and left our fleet to sustain the whole

force of the enemy at a disadvantage of three to two. But,

notwithstanding this inequality of numbers, the fight continued with

inexpressible obstinacy till towards the evening, when victory declared

for the English. Five or six of the enemy's fire-ships were sunk by an

English man-of-war; and Sir Joseph Jordan, of the blue squadron, having

the advantage of the wind, pierced the Dutch fleet, and thereby spread

through it the utmost confusion; while a fire-ship clapped their

admiral, De Ruyter, on board, and was, with the utmost difficulty,

repulsed. As it grew dark, De Ruyter, collecting his fleet in the best

order he could, fought retreating and steered northwards.

The loss was pretty equal on both sides. The English had four men-of-war

sunk or disabled, but they were small ships; whereas the Dutch lost

three of the best in their fleet: one sunk, another burnt, and a third

taken; a fourth, called the Great Holland, commanded by the brave

Captain Brakell, was entirely disabled. As for the French,

notwithstanding all their caution, they lost two men-of-war and their

rear-admiral, M. de la Rabiniere. Of the English, about two thousand

five hundred were killed and as many wounded. The Dutch did not publish

any list, though their loss without question must have been as great;

since De Ruyter says in his letter, "it was the hardest fought battle

that he ever saw."

But though losses were reckoned as pretty equal on either side, the loss

of the Royal James with its one hundred guns, its eight hundred men,

and its admiral, the Earl of Sandwich, who was probably without his

equal upon the sea at this time, was loss enough, as the Duke of

Buckingham observed, to give the name of victory to the Dutch.

The earl, a son of Sir Sidney Montague, born on July 27th, 1625, had

rendered a great deal of distinguished service. On August 20th, 1643,

when no more than eighteen years of age, he received a commission to

raise and command a regiment in the parliamentary interest in the Civil

War. He was present at the storming of Lincoln, on the 6th of May, 1644,

which was one of the warmest actions in the course of the war. He was

likewise in the battle of Marston Moor, which was fought on July the

2nd, of the same year, where he greatly distinguished himself; insomuch

that soon after, when the city of York demanded to capitulate, he was

appointed one of the commissioners for settling the articles; which must

have been the pure effect of personal ability, since he was then but in

his nineteenth year. We find him next in the battle of Naseby; and in

the month of July, 1645, he stormed the town of Bridgewater. In

September he commanded a brigade in the storming of Bristol, where he

performed very remarkable service, and, on September 10th, 1645,

subscribed the articles of the capitulation, granted to Prince Rupert on

the delivery of that important place to the parliament.

After the first Dutch war was over he was brought into a command of the

fleet, and was appointed by the protector to act with Blake in his

expedition into the Mediterranean.

In 1657 he was appointed to command the fleet in the Downs, and in the

following year, on the death of Oliver, had command of the great fleet

sent to the North to preserve the tranquillity of Europe; returning from

whence he gave an account of his conduct to parliament, and then retired

to his own estate. On the restoration of Charles II. he was made Earl

of Sandwich, admiral of the narrow seas, and lieutenant-admiral to the

Duke of York as Lord High-admiral of England. The story of his career

from this time forward has been told in the successive stories of the

Dutch wars, and it only remains now to record the last honours done to

his remains. His body was found, nearly a fortnight after his death,

floating in the sea; and the king testified, by the honours he paid to

his remains, how much he admired the man, how sensible he was of his

hard fate, and how willing he was to mingle with the dust of his

ancestors the ashes of such as died gloriously in their country's

service. The facts stand thus recorded in the Gazette of June 13th,


"HARWICH, June 10th.

"This day the body of the Right Honourable Edward, Earl of

Sandwich, being, by the order upon his coat, discovered floating

on the sea, by one of His Majesty's ketches was taken up and

brought into this port; where Sir Charles Littleton, the

governor, receiving it, took immediate care for its embalming

and honourable disposing, till His Majesty's pleasure should be

known concerning it; for the obtaining of which His Majesty was

attended at Whitehall, the next day, by the master of the said

vessel, who, by Sir Charles Littleton's order, was sent to

present His Majesty with the George found about the body of the

said earl, who remained, at the time of its taking up, in every

part unblemished, saving some impressions made by the fire upon

his face and breast: upon which His Majesty, out of his princely

regard to the great deservings of the said earl, and his

unexampled performances in this last act of his life, hath

resolved to have his body brought up to London, there, at his

charge, to receive the rites of funeral due to his great quality

and merits.

"The Earl of Sandwich's body being taken out of one of his

majesty's yachts at Deptford on July 3rd, 1672, and laid in the

most solemn manner in a sumptuous barge, proceeded by water to

Westminster Bridge, attended by the king's barges, His Royal

Highness the Duke of York's, as also with the several barges of

the nobility, lord mayor, and the several companies of the city

of London, adorned suitable to the melancholy occasion, with

trumpets and other music that sounded the deepest notes. On

passing by the Tower the great guns there were discharged, as

well as at Whitehall; and, about five o'clock in the evening,

the body being taken out of the barge at Westminster Bridge,

there was a procession to the abbey-church with the highest

magnificence. Eight earls were assistant to his son Edward, Earl

of Sandwich, chief mourner, and most of the nobility and persons

of quality in town gave their assistance to his interment in the

Duke of Albemarle's vault, in the north side of King Henry

VII.'s chapel, where his remains are deposited."

After the Battle of Solebay the Dutch fleet returned to the coast of

Holland, where they were obliged to lay up for the want of powder, all

available ammunition being wanted by the land forces to dispute the

victorious march of the French.

In their extremity the Dutch sued for peace, and sent four deputies to

England and as many to the French king. At both courts they were treated

with the same scant courtesy. Charles II., instead of hearing and giving

them an answer in person, sent four of his ministers to confer with

them, and afterwards sent the Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Arlington,

and Viscount Halifax into Holland to treat with them there. These

ambassadors made most extravagant demands; asking ten millions of

guilders for the expense of the war, an annual tribute of one hundred

thousand for the liberty of fishing, and the perpetual stadtholdership

for the Prince of Orange and his issue male. These, however, were

moderate articles in comparison with the rest; for they insisted on a

share in the Dutch East India trade, the possession of the city of Sluys

in Flanders, and the islands of Cadzand, Walcheren, Goree and Voorn. The

deputies sent to the French court were answered in the style of a

conqueror, and so sent back to spread despair through the country;

whereupon the Dutch seeing nothing before them but slavery, resolved to

lay aside all treaties and to die free.

In the meantime, the French and English fleets, being perfectly

refitted, and the latter having taken on board a large body of land

forces, sailed again for the Dutch coasts, with a design to make a

descent on Zealand, the only province into which the French had not

carried their arms by land. Here they found the Dutch fleet; but, not

thinking proper to attack them among the sands, they deferred the

execution of their design, and blocked up the Maese and Texel; which De

Ruyter, having strict orders to avoid battle, saw with concern, yet

wanted power to prevent. The Duke of York now resolved to disembark his

troops on the Isle of Texel. The occasion was favourable in all

respects; the French and the Bishop of Munster were in the heart of the

Dutch territories, so that no great force could be drawn together to

resist the English on shore, and the coast was so low and flat that it

looked as if nothing could secure the Dutch from invasion.

It was upon July 3rd this resolution was taken; and it was intended that

the forces should have landed the next flood. But at this critical

juncture wind and wave interposed in favour of a free people, and saved

them from a yoke which seemed already to press upon their necks. The ebb

continued much longer than usual, and this defeated the intended descent

for that time; and the storm, that rose the night following, forced the

fleet out to sea, where they struggled for some time with very foul

weather, and then returned to the English shore. The Dutch clergy

magnified this circumstance into a miracle; and certainly it was a good

stroke of policy at such a time to persuade the nation, struggling

against superior enemies, that they were particularly favoured by


After this disappointment, there was no other action thought of at sea

for this year, except the sending Sir Edward Spragge, with a squadron,

to disturb the Dutch herring-fishery; which he performed with a degree

of moderation that became so great a man; contenting himself with taking

one of their vessels, when he saw that was sufficient to disperse the


All this time affairs in England were getting into very strained

conditions. The parliament had never owned the Dutch war, and though

they voted liberal supplies to the king, did so without naming the

object to which they were to be applied further than to designate them

"the king's extraordinary occasions." At this time, too, the Test Act

was passed, an Act, which, putting it out of the power of the papists to

continue in public offices, compelled Lord Clifford to quit the

treasury and the Duke of York to give up the fleet.

Early in the year 1673 it was resolved that Prince Rupert should succeed

the Duke of York at the head of the fleet, and by the middle of May he

was ready for sea.

The object of the English was to make another attempt to land troops

upon the Dutch coast; and, with this view, a considerable number of

soldiers was put on board the fleet. Charles II. and the Duke of York

visited the navy on May 19th; and, in a council of war held in their

presence, it was resolved to attack the enemy even upon their own coast,

in case they could not be provoked to put to sea. In pursuance of this

determination, Prince Rupert stood over towards the coast of Holland,

and found De Ruyter with the Dutch fleet riding within the sands of

Schonevelt, in a line between the Rand and the Stony-bank, which was a

very advantageous situation.

On the 28th, in the morning about nine o'clock, Prince Rupert sent a

detached squadron of thirty-five frigates and thirteen fire-ships to

draw the enemy out, which was very easily done; for De Ruyter presently

advanced in good order, and, the English light ships retreating, put

their own fleet in some disarray. This engagement took place upon very

unequal terms: the confederate fleet consisted of eighty-four men of

war, besides fire-ships, divided into three squadrons, under the command

of Prince Rupert, Count d'Estrees, and Sir Edward Spragge. The Dutch

were scarcely seventy men-of-war and frigates, under De Ruyter, Tromp,

and Bankert.

The battle was very hard fought on both sides, insomuch that Tromp

shifted his flag four times; from the Golden Lion to the Prince on

Horseback, from the Prince on Horseback to the Amsterdam, and from

the Amsterdam to the Comet, from on board which he dated his letter

to the states in the evening. Sir Edward Spragge and the Earl of Ossory

distinguished themselves on our side by their extraordinary courage and

conduct. Prince Rupert also performed wonders, considering that his ship

was in a very bad condition and took in so much water at her ports that

she could not fire the guns of her lower tier. The battle lasted till

night, and then the Dutch are said to have retired behind their sands.

Both sides, however, claimed the victory: De Ruyter, in his letter to

the Prince of Orange, says, "We judge absolutely that the victory is on

the side of this state and of your highness." Prince Rupert, in his

letter to the Earl of Arlington, says, "I thought it best to cease the

pursuit and anchor where I now am." As to the slain on both sides in

this battle, it is reported the Dutch lost Vice-admiral Schram,

Rear-admiral Vlugh, and six of their captains, and had one ship

disabled, which was lost in her retreat. On our side fell the Captains

Fowls, Finch, Tempest, and Worden: Colonel Hamilton had his legs shot

off, and we had only two ships disabled, none either sunk or taken.

In one respect, however, the Dutch may certainly be credited with

victory; since they prevented a descent intended upon their country,

which was the main object of the attack, and for which service, in case

of the victory of the English fleet, Count Schomberg, with six thousand

men, lay ready at Yarmouth.

The Dutch, being upon their own coast, had the advantage of receiving

quick supplies; whereas the wind prevented the English from obtaining

succour. Prince Rupert, however, did all in his power to repair his

fleet, and believing that the Dutch would not be long before they

resumed hostilities, he went on board the Royal Sovereign in the

evening of June 3rd, "where he went not to bed all night." His foresight

was justified by events; for on the 4th, in the morning, the Dutch

fleet, by this time at least as strong as the confederates, bore down

upon them as fast as the wind would permit. Prince Rupert was so much in

earnest that, finding his ship's crew raised his anchors very slowly, he

ordered his cables to be cut, that he might make haste to meet the

Dutch. Count d'Estrees, with the white squadron, is said to have

betrayed no such great willingness to fight, but to have kept as much as

might be out of harm's way.

At last, about five in the evening, Spragge and Tromp engaged with great

fury. De Ruyter showed at first a design of coming to a close engagement

with the prince: but before he came within musket-shot, he tacked and

bore away; whence it was concluded that he had suffered some

considerable damage. Spragge, in the meantime, had forced Tromp to sheer

off. He then fell into Vice-admiral Sweers's division, which he soon put

to confusion, and had a third engagement with Tromp, wherein he shot

down his flag. The battle lasted till between ten and eleven at night,

and then the Dutch stood to the south-east, and so it ended.

Both sides claimed the victory as before, losses being pretty equal on

both sides, though far from considerable on either.

The prince was for attacking the enemy again; but it was carried in a

council of war to sail for the English coast, in order to obtain

supplies, as well of ammunition as provision; of the want of which a

great many captains complained loudly. Besides, the fleet was so poorly

manned that if it had not been for the land forces on board they could

not have fought at all. On June the 8th the fleet arrived at the Nore,

and on the 14th Prince Rupert went to London, to give the king an

account of the condition of things and to press for necessary supplies.

About the middle of July Prince Rupert was once more at sea, having on

board the troops intended for a descent upon the Dutch coast. His

Highness arrived off Holland on the 21st of the said month; and,

declining an engagement, stood along the shore in order to find an

opportunity for disembarking his troops. On August the 9th he took a

Dutch East India ship richly laden. This induced De Ruyter to bear down

upon the English fleet; upon seeing which, Prince Rupert commanded the

French a particular course, and had thereby an opportunity of discerning

what he was to expect from them in a time of action. They lay by twice

that night; first about eleven o'clock, when the prince sent to Count

d'Estrees to order him to make sail, which he did till about one o'clock

and then laid his sail to the mast again causing a second stop to the

fleet and obliging the prince to send him another message. In those

days, when party-spirit ran very high, nobody ever suspected the Count

d'Estrees' courage, which was so well known and so thoroughly

established as clearly to disclose his orders.

These delays gave the Dutch admiral an opportunity of gaining the wind,

which he did not neglect; but, early on August 11th, bore down upon the

confederates as if he meant to force them to a battle; upon which His

Highness thought fit to tack, and thereby brought the fleet into good

order. He put the French in the van, himself in the centre, and Sir

Edward Spragge in the rear; and in this disposition the French lay fair

to get the wind of the enemy, which, however, they neglected. The

English fleet consisted of about sixty men-of-war and frigates, the

French of thirty, and the Dutch of seventy or thereabouts; so that the

royal fleets were indisputably superior to that of the republic.

De Ruyter, bearing down with his fleet in three squadrons, prepared to

attack the prince himself, while Tromp engaged Spragge and the blue

squadron, in which the English admiral obliged him, by laying his

fore-top sail to his mast, in order to stay for him, contrary to the

express order of the prince. This fondness for a point of honour proved

fatal to himself as well as disadvantageous to the fleet. Bankert, with

his Zealand squadron, should have engaged the white, commanded by

D'Estrees; but it seems the Dutch understood the temper of the French

better than to give themselves much trouble about them; for Bankert

contented himself with sending eight men-of-war and three fire-ships to

attack the rear-admiral, De Martel, who seemed to be the only man that

had any real design to fight; and then the rest of the Zealand squadron

united themselves to De Ruyter, and fell together upon Prince Rupert.

The battle between De Ruyter and the red squadron began about eight

o'clock in the morning, and a multitude of circumstances concurred to

threaten the English admiral with inevitable ruin. Sir Edward Spragge,

intent on his personal quarrel with Van Tromp, had fallen to the

leeward several leagues with the blue squadron; and to complete Prince

Rupert's misfortune, the enemy found means to intercept his own

rear-admiral, Sir John Chichele, with his division; so that by noon His

Highness was wholly surrounded by the Dutch, being pressed by De Ruyter

and his division on his lee-quarter, an admiral with two flags more on

his weather-quarter, and the Zealand squadron on his broadside to


His Highness, in the midst of these disappointments, behaved with such

intrepidity, and encouraged all his officers so effectually by his own

example that, by degrees, he cleared himself of his enemies, rejoined

Sir John Chichele, and by two o'clock had time to think of the blue

squadron, which was now at three leagues' distance; and, not hearing

their guns well plied, he made all the sail he could towards them, in

order to unite with and relieve them. De Ruyter, perceiving His

Highness's design, left firing and bore away also with his whole force

to the assistance of Tromp; so that both fleets ran down side by side

within range of cannon-shot, and yet without firing on either part.

About four the prince joined the blue squadron, which he found in a very

tattered condition.

At the beginning of the fight, Tromp in the Golden Lion, and Sir

Edward Spragge in the Royal Prince, fought ship to ship. The Dutch

admiral, however, would not come to a close fight, which gave him a

great advantage; for Spragge, who had more than his complement on board,

suffered much by the enemy's cannon, and, having the wind and smoke in

his face, could not make such good use of his own as he would otherwise

have done. After three hours' warm fighting the Royal Prince was so

disabled that Sir Edward was forced to go on board the St. George; and

Tromp quitted his Golden Lion to hoist his flag on board the Comet,

when the battle was renewed with incredible fury.

The great aim of the Dutch admiral was to take or sink the Royal

Prince; but the Earl of Ossory and Sir John Kempthorne, together with

Spragge himself, so effectually protected the disabled vessel that none

of the enemy's fire-ships could come near her, though they often

attempted it. At last, the St. George being terribly torn and disabled

Sir Edward Spragge designed to go on board a third ship, the Royal

Charles; but, before he had got ten boats' length, a shot, which passed

through the St. George, took his boat, and though they immediately

rowed back, before they could get within reach of the ropes that were

thrown out from the St. George, the boat sank, and Sir Edward was


When Prince Rupert drew near the blue squadron he found the admiral

disabled, the vice-admiral lying to the windward, mending his sails and

rigging, the rear-admiral astern of the Royal Prince, between her and

the enemy, bending his new sails and mending his rigging. The first

thing His Highness did was to send two frigates to take the Royal

Prince in tow. He then steered in between the enemy and the lame ships,

and perceiving that Tromp had tacked and was coming down again upon the

blue squadron, he made a signal for all the ships of that squadron to

join him: but it was in vain; for, except the two flags, Sir John

Kempthorne and the Earl of Ossory, there was not one in a condition to

move. The French still continued to look on with all the coolness

imaginable; and notwithstanding the prince put out the blue flag upon

the mizen-peak, which was the signal to attack set down in the general

instructions for fighting, and known not only to all the English

captains but also to those of the white squadron, yet they remained, as

before, wholly inactive. But, to give some kind of colour to this

conduct, the Count d'Estrees, after the battle was in a manner over,

sent to know what this signal meant. An officer who wrote an account of

this engagement, says, "The sending to inquire the meaning of the signal

was cunningly done: but one of De Ruyter's sailors seems to have had as

much penetration as the French ministry had artifice; for, upon one of

his companions asking him what the French meant by keeping at such a

distance, 'Why, you fool,' said he, 'they have hired the English to

fight for them; and all their business here is to see that they earn

their wages.'"

About five in the evening, De Ruyter, with all his flags and fleet, came

close up with the prince, and then began a very sharp engagement. His

Highness had none to second him but the vice-admiral and rear-admiral of

the blue, Sir John Harman, Captain Davis, and Captain Stout, of his own

division, Sir John Holmes in the Rupert, Captain Legge in the Royal

Katharine, Sir John Berry in the Resolution, Sir John Ernle in the

Henry, Sir Roger Strickland in the Mary, and Captain Carter in the

Crown; in all about thirteen ships. The engagement was very close and

bloody till about seven o'clock, when His Highness forced the Dutch

fleet into great disorder and sent in two fire-ships amongst them to

increase it, at the same time making a signal for the French to bear

down; which, even then, if they had done, a total defeat must have

followed: but, as they took no notice of it and the prince saw that most

of his ships were not in any condition to keep the sea long, he wisely

provided for their safety by making with an easy sail toward our own


This battle ended as doubtfully as any of the rest; for the Dutch very

loudly claimed the victory now, as they did before, and with fully as

much reason. The truth is, it seems to have been a drawn battle; since

the Dutch, notwithstanding all their advantages, did not take or sink a

single English man-of-war, and killed but two captains, Sir William

Reeves and Captain Havard, besides our gallant admiral, Sir Edward

Spragge, and no great number of private men. On their side they lost two

vice-admirals, Sweers and Liefde, three captains, and about one thousand

private men.

Soon after this battle the English fleet came into the Thames, and

Prince Rupert returned to court, where he joined his representations to

those of others who were desirous for peace, the result of which was

that a treaty of peace was signed in London on February 9th, 1674,

whereby all differences were adjusted. The limits of the British seas

were particularly defined; and the states undertook that not only

separate ships, but whole fleets should strike their sails to any fleet

or single ship carrying the king's flag, as the custom was in the days

of his ancestors.

The East India trade was likewise settled so as to prevent subsequent

debates, and not leave either party at liberty to encroach upon the

other. Places taken on both sides were by this treaty to be restored;

and the states-general were to pay His Majesty eight hundred thousand

patacoons at four payments; the first, immediately after the

ratification of this treaty, and the other three by annual payments.

Thus ended the third of our Dutch wars; which, though made against the

interest and will of the people, terminated to their advantage; whereas

the former war, begun at the instance of the nation, ended but

indifferently; so little correspondence is there between the grounds and

issues of things.

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