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A prince is a male ruler (ranked below a king, grand prince, and grand duke) or a male member of a monarch's or former monarch's family. Prince is also a title of nobility (often highest), often hereditary, in some European states. The feminine equivalent is a princess. The English word derives, via the French word prince, from the Latin noun prīnceps code: lat promoted to code: la , from primuscode: lat promoted to code: la (first) and capiocode: lat promoted to code: la (to seize), meaning "the first, foremost, the chief, most distinguished, noble ruler, prince".
The Latin word prīncepscode: lat promoted to code: la (older Latin *prīsmo-kaps, literally "the one who takes the first [place/position]"), became the usual title of the informal leader of the Roman senate some centuries before the transition to empire, the princeps senatus .
Emperor Augustus established the formal position of monarch on the basis of principate, not dominion. He also tasked his grandsons as summer rulers of the city when most of the government were on holiday in the country or attending religious rituals, and, for that task, granted them the title of .
The title has generic and substantive meanings:
The original but now less common use of the word was the application of the Latin word prīnceps code: lat promoted to code: la , from late Roman law and the classical system of government that eventually gave way to the European feudal society. In this sense, a prince is a ruler of a territory that is sovereign or quasi-sovereign, i.e., exercising substantial (though not all) prerogatives associated with monarchs of independent nations, such as the immediate states within the historical boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire. In medieval and Early Modern Europe, there were as many as two hundred such territories, especially in Italy, Germany, and Gaelic Ireland. In this sense, "prince" is used of any and all rulers, regardless of actual title or precise rank. This is the Renaissance use of the term found in Niccolò Machiavelli's famous work, Il Principe . It is also used in this sense in the United States Declaration of Independence.
As a title, by the end of the medieval era, prince was borne by rulers of territories that were either substantially smaller than those of or exercised fewer of the rights of sovereignty than did emperors and kings. A lord of even a quite small territory might come to be referred to as a prince before the 13th century, either from translations of a native title into the Latin prīncepscode: lat promoted to code: la (as for the hereditary ruler of Wales) or when the lord's territory was allodial. The lord of an allodium owned his lands and exercised prerogatives over the subjects in his territory absolutely, owing no feudal homage or duty as a vassal to a liege lord, nor being subject to any higher jurisdiction. Most small territories designated as principalities during feudal eras were allodial, e.g. the Princedom of Dombes.
Lords who exercised lawful authority over territories and people within a feudal hierarchy were also sometimes regarded as princes in the general sense, especially if they held the rank of count or higher. This is attested in some surviving styles for e.g., British earls, marquesses, and dukes are still addressed by the Crown on ceremonial occasions as high and noble princes (cf. Royal and noble styles).
In parts of the Holy Roman Empire in which primogeniture did not prevail (e.g., Germany), all legitimate agnates had an equal right to the family's hereditary titles. While offices such as emperor, king, and elector could only be legally occupied by one dynast at a time, holders of such other titles as duke, margrave, landgrave, count palatine, and prince could only differentiate themselves by adding the name of their appanage to the family's original title. This tended to proliferate unwieldy titles (e.g. Princess Katherine of Anhalt-Zerbst; Karl, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken-Neukastell-Kleeburg; or Prince Christian Charles of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Plön-Norburg) and, as agnatic primogeniture gradually became the norm in the Holy Roman Empire by the end of the 18th century, another means of distinguishing the monarch from other members of his dynasty became necessary. Gradual substitution of the title of Prinz for the monarch's title of Fürst occurred, and became customary for cadets in all German dynasties except in the grand duchies of Mecklenburg and Oldenburg. code: deu promoted to code: de and Fürstcode: deu promoted to code: de are translated into English as "prince", but they reflect not only different but mutually exclusive concepts.Both Prinz
This distinction had evolved before the 18th century (although Liechtenstein long remained an exception, with cadets and females using Fürst/Fürstincode: deu promoted to code: de into the 19th century) for dynasties headed by a Fürst in Germany. The custom spread through the Continent to such an extent that a renowned imperial general who belonged to a cadet branch of a reigning ducal family, remains best known to history by the generic dynastic title, "Prince Eugene of Savoy". Note that the princely title was used as a prefix to his Christian name, which also became customary.
Cadets of France's other princes étrangers affected similar usage under the Bourbon kings. Always facing the scepticism of Saint-Simon and like-minded courtiers, these quasi-royal aristocrats' assumption of the princely title as a personal, rather than territorial, designation encountered some resistance. In writing Histoire Genealogique et Chonologique, Père Anselme accepts that, by the end of the 17th century, the heir apparent to the House of La Tour d'Auvergne's sovereign duchy bears the title Prince de Bouillon, but he would record in 1728 that the heir's La Tour cousin, the Count of Oliergues, is "known as the Prince Frederick" ("dit le prince Frédéric").
The post-medieval rank of gefürsteter Grafcode: deu promoted to code: de (princely count) embraced but elevated the German equivalent of the intermediate French, English and Spanish nobles. In the Holy Roman Empire, these nobles rose to dynastic status by preserving from the Imperial crown ( de jure code: lat promoted to code: la after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648) the exercise of such sovereign prerogatives as the minting of money; the muster of military troops and the right to wage war and contract treaties; local judicial authority and constabulary enforcement; and the habit of inter-marrying with sovereign dynasties. By the 19th century, cadets of a Fürst code: deu promoted to code: de would become known as Prinzencode: deu promoted to code: de .
This section may be confusing or unclear to readers.(June 2012)
The husband of a queen regnant is usually titled "prince consort" or simply "prince", whereas the wives of male monarchs take the female equivalent (e.g., empress, queen) of their husband's title. In Brazil, Portugal and Spain, however, the husband of a female monarch is accorded the masculine equivalent of her title (e.g., emperor, king), at least after he fathered her heir. In previous epochs, husbands of queens regnant were often deemed entitled to the crown matrimonial, sharing their consorts' regnal title and rank jure uxoris code: lat promoted to code: la .
However, in cultures which allow the ruler to have several wives (e.g., four in Islam) or official concubines (e.g., Imperial China, Ottoman Empire, Thailand, KwaZulu-Natal), these women, sometimes collectively referred to as a harem, often have specific rules determining their relative hierarchy and a variety of titles, which may distinguish between those whose offspring can be in line for the succession or not, or specifically who is mother to the heir to the throne.
To complicate matters, the style His/Her (Imperial/Royal) Highness, a prefix often accompanying the title of a dynastic prince, may be awarded/withheld separately (as a compromise or consolation prize, in some sense, e.g., Duke of Cádiz, Duchess of Windsor, Princesse de Réthy, Prince d'Orléans-Braganza).
Although the arrangement set out above is the one that is most commonly understood, there are also different systems. Depending on country, epoch, and translation, other usages of "prince" are possible.
Foreign-language titles such as Italian : principe, French : prince, German : Fürst , German: Prinz (non-reigning descendant of a reigning monarch), Russian : князь, romanized: knyaz , etc., are usually translated as "prince" in English.
Some princely titles are derived from those of national rulers, such as tsarevich from tsar. Other examples are (e)mirza(da), khanzada, nawabzada, sahibzada, shahzada, sultanzada code: fas promoted to code: fa (all using the Persian patronymic suffix -zada, meaning "son, descendant"). However, some princely titles develop in unusual ways, such as adoption of a style for dynasts which is not pegged to the ruler's title, but rather continues an old tradition (e.g., "grand duke" in Romanov Russia or "archduke" in Habsburg Austria), claims dynastic succession to a lost monarchy (e.g. Prince de Tarente for the La Trémoïlle heirs to the Neapolitan throne), or descends from a ruler whose princely title or sovereign status was not de jure hereditary, but attributed to descendants as an international courtesy, (e.g., Bibesco, Poniatowski, Ypsilanti).
In some dynasties, a specific style other than prince has become customary for dynasts, such as fils de France in the House of Capet, and Infante . Infante was borne by children of the monarch other than the heir apparent in all of the Iberian monarchies. Some monarchies used a specific princely title for their heirs, such as Prince of Asturias in Spain and Prince of Brazil in Portugal.
Sometimes a specific title is commonly used by various dynasties in a region, e.g. Mian in various of the Punjabi princely Hill States (lower Himalayan region in British India).
European dynasties usually awarded appanages to princes of the blood, typically attached to a feudal noble title, such as Prince of Orange in the Netherlands, Britain's royal dukes, the Dauphin in France, the Count of Flanders in Belgium, and the Count of Syracuse in Sicily. Sometimes appanage titles were princely, e.g. Prince of Achaia (Courtenay), Prince de Condé (Bourbon), Prince of Carignan (Savoy), but it was the fact that their owners were of princely rank rather than that they held a princely title which was the source of their pre-eminence.
For the often specific terminology concerning an heir apparent, see Crown prince.
Other princes derive their title not from dynastic membership as such, but from inheritance of a title named for a specific and historical territory. The family's possession of prerogatives or properties in that territory might be long past. Such were most of the "princedoms" of France's ancien régime , so resented for their pretentiousness in the memoirs of Saint-Simon. These included the princedoms of Arches-Charleville, Boisbelle-Henrichemont, Chalais, Château-Regnault, Guéménée, Martigues, Mercœur, Sedan, Talmond, Tingrey, and the "kingship" of Yvetot,among others.
A prince or princess who is the head of state of a territory that has a monarchy as a form of government is a reigning prince.
The current princely monarchies include:
In the same tradition, some self-proclaimed monarchs of so-called "micronations" style themselves as princes:
Various monarchies provide for different modes in which princes of the dynasty can temporarily or permanently share in the style and/or office of the monarch, e.g. as regent or viceroy.
Though these offices may not be reserved legally for members of the ruling dynasty, in some traditions they are filled by dynasts, a fact which may be reflected in the style of the office, e.g. "prince-president" for Napoleon III as French head of state but not yet emperor, or "prince-lieutenant" in Luxembourg, repeatedly filled by the crown prince before the grand duke's abdication, or in form of consortium imperii code: lat promoted to code: la .
Some monarchies even have a practice in which the monarch can formally abdicate in favour of his heir and yet retain a kingly title with executive power, e.g. Maha Upayuvaraja (Sanskrit for Great Joint King in Cambodia), though sometimes also conferred on powerful regents who exercised executive powers.
In several countries of the European continent, such as France, prince can be an aristocratic title of someone having a high rank of nobility or as lord of a significant fief, but not ruling any actual territory and without any necessary link to the royal family, which makes it difficult to compare with the British system of royal princes.
France and the Holy Roman Empire
The kings of France started to bestow the style of prince, as a title among the nobility, from the 16th century onwards. These titles were created by elevating a seigneurie to the nominal status of a principality—although prerogatives of sovereignty were never conceded in the letters patent. Princely titles self-assumed by the princes du sang and by the princes étrangers were generally tolerated by the king and used at the royal court, outside the Parlement of Paris. These titles held no official place in the hierarchy of the nobility, but were often treated as ranking just below ducal peerages, since they were often inherited (or assumed) by ducal heirs:
This can even occur in a monarchy within which an identical but real and substantive feudal title exists, such as Fürst code: deu promoted to code: de in German. An example of this is:
Spain, France and Netherlands
In other cases, such titular princedoms are created in chief of an event, such as a treaty or a victory. Examples include:
In the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the titles of prince dated either to the times before the Union of Lublin or were granted to Polish nobles by foreign monarchs, as the law in Poland forbade the king from dividing nobility by granting them hereditary titles: see The Princely Houses of Poland.
In the Russian system, князь ( knjazʹ), translated as "prince", is the highest degree of official nobility. Members of older dynasties, whose realms were eventually annexed to the Russian Empire, were also accorded the title of knyazʹ—sometimes after first being allowed to use the higher title of tsarevich (e.g. the Princes Gruzinsky and Sibirsky). The many surviving branches of the Rurik dynasty used the knyazʹ title before and after they yielded sovereignty to their kinsmen, the Grand Princes of Muscovy, who became Tsars and, under the House of Romanov, Emperors of Russia.
In each case, the title is followed (when available) by the female form and then (not always available, and obviously rarely applicable to a prince of the blood without a principality) the name of the territory associated with it, each separated by a slash. If a second title (or set) is also given, then that one is for a Prince of the blood, the first for a principality. Be aware that the absence of a separate title for a prince of the blood may not always mean no such title exists; alternatively, the existence of a word does not imply there is also a reality in the linguistic territory concerned; it may very well be used exclusively to render titles in other languages, regardless whether there is a historical link with any (which often means that linguistic tradition is adopted)
Etymologically, we can discern the following traditions (some languages followed a historical link, e.g. within the Holy Roman Empire, not their language family; some even fail to follow the same logic for certain other aristocratic titles):
In Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Hungary the title of prince has also been used as the highest title of nobility (without membership in a ruling dynasty), above the title of duke, while the same usage (then as Fürst) has occurred in Germany and Austria but then one rank below the title of duke and above count.
The above is essentially the story of European, Christian dynasties and other nobility, also 'exported' to their colonial and other overseas territories and otherwise adopted by rather westernized societies elsewhere (e.g. Haiti).
Applying these essentially western concepts, and terminology, to other cultures even when they don't do so, is common but in many respects rather dubious. Different (historical, religious...) backgrounds have also begot significantly different dynastic and nobiliary systems, which are poorly represented by the 'closest' western analogy.
It therefore makes sense to treat these per civilization.
In ancient China, the title of prince developed from being the highest title of nobility (synonymous with duke) in the Zhou Dynasty, to five grades of princes (not counting the sons and grandsons of the emperor) by the time of the fall of the Qing Dynasty.The Chinese word for prince Wang (王, literally, King) as Chinese believe the emperor Huang Di (皇帝) is the ruler of all kings. The most accurate translations of the English word "prince" are Huang Zi (皇子, lit. Son of the Emperor) or Wang Zi (王子, lit. Son of the King).
In Japan, the title Kōshaku (公爵) was used as the highest title of Kazoku (華族 Japanese modern nobility) before the present constitution. Kōshaku, however, is more commonly translated as "Duke" to avoid confusion with the following royal ranks in the Imperial Household: Shinnō (親王 literally, Prince of the Blood); Naishinnō (内親王 lit., Princess of the Blood in her own right); and Shinnōhi親王妃 lit., Princess Consort); or Ō (王 lit., Prince); Jyo-Ō (女王 lit., Princess (in her own right)); and Ōhi (王妃 lit., Princess Consort). The former is the higher title of a male member of the Imperial family while the latter is the lower.
In the Joseon Dynasty, the title "Prince" was used for the king's male-line descendants. There were generally the divisions of princedom: the king's legitimate son used the title daegun (대군, 大君, literally "grand prince"). A son born of a concubine as well as the great-great-grandsons of the king used the title gun (군, 君, lit. "prince"). But the title of gun wasn't limited to the royal family. Instead, it was often granted as an honorary and non-hereditory title. As noble titles no longer exist in modern Korea, the English word "Prince" is now usually translated as wangja (왕자, 王子, lit. "king's son"), referring to princes from non-Korean royal families. Princes and principalities in continental Europe are almost always confused with dukes and duchies in Korean speech, both being translated as gong (공, 公, lit. "duke") and gongguk (공국, 公國, lit. "duchy").
The title 'Prince' was used for the King's son in Sinhalese generation in Sri Lanka.
See princely states for the often particular, mainly Hindu titles in former British India, including modern Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, and Nepal.
See Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos
See Principalia, the Sultanate of Maguindanao and the Sultanate of Sulu.
In Thailand (formerly Siam), the title of Prince was divided into three classes depending on the rank of their mothers. Those who were born of a king and had a royal mother (a queen or princess consort) are titled Chaofa Chai (Thai : เจ้าฟ้าชาย: literally, "Male Celestial Lord"). Those born of a king and a commoner, or children of Chaofas, are tilted Phra Ong Chao (พระองค์เจ้า). The children of Phra Ong Chaos are titled Mom Chao (หม่อมเจ้า), abbreviated as M.C. (or ม.จ.).
A Western model was sometimes copied by emancipated colonial regimes (e.g. Bokassa I's short-lived Central-African Empire in Napoleonic fashion). Otherwise, most of the styles for members of ruling families do not lend themselves well to English translation. Nonetheless, in general the princely style has gradually replaced the colonialist title of "chief", which does not particularly connote dynastic rank to Westerners, e.g. Swazi Royal Family and Zulu Royal Family. Nominally ministerial chiefly titles, such as the Yoruba Oloye and the Zulu InDuna , still exist as distinct titles in kingdoms all over Africa.
In states with an element of theocracy, this can affect princehood in several ways, such as the style of the ruler (e.g. with a secondary title meaning son or servant of a named divinity), but also the mode of succession (even reincarnation and recognition).
Furthermore, certain religious offices may be considered of princely rank, or imply comparable temporal rights. The Prince-Popes, Pope, Hereditary Prince-Cardinals, Cardinals, Prince-Lord Bishops, Prince Bishops, Lord Bishops, Prince-Provost, and Prince-abbots are referred to as Princes of the Church.
Also, in Christianity, Jesus Christ is sometimes referred to as the Prince of Peace. [ citation needed ] Some Christian churches also believe that since all Christians, like Jesus Christ, are children of God, then they too are princes and princesses of Heaven. Saint Peter, a disciple of Jesus, is also known as the Prince of the Apostles.Other titles for Jesus Christ are Prince of Princes, Prince of the Covenant, Prince of Life, and Prince of the Kings of the Earth. Further, Satan is popularly titled the Prince of Darkness; and in the Christian faith he is also referred to as the Prince of this World and the Prince of the Power of the Air. Another title for Satan, not as common today but apparently so in approximately 30 A.D. by the Pharisees of the day, was the title Prince of the Devils. Prince of Israel, Prince of the Angels, and Prince of Light are titles given to the Archangel Michael.
A monarch is a head of state for life or until abdication, and therefore the head of state of a monarchy. A monarch may exercise the highest authority and power in the state, or others may wield that power on behalf of the monarch. Usually a monarch either personally inherits the lawful right to exercise the state's sovereign rights or is selected by an established process from a family or cohort eligible to provide the nation's monarch. Alternatively, an individual may proclaim themself monarch, which may be backed and legitimated through acclamation, right of conquest or a combination of means.
Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was a principality in Southwestern Germany. Its rulers belonged to the senior Swabian branch of the House of Hohenzollern. The Swabian Hohenzollerns were elevated to princes in 1623. The small sovereign state with the capital city of Sigmaringen was annexed to the Kingdom of Prussia in 1850 following the abdication of its sovereign in the wake of the revolutions of 1848, then became part of the newly created Province of Hohenzollern.
Styles represent the fashion by which monarchs and noblemen are properly addressed. Throughout history, many different styles were used, with little standardization. This page will detail the various styles used by royalty and nobility in Europe, in the final form arrived at in the nineteenth century.
Duke is a male title either of a monarch ruling over a duchy, or of a member of royalty, or nobility. As rulers, dukes are ranked below emperors, kings, and grand dukes. As royalty or nobility, they are ranked below princes of nobility and grand dukes. The title comes from French duc, itself from the Latin dux, 'leader', a term used in republican Rome to refer to a military commander without an official rank, and later coming to mean the leading military commander of a province. In most countries, the word duchess is the female equivalent.
Grand Duke is a European hereditary title, used either by certain monarchs or by members of certain monarchs' families. In status, a Grand Duke traditionally ranks in order of precedence below an emperor, king or archduke and above a sovereign prince or sovereign duke. The title is used in some current and former independent monarchies in Europe, particularly:
A principality can either be a monarchical feudatory or a sovereign state, ruled or reigned over by a regnant-monarch with the title of prince and/or princess, or by a monarch with another title considered to fall under the generic meaning of the term prince.
A grand duchy is a country or territory whose official head of state or ruler is a monarch bearing the title of grand duke or grand duchess.
Margrave was originally the medieval title for the military commander assigned to maintain the defence of one of the border provinces of the Holy Roman Empire or of a kingdom. That position became hereditary in certain feudal families in the Empire, and the title came to be borne by rulers of some Imperial principalities until the abolition of the Empire in 1806. Thereafter, those domains were absorbed in larger realms or the titleholders adopted titles indicative of full sovereignty.
The Most Serene House of Bourbon-Condé, named after Condé-en-Brie now in the Aisne département, was a French princely house and a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon. The name of the house was derived from the title of Prince of Condé that was originally assumed around 1557 by the French Protestant leader, Louis de Bourbon (1530–1569), uncle of King Henry IV of France, and borne by his male-line descendants.
A royal family is the immediate family of kings/queens, emirs/emiras, or sultans/sultanas, and sometimes their extended family. The term imperial family appropriately describes the family of an emperor or empress, and the term papal family describes the family of a pope, while the terms baronial family, comital family, ducal family, archducal family, grand ducal family, or princely family are more appropriate to describe, respectively, the relatives of a reigning baron, count/earl, duke, archduke, grand duke, or prince. However, in common parlance members of any family which reigns by hereditary right are often referred to as royalty or "royals". It is also customary in some circles to refer to the extended relations of a deposed monarch and their descendants as a royal family. A dynasty is sometimes referred to as the "House of ...". In July 2013 there were 26 active sovereign monarchies in the world that ruled or reigned over 43 countries.
Fürst is a German word for a ruler and is also a princely title. Fürsten were, since the Middle Ages, members of the highest nobility who ruled over states of the Holy Roman Empire and later its former territories, below the ruling Kaiser (emperor) or König (king).
Traditional rank amongst European royalty, peers, and nobility is rooted in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Although they vary over time and among geographic regions, The following is a reasonably comprehensive list that provides information on both general ranks and specific differences.
Grand prince or great prince is a title of nobility ranked in honour below king and emperor and above a sovereign prince, and debatably ranked below an archduke.
His/Her Serene Highness is a style used today by the reigning families of Liechtenstein, Monaco, and Thailand. Until 1918, it was also associated with the princely titles of members of some German ruling and mediatised dynasties and with a few princely but non-ruling families. It was also the form of address used for cadet members of the dynasties of France, Italy, Russia and Ernestine Saxony, under their monarchies. Additionally, the treatment was granted for some, but not all, princely yet non-reigning families of Bohemia, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania and Russia by emperors or popes. In a handful of rare cases, it was employed by non-royal rulers in viceregal or even republican contexts.
Infante, also anglicised as Infant or translated as Prince, is the title and rank given in the Iberian kingdoms of Spain and Portugal to the sons and daughters (infantas) of the king, regardless of age, sometimes with the exception of the heir apparent or heir presumptive to the throne, who usually bears a unique princely or ducal title. A woman married to a male infante was accorded the title of infanta if the marriage was dynastically approved, although since 1987 this is no longer automatically the case in Spain. Husbands of born infantas did not obtain the title of infante through marriage, although they were occasionally elevated to the title de gracia at the sovereign's command.
In history and heraldry, a cadet branch consists of the male-line descendants of a monarch's or patriarch's younger sons (cadets). In the ruling dynasties and noble families of much of Europe and Asia, the family's major assets—realm, titles, fiefs, property and income—have historically been passed from a father to his firstborn son in what is known as primogeniture; younger sons—cadets—inherited less wealth and authority to pass to future generations of descendants.
Highness is a formal style used to address or refer to certain members of a reigning or formerly reigning dynasty. It is typically used with a possessive adjective: "His Highness", "Her Highness" (HH), "Their Highnesses", etc. Although often combined with other adjectives of honour indicating rank, such as "Imperial", "Royal" or "Serene", it may be used alone.
A substantive title is a title of nobility or royalty acquired either by individual grant or inheritance. It is to be distinguished from a title shared among cadets, borne as a courtesy title by a peer's relatives, or acquired through marriage.
Prince étranger was a high, though somewhat ambiguous, rank at the French royal court of the Ancien Régime.
The House of Urach is a morganatic cadet branch of the formerly royal House of Württemberg. Although the Württemberg dynasty was one of many reigning over small realms in Germany into the 20th century, and despite the fact that marital mésalliances in these dynasties usually disinherited the descendants thereof, the Dukes of Urach unusually managed to elicit consideration for candidacy for the thrones of several European states, viz. the Kingdom of Württemberg, the Principality of Monaco, the abortive Kingdom of Lithuania and even the Principality of Albania. Although none of these prospects came to fruition, they reflected monarchical attempts to accommodate the rapid shifts in national allegiance, regime and international alliances that intensified throughout the 19th century, leading up to and following Europe's Great War of 1914-1918.
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