Cambro Norman Invasion of Ireland
Ireland's History in Maps

The Cambro-Norman Invasion of Ireland


In the fifth century AD, Roman Britain collapsed, and the Anglo-Saxons invaded and settled the East, eventually to establish Germanic-speaking England. They pressed the native British groups, whom they called 'Welsh', ever westwards, into the land which would become Wales, and Cornwall. Being just across a short expanse of sea, Wales and Ireland shared an ancient connection. It was common for the Welsh to trade with the Irish and to colonize in Irish lands, and vica versa. When the Norsemen arrived in the 7th century, alliances were formed between the Irish, Welsh, and others to wage battle against the Norse (Vikings). By the eleventh century the Normans (Norsemen from northern France) under William the Conqueror invaded Britain and conquered the Anglo-Saxon lands. The Normans met stiff resistance with the Welsh, who by this time had formed alliances with both the Irish and the Norse, particularly from Leinster province in Ireland. For more information about these alliances, see Pre-Norman Ireland. In the twelfth century the Welsh chieftain Rhys ap Gruffydd was holding his own among the Norman barons in South Wales, who were by now intermarrying with the Welsh. Rhys held the Cambro-Norman baron Robert FitzStephen prisoner after overrunning his estates in the 1160's. Robert, who was a cousin of Rhys through his mother Nesta (Rhys' aunt), later came to play an important role in the Invasion of Ireland.

Causes of the Invasion of Ireland

In 1152, the religious see of Dublin opted to become an Irish archbishopric, spurning the ecclesiatical rule of the Archbiship of Canterbury in England. Shortly after, when Henry II became King of England, the idea of invading Ireland resurfaced apparently as it had during the previous reigns of William the Conqueror and Henry I. Ecclesiastic reaction to the loss of the see of Dublin was taken on by Pope Adrian, at the insistance of the envoys from Canterbury, who invested Henry and his successors the right to rule Ireland and to bring about religious reformation there. However Henry II was occupied at the outset of his career in securing his hold on England itself, and any plans of Irish invasion were on hold.

The political climate in Ireland at the time was one of inter-tribal rivalries, as it had been for centuries. In the mid-1100's a great rivalry for the high-kingship of Ireland existed between Muirchertach MacLochlainn of Tirowen and Ruairi O'Connor [Ruadrí Ua Conchobair] of Connacht. Dermot MacMurrough [Dairmait Mac Murchada], the King of Leinster, allied himself with MacLochlainn, and Dermot's greatest foe, Tiernan O'Rourke [Tighernán Ua Ruairc], King of Breifne, allied himself with O'Connor. Dermot and Tiernan were bitter rivals contending for the middle kingdom of Meath, and at one point Dermot abducted the wife of O'Rourke, thus sealing the hatred between these two kings.

In 1166 the high-king Muirchertach MacLochlainn died. Dermot MacMurrough, losing his greatest ally and protector in MacLochlainn, saw his kingdom in Leinster invaded by O'Connor and O'Rourke. On this occasion the Ostmen (Norsemen) of Dublin also participated in ousting Dermot from his kingship in Leinster.

The Irish King of Leinster seeks help from England

Losing his powerful allies in Ireland, it seemed evident that the ousted King of Leinster, Dermot MacMurrough, would seek assistance in Wales. The English (Norman) King, Henry II, granted Dermot permission to recruit forces to regain his kingship. Dermot formed an alliance with Richard de Clare, who was denied by King Henry to his title as Earl of Pembroke, Wales, otherwise known to history as Strongbow. Dermot promised Strongbow grants of land as well as his daughter's hand in marriage in exchange for his help. After winning Stongbow over to his cause, Dermot visited the Welsh prince of South Wales, Rhys ap Gruffydd, to gain the freedom of Robert FitzStephen, a "knight of great reknown," who had been held captive by Rhys. At the request of Robert's half-brothers, David (bishop of St. David's) and Maurice FitzGerald, Robert was released on condition that he went to Ireland to assist Dermot MacMurrough.

In 1167 Dermot returned to Ireland with a small force of Welsh and Flemish under Richard FitzGodebert. With native Irish support to regain control of his homeland, Ui Ceinnsealaigh in southest Leinster, Dermot attempted to reclaim his kingship of Leinster. He was however defeated southest of Carlow town in 1168 by the high-king Ruairi O'Conor and his ally Tiernan O'Rourke, the same who had ousted him in 1166.

The stage is set for the Norman Invasion of Ireland

Following up on his promise of aid Robert FitzStephen landed, about the 1st of May 1169, with three ships of Norman, Welsh and Flemish forces, about 400 strong, on the southern coast of County Wexford at Bannow. The following day Maurice de Prendergast with a force of about 200 reinforced FitzStephen's group. Merging with a force of near 500 Irishmen under MacMurrough, the combined army marched toward the Norse-Irish seaport of Wexford, where battle began outside the walls of the town. Encountering the Norman mounted and armored knights and the deadly the Welsh archers, the Norse army of about 2,000 retired within their own walls. Following assaults on the walled city, the Norsemen called for terms of peace which ultimately led to their recognition, once again, of Dermot as their overlord. At this time, Dermot granted lands in Wexford to Robert FitzStephen and his half-brother Maurice FitzGerald, as well as to Hervey de Monte Marisco, an uncle of Strongbow.

Further expansion in Leinster

Dermot and FitzStephen, now with the reluctant Norsemen of Wexford at their side, next set their mark on the westernmost kingdom in Leinster, that of Ossory (Kilkenny and part of Laois). The king of Ossory, Donal MacGiolla Phadriag (later Fitzpatrick) held hostage and had blinded Dermot's eldest son Eanna. In the three day battle, the Ossorians were routed and defeated near Freshford.

Dermot and his allies next went into north Leinster doing battle in the territories of the O'Byrnes, O'Tooles, and the lands of O'Connor of Offaly. Soon the greater forces of the high-king of Ireland Ruairi O'Conor returned to Leinster, and with the interaction of the Church, the two forces sat down in negotiation at Ferns. In the Treaty of 1169, Dermot was allowed to retain the kingship of Leinster if he recognized Ruairi as the high-king and if he agreed to send his foreign allies back to Wales, never to return. Dermot agreed to Ruairi's demands and gave his son O'Conchobair to Ruairi as hostage. In turn the Norsemen at the Leinster seaport of Dublin reluctantly submitted to the terms and to Dermot's kingship.

The Arrival of Strongbow - the Treaty broken

Toward the end of 1169, Maurice FitzGerald landed with a force of two ships. Growing more confident, and apparently eying the high-kingship of Ireland for himself, Dermot relayed a message to Strongbow to send more forces. Strongbow, after viewing the prospect of marrying Dermot's daughter and eventually becoming overlord in Leinster, sent another landing party under the command of Raymond le Gros. At the same time Strongbow was planning for his own landing force to embark. Around the 1st of May, 1170, Raymond landed at Baginbun, near Waterford city, with a small force of about 100 setting about to secure a landing point for the arrival of Strongbow. At Baginbun, Raymond was said to have hastily built his defenses and later resisted an attack from a larger Norse-Irish army sent out from Waterford. See Map.

Strongbow arrived around the 23rd of August, 1170, with a force of about 1,000. The landing occured at a point very near to Waterford called the Passage. The combined armies of Strongbow and Raymond le Gros advanced toward the walled city of Waterford. Two attacks on the city were repulsed before the Cambro-Norman force found a weak spot in the walls, allowing them to enter and capture the town. Forces under Dermot MacMurrough, Robert FitzStephen and Maurice FitzGerald arrived on the 25th of August after the fall of the city. It was there that Dermot gave his daughter, Aoife, in marriage to Earl Richard (Strongbow), fulfilling his promise and making Richard the heir-in-succession to the kingdom of Leinster. With the Treaty of 1169 broken, war with high-king Ruairi was imminent.

Turning Point at Dublin

The next target for the Norman-Irish armies in Leinster was the strategic political and trade center at Dublin. Although many of Ruairi's forces had been doing battle fighting against an O'Brien rebellion in Munster, the high-king was already amassing a large army toward Dublin. The Norman-Irish armies managed to reach the southern walls of Dublin and muster an assault on the town. Even though negotiations had already begun between the Norsemen of Dublin and the combined Strongbow/MacMurrough forces, Raymond le Gros and Milo de Cogan burst into the city from different directions and routed the Ostmen of Dublin. Asculf MacTorkil, the Norse king of Dublin was forced to flee with his remaining forces by ship.

Ruairi felt betrayed and indignent about the negotiations initiated by the Ostmen of Dublin, and his armies apparently marched away. Dermot followed up the victory at Dublin by taking his forces into Meath, a territory north of Leinster which he contested in earlier years against one of his greatest enemies, Tiernan O'Rourke. Dermot may have hoped to seek revenge on his old enemy, who had been instrumental in ousting him in 1166, and defeating him on his return in 1168.

The Irish Reaction

Up to this time many of the other Irish kings and leaders felt the Normans were simply aiding Dermot in his "private" feud with O'Connor, the high-king. However, this all changed on Dermot MacMurrough's death in May, 1171 and the accession of Strongbow to the kingship of Leinster. This event caused great concern among the native Irish leaders. How could a foreigner so easily establish himself as king of an Irish province? In reaction, the tribes of Leinster rose in revolt and high-king Ruairi called on the Irish provincial kings to drive out the foreigner.

Initially the Irish-Norse campaign to oust the Normans was successful. Dermot MacCarthy of Desmond recaptured Waterford. The Norsemen of Wexford captured FitzStephen. A large Norse fleet under MacTorkil returned to lay seige on Dublin, while Ruairi's army was approaching Dublin by land.

However, the Norse attacked Dublin before the arrival of Ruairi's forces and although at first successful, were counter atttacked and outflanked by the superior calvary and archers of Milo de Cogan and his brother Richard. The joint armies of Ruairi, 60,000 strong, laid seige to Dublin during the months of July and August. As their supplies began to run out, the beseiged Normans made a surprise attack on the forces of Ruairi. Demonstrating their supremacy in arms, the Norman forces routed and dispersed Ruairi's armies. Ruairi withdrew to his native Connacht, high-king in name only.

The Arrival of Henry II

Strongbow went on to retake Wexford and Waterford, as well as defeat the Ossorians who were being aided by O'Brien of Limerick. The other leaders in Leinster soon submitted.

By this time Henry II had noted the successes of the Cambro-Norman forces and feared a rival Norman state in Ireland. In October, 1171 Henry arrived with a large army to assume control of the situation, and to set himself up in the role of the protector against the marauding Norman barons. Strongbow offered to surrender his Irish conquests to Henry and pay him homage. Henry in return granted the kingdom of Leinster to the Earl, and kept Dublin, Waterford and Wexford for himself. All but the Irish kingdoms of mid and west Ulster, and likely Connacht, agreed to the authority given to Henry by the Pope and to the peace he offered in Ireland. In the move the Irish kings were substituting one overlord for another, retaining full possession of and jurisdiction over their original territories and paying tributes to Henry which were no heavier than those they formerly paid to the Irish high-king.

Post Invasion

Before leaving Ireland in April, 1172, Henry II granted to Hugh de Lacy, one of his followers, the province of Meath (from the Shannon to the sea) and appointed him constable of Dublin and justiciar (i.e. representative of the royal government in Ireland as a whole). Within a few months Hugh de Lacy treacherously killed Tiernan O'Rourke in the course of a parley, effectivey reducing Irish resistance in Meath. It was not however until 1175 that he and Strongbow finally controlled Irish resistance within their vast liberties, allowing the land to be shared out among their chief vassals.

By 1175 the Treaty of Windsor recognized Ruairi O'Connor as high-king of Ireland outside Leinster, Meath and the area around Waterford. In return Henry demanded tribute from the Irish chiefs. Ruairi's followers touted the treaty as a diplomatic triumph, but its significance dwindled quickly to a guarantee of immunity for only the province of Connacht, as long as tribute was paid.

In 1176, after repeated rebellions against both O'Connor and the Normans, the O'Brien king of Thomond burned the city of Limerick to prevent its being garrisoned. South Munster was filled with domestic strife among its chiefdoms.

Following Strongbow's death in June, 1176, Leinster was temporarily transferred to the wardship of King Henry II, until in 1177 when he transferred all of his rights as Lord of Ireland to his youngest son, Prince John.

In 1177 the newly arrived John de Courcy mounted a successful free-lance expedition into Ulaid, and ruled for a time as an independent 'Prince of Ulster.' Hugh De Lacy's charter for Meath was renewed on stricter terms, and the two Irish kingdoms in Munster (held by McCarthy and O'Brien) were speculatively granted away: Cork to Robert FitzStephen and Miles de Cogan, who took possession of 7 cantreds and exacted tribute from McCarthy for the remaining 24, and Limerick to Philip de Braose and others, who failed to conquer any land at all from O'Brien.

What followed in Ireland of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries was a change from acquiring lordship over men to colonizing land. The founding of borough towns, castles and churches; the importing of tenants; and the increase in agriculture and commerce were among the changes brought on by the Cambro-Normans following the Invasion.

More on the Invaders

From Camden (Brittania, 1610) comes this list of persons who participated with Dermot MacMorrogh during the Invasion:

Richard Strongbow, Earle of Pembroch
Robert Fitz-Stephen
Harvey de Montmarish
Maurice Prendergast
Robert Barr
Meiler Meilerine
Maurice Fitz-Gerald
Redmond nephew of Fitz-Stephen
William Ferrand
Miles de Cogan
Gualter de Ridensford
Gualter and Alexander sons of Maurice Fitz-Gerald
William Notte
Robert Fitz-Bernard
Hugh Lacie
William Fitz-Aldelm
William Macarell
Hemphrey Bohun
Hugh De Gundevill
Philip de Hasting
Hugh Tirell
David Walsh
Robert Poer
Osbert de Herloter
William de Bendenges
Adam de Gernez
Philip de Breos
Griffin nephew of Fitz-Stephen
Raulfe Fitz-Stephen
Walter de Barry
Philip Walsh
Adam de Hereford

Others "claimed" to have been present during the Invasion (or shortly thereafter)
John Courcy
Hugh Contilon
Redmund Fitz-Hugh
Miles of St. David's (Miles Menevensis) - with FitzStephen
Walynus, a Welshman who came to Ireland with Maurice Fitzgerald
Gilbert d'Angulo and sons Jocelyn and Hostilo (Costello) - with Strongbow
Sir Robert Marmion - with Strongbow 1172
William de Wall - with Strongbow
Randolph FitzRalph - with FitzStephen
Alice of Abervenny - with Le Gros
Richard de Cogan - with Strongbow
Phillipe le Hore - with Strongbow
Theobald Fitzwalter - with Henry II
Robert de Bermingham - with Stongbow
?? d'Evreux - with Strongbow
?? Eustace
Roger de Gernon - with Strongbow
de la Chapelle (Supple) - with Strongbow

In Richard Roche's book, "The Norman Invasion of Ireland," he points out other Cambro-Norman-Flemish family names prominent among the early invaders and the settlers who soon followed:

Other prominent Norman family names: Talbot (from the barony of that name near Rouen), Devereux (near Rouen), Neville, Browne, Poer (pronounced Poor in Wexford).

Pembrokeshire families include: Barry, Bryan, Barrett, Carew, Caunteton (now Condon), Hay, Keating, Mayler, Roche, Russell, Stackpoole, Scurlock, and Walsh.

Devonshire names: Furlong, Bellew, Codd, Cruys (now Cruise), Hore.

Uncertain origins before Ireland: Harper (said to be descended from Strongbow's harper), Sutton, Stafford, Rossiter, Loundres, Esmonde, French, Lamport (or Lambert), Peppard, St. John, and Turner.

Flemish names: Fleming (barons of Slane), Prendergast (now Prender), Chievres (now Cheevers), Synad (now Sinnott), Cullin (now Cullen), Wadding, Whythay (now Whitty), Cusac (now Cusack), Siggin (Siggins or Siggeen in Wexford), Boscher (Busher), Parle, Waddick, Bolger, Colfer, and Connick.

South Wexford is particularly rich today in descendents of the knights, says Roche, who is a Wexford man himself.

From the book "The History and Antiquities of the City of Dublin", by Walter Harris, Esq., comes this alphabetical list of "such English adventurers as arrived in Ireland during the first sixteen years from the invasion of the English, collected partly from Maurice Regan and Giraldus Cambrensis, two contemporary writers, and partly from records."

Almane (Walter) nephew to William Fitz-Aldelm.
Barry (Robert)
Barry (Robert, jun.)
Barry (Philip) nephew to Robert Fitz-Stephens.
Barry (Walter de)
Barry (Gerald) commonly called Cambrensis, another nephew to Robert Fitz-Stephens.
Basilia, sister to earl Strongbow.
Bendeger (William)
Bermingham (Robert de)
Bevin (de) by some Beuin.
Bigaret (Robert)
Bluett (Walter)
Bohune (Humphrey de)
Borard (Gilbert de)
Borard (Robert de)
Braos (William de)
Bruse or Braos (Philip de)
Camerarius (Adam or Chamberlain)
Caunteton or Kantune (Reymond de)
Chappel (Richard de la)
Clahul (John de)
Clavill (John)
Cogan (Miles de)
Cogan (Richard de)
Comyn (John) archbishop of Dublin.
Constantine (Geffry de)
Curfun (Vivian de)
Courcey (John de)
Cressy (Hugh de)
Curtenay (Reginald de)
Dullard (Adam)
Feipo (Adam de)
Ferrand (William)
Fitz-Aldelm (William)
Fitz-Bernard (Robert)
Fitz-David (Milo)
Fitz-Girald (Maurice)
Fitz-Godobert (Richard)
Fitz-Godobert (Robert)
Fitz-Henry (Meiler)
Fitz-Henry (Robert)
Fitz-Hugh (Reymund)
Fitz-Martin (Robert)
Fitz-Maurice (Alexander)
Fitz-Maurice (Girald)
Fitz-Philip (Henry)
Fitz-Philip (Maurice)
Fitz-Ralph (Randulph)
Fitz-Richard (Robert)
Fitz-Stephen (Amere or Meredith) son to
Fitz-Stephen (Robert)
Fitz-Stephen (Ralph)
Fitz-Walter (Theobald)
Fleming (Richard de)
Flemin (Thomas le)
Fuceport (Adam)
Gernemie (Adam de)
Glanvill (Reginald de)
Gross (Reymund le)
Griffith, nephew to Robert Fitz-Stephen.
Gundeville (Hugh de)
Haya (Geoffry de)
Hastings (Philip de)
Henry II. king of England.
Hereford (Adam de)
Hereford (John de)
Hereford (Osbert de)
Hereford (Richard de)
Hofe (Hugh de)
John (Constable of Cheshire)
Lacy (Hugh de)
Lacy (John de) constable of Cheshire.
Lacy (Robert de)
Loundres (Richard de)
Mareyne (Richard de)
Maskerell (William)
Monte Marisco (Hervey de)
Moreton (John, earl of)
Miffet (William de)
Nangle or Angulo (Gilbert de)
Nangle (Joscelin Fitz-Gilbert)
Nesta, daughter of Maurice Fitz-Gerald.
Nicholl, a monk.
Nicholas, the king's chaplain.
Nott (William)
Nugent (Gilbert)
Pavilly (Reginald de)
Peche (Richard de)
Petit (William)
Petit (Richard)
Power (Robert le)
Power (Roger le)
Power (William le)
Prendergast (Maurice de)
Prendergast (Philip de)
Purcell --
Quiney (Robert de)
Ralph, abbot of Bildewas.
Ralph, archdeacon of Lhandaffe.
Ridelsford (John de)
Ridelsford (Walter de)
Robert --
Rupe (Adam de)
Salisbury (Robert de)
Smith (Robert)
Strigul (Richard, earl of) or Strongbow
Sancto Laurentio (Almeric de)
Sancto Laurentio (Nicholas de) son to the former.
Thomas –
Tyrell (Hugh)
Tuit (Richard)
Valoiques (Humphrey de)
Verdon (Bertram de)
Wallingford (Nicholas) abbot of Malmsbury.
Welsh (Philip)
Worchester (Philip de)

From the Red Book of Ossory comes the following list of the Invaders of Ireland in 1169-70 as written on fol. 90a.

Robertus filius Stephani
Herveius de Monte Mauricii
Robertus Barencis
Mauricius Prendirgast
Mauricius Geraldi filius
Remundus nepos Stephani
Willelmus Ferrandus
Milo de Cogan
Ricardus de Cogan
Walterus de Rydenefordia
Geraldinus et Alexander Mauricii filius
Willelmus Notte
Hugo de Lacy
Willelmus Aldelini filius
Willemus Makarellus
Hunfredus Boonensis
Hugo de Gundevylla
Philippus de Hasting
Hugo Tirellus
David Gaulensis
Remundi nepos
Robertus Poer
Obertus de Herlotera
Gwylelmus de Bendeyes
Adam de Gernemes
Philippus de Breusa
Griffinus Stephandie nepos
Radulphus Stephani filius
Gwalterus Barrensis
Philippus Guallensis
Adam Herfordensis

Stephanides and Mauricius Geraldi filius {fratres fuerunt}
Robertus Barrensis and Meileranus {nepotes furunt}

The Cambro-Norman Leaders - Descendants of Nesta

Many of the early Cambro-Norman invaders were related, as indicated in the descendant chart of Nesta, a Welsh princess.
Nesta was known as one of the most beautiful woman in Wales. 
Her father was Rhys ap Tewdwr Mawr, Prince of South Wales (1081-1093)
She had children from (at least) three relationships: Stephen the 
Castellan (of Cardigan), Gerald FitzWalter (of Windsor) and Henry I 
(King of England). 

   Stephen                    Gerald                  Henry I     
      |                         |                        |   
Robert FitzStephen*     Maurice FitzGerald*       Henry FitzHenry      
      |                 David FitzGerald                 |
      |                 William FitzGerald               |
      |                 Angareta FitzGerald (dau)        |
____________________    _____________________     ________________
|                  |    |       |           |            | 
Meredit FitzRobert      Geraldines of Desmond     Meyler FitzHenry
Ralf FitzRobert         Raymond FitzWilliam*      Robert FitzHenry
Geoffrey FitzRobert     Griffin FitzWilliam

The descendant chart above shows the relationship of Robert FitzStephen, leader of the 1st landing; Maurice FitzGerald, leader of the 3rd landing; and Raymond FitzWilliam le Gros, leader of the 4th landing. Robert and Maurice were half-brothers (through their mother Nesta) and Raymond was a nephew of both.

The campaigns:
Pre-Invasion - 1167 - Dermot MacMurrough and Flemings under Richard FitzGodebert
Bannow Island, Wexford - 1st landing 1169 - Robert FitzStephen
Bannow Island, Wexford - 2nd landing 1169 - Maurice de Prendergast
Wexford - 3rd landing 1169 - Maurice FitzGerald
Baginbun, Wexford - 4th landing 1170 - Raymond le Gros
Passage, Waterford - 5th landing 1170 - Richard Strongbow de Clare
Crook, Waterford - 6th landing 1171 - King Henry II

Family Ties

Among others, Robert FitzStephen had the following relatives who were involved in the Invasion: his son Raulfe; his half-nephews Raymond (le Gros), Griffin FitzWilliam, Robert de Barri, Meyler FitzHenry and Miles Menevensis; his half-brother Maurice FitzGerald. Robert FitzStephen's half-brother Henry FitzHenry was in turn a half-brother to King Henry II.

Maurice FitzGerald married Alice de Montgomery and they had the following children: Gerald (Baron of Offaly), Walter and Alexander (invaders), William (Baron of Naas 1), Maurice (of Kiltrany), Thomas, Robert and Nesta FitzGerald.
Maurice's son Gerald married Eve de Bermingham, relative of Robert de Bermingham who was one of the invaders.
Maurice's son William Fitzgerald, Baron of Naas, married one of Strongbow's daughters, Alina de Clare. Their line included son William, and grandson David who married Maud de Lacy to carry on the baronage of Naas.
Maurice's daughter Nesta Fitzgerald married Harvey de Montmarish [aka Hervey de Montmorency], who was an uncle of Strongbow.

Maurice FitzGerald sister, Angareta [Angarhad], married William de Barri and their children included Giraldus Cambrensis who chronicled the invasion, Robert de Barri who also invaded Ireland, and Philip de Barri, who recieved large estates in Cork. The de Cogans were half-brothers to the de Barri's.

Raymond FitzWilliam le Gros married Basilea de Clare, a sister to Strongbow. After Raymond's death (1186-89), Geoffrey FitzRobert (possible son of Robert FitzStephen), married Basilea.

Meiler [Meilerine] FitzHenry's sister married Walter de Ridelsford who is listed as Gualter de Ridensford on the chart of invaders above.

Further Reference:
The Norman Conquest of Ireland - Gerald of Wales.
The Cambro-Norman Reaction: The Invasion of Ireland

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