Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford
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Alexander William Crawford Lindsay

Alexander William Crawford Lindsay was the 25th Earl of Crawford and the 8th Earl of Balcarres.  He was born 16 October 1812 and died 13 December 1880.  Lord Lindsay was the author of the superb three volume Lives of the Lindsays genealogy first publicly published in 1849.  

Due to the profound meaning to the family genealogist, I have provided two excerpts from Lord Lindsay's work.  The first is his "Introductory Letter" and the second his "To The Public" article.


Taken from pages IX thru XV, Volume I, of the 1858 version of “Lives of the Lindsays” by Lord Lindsay [Alexander William Crawford Lindsay (1812-1880), 25th Earl of Crawford & 8th Earl of Balcarres].

The following “Introductory Letter”, written by Lord Lindsay, was addressed to both his 3rd cousin, Sir Coutts Lindsay (Feb. 1824 – 1913), and Lord Lindsay’s wife, Margaret Lindsay (Dec 1824 – 1909).  Sir Coutts and Margaret were siblings.

Introductory Letter


It was for your instruction and amusement that I undertook some years ago the compilation of the following Memoir of our family, — I now present it to you with every kind and affectionate wish.

Do not allow yourselves to fall into the common prejudice, that GENEALOGY is a dry uninteresting study — Lethe's wharf her paradise, and her votary dull as the weed that fattens there. The Spirit of Discovery breathes expectation as eager, and enjoyment as intense, into the heart of the enthusiastic Genealogist as into that of a Bruce or a Humboldt. His researches resemble theirs; he journeys, as it were, into the mountains of an unexplored land, where peaks beyond peaks bound the horizon as far as the eye can reach, their snowy pinnacles glittering in the sun, while clouds of darkness rest on their sides and conceal their bases. But, as he ascends, the clouds open to receive and disappear below him, and, while he is lost to the sight of those who watch him from the plain, the bonds by which those mighty thrones of Nature are allied are clearly revealed to him ; peaks, hitherto undescried, arise to greet him as he advances ; mountain-rills, whose accumulating waters spread verdure and fertility through other regions than those he has left behind, refresh him with their grateful murmur ; while, wherever he wanders, the fruits of knowledge hang luxuriantly around him, in fragrant clusters, reserved for his hand alone to gather. Such, intellectually, is the pilgrimage of the Genealogist.  He starts with a few isolated names in view — the sole remembrances that Time has spared of the race whose origin and early annals he is ambitious of elucidating. Rolls of charters are laid before him ; he examines them one by one, his rapid eye recognising at once, in the body or among the witnesses of the document, the one familiar name, the object of his inquiry. By his side lie the tablets wherein he registers each newly discovered clansman, with exact reference to the date and purport of the deed that testifies of his existence. Nothing wearies him. Chieftains start to light whose very names have been forgotten ; the casual hint of relationship thrills through him — and if he unexpectedly light upon a charter to some holy shrine, the granter confirming the gifts of by-gone ancestors and adding to them himself, brothers and children consenting to the donation, and kinsmen witnessing it, his heart throbs, his cheek burns, and his hand quivers with rapture as he transcribes a document which at a glance reveals to him a long avenue of ancestral dead, eyeing him grimly through the gloom, like corpses in a vault of the Guanches. And then, with a quick and feverish step, he hurries to his closet, and there, arranging his notes in chronological order, broods over them in silence, till a ray of light flashes from among them —the warriors of old time arise and defile before him; a patriarch leads the array, his children follow after him, and their sons and grandsons, gliding side by side, close the ghostly procession. Nor is it a mere dream, for they assume the very rank, and defile in the very order of time, in which the eye of the antiquary has just discovered that they lived. —

Is his task over? 'tis scarce as yet begun. Now let him invoke BIOGRAPHY- — now let him emerge from night into day, from genealogical gloom into the blaze of history ; now and henceforward let him accompany his chosen people — emancipated, like the American Indians, from the subterranean world their ancestors have so long dwelt in — through all their wanderings on this upper earth; chronicling their loves, their hates— their joys, their sorrows — their errors, their virtues ; estimating their influence on the world they lived in, and deducing lessons of principle from their conduct and its consequences, which may be beneficial to hundreds yet unborn of emulating descendants.

There is indeed, something indescribably sublime in the idea of a race of human beings influencing society through a series of ages, either by the avatars, at distant intervals, of heroes, poets, and philosophers, whose names survive among us, familiar as household words, for centuries after their disappearance, or by the continuous development of genius, wisdom, and virtue, through successive generations, till the name which has been thus immortalized becomes at last, through the experience of mankind, presumptive of worth in the individuals who bear it. A GENEALOGICAL BIOGRAPHY which should make us as intimately acquainted with such a race as if, like its guardian angel, we had watched over it from its birth, would surpass in interest the brightest pictures of romance, would be the most engaging portrait of human nature that, fallen as that nature is, the pencil of Truth could delineate.

Few, however, are the families whose annals the world would judge worthy of such investigation, and it is not therefore to the Public that I think Family History — to use the expression in its most dignified sense — should, in general, be addressed; it is not, I repeat, for public but private use, that I have compiled these ' Lives of the Lindsays.'

Every family should have a record of its own. Each has its peculiar spirit, running through the whole line, and, in more or less development, perceptible in every generation. Rightly viewed, as a most powerful but much neglected instrument of education, I can imagine no study more rife with pleasure and instruction. — Nor need our ancestors have been Scipios or Fabii to interest us in their fortunes. We do not love our kindred for their glory or their genius, but for those domestic affections and private virtues that, unobserved by the world, expand in confidence towards ourselves, and often root themselves, like the banian of the East, and flourish with independent vigour in the heart to which a kind Providence has guided them.  And why should we not derive equal benefit from studying the virtues of our forefathers? An affectionate regard for their memory is natural to the heart ; it is an emotion totally distinct from pride, — an ideal love, free from that consciousness of requited affection and reciprocal esteem which constitutes so much of the satisfaction we derive from the love of the living. They are denied, it is true, to our personal acquaintance, but the light they shed during their lives survives within their tombs, and will reward our search if we explore them.  Be their light, then, our beacon, — not the glaring light of heroism which emblazons their names in the page of history with a lustre as cold, though as dazzling, as the gold of an heraldic illuminator, but the pure and sacred flame that descends from heaven on the altar of a Christian heart, and that warmed their naturally frozen affections till they produced the fruits of piety, purity, and love, evinced in holy thoughts and good actions, of which many a record might be found in the annals of the past, would we but search for them, and in which we may find as strong incentives to virtuous emulation as we gather every day from those bright examples of living worth which it is the study of every good man to imitate. — And if the virtues of strangers be so attractive to us, how infinitely more so should be those of our own kindred, and with what additional energy should the precepts of our parents influence us, when we trace the transmission of those precepts from father to son through successive generations, each bearing the testimony of a virtuous, useful, and honourable life to their truth and influence, and all uniting in a kind and earnest exhortation to their descendants so to live on earth that — followers of Him through whose grace alone we have power to obey Him — we may at last be reunited with those who have been before and those who shall come after us,

              " No wanderer lost, A family in heaven ! "

Unfortunately, that private history and those personal anecdotes which give a juster view of character than the pages either of the genealogist or the historian, must be sought for through so many ancient records and forgotten volumes, that, unless an industrious hand collect and class them in due order, much time would be lost and an ordinary curiosity wearied out in the inquiry. To supply this deficiency in the case of our own family has been my object in compiling the following memoir. — A compilation I advisedly term it. Anxious to avoid the suspicion of undue partiality, I have studied to adduce the testimony of contemporaries to the individual merits of our forefathers, rather than indulge myself in those general estimates of character which it would be equally difficult for a critical reader to assent to or disprove. But I may bespeak for them, collectively, a favourable censure — I may even avow that I shall be disappointed if their chequered annals be deemed devoid of a useful and animating moral. You will find them in peace and war, " under the mantle as the shield," equally eminent, — brave warriors in the field, and wise statesmen in the cabinet ; you will contemplate the grandeur which they attained in the hour of prosperity — the devotion with which they perilled all, when gratitude and duty demanded the sacrifice. You will follow them to their homes, and will there recognise many whom you may love — many whom, I hope, you will imitate ; men, not ashamed of being Christians — women, meek and humble, yet in the hour of need approving themselves, in the highest sense of the word, heroines ; while from the example of both you may, under God's blessing, learn the great, the all-important lesson, that conviction of our own utter unworthiness, and faith in the atonement and resurrection of our Redeemer, can alone give us peace in life,  divest dissolution of its terrors, and hallow the remembrance of a death-bed to the survivors. 

Be grateful, then, for your descent from religious, as well as from noble ancestors; it is your duty to be so, and this is the only worthy tribute you can now pay to their ashes. Yet, at the same time, be most jealously on your guard lest this lawful satisfaction degenerate into arrogance, or a fancied superiority over those nobles of God's creation, who, endowed in other respects with every exalted quality, cannot point to a long line of ancestry.  Pride is of all sins the most hateful in the sight of God, and, of the proud, who is so mean, who so despicable as he that values himself on the merits of others? — And were they all so meritorious, these boasted ancestors? were they all Christians? — Remember, remember — if some of them have deserved praise, others have equally merited censure, — if there have been "stainless knights," never yet was there a stainless family since Adam's fall. "Where then is boasting?" — for we would not, I hope, glory in iniquity.

               " Only the actions of the just
                 Smell sweet and blossom in the dust ! "

And, after all, what little reason has Europe to plume herself on ancestral antiquity! Not one of our most venerable pedigrees can vie with that of a Rajpoot of India or a Rechabite of the desert; nor is it but to our Christian birth that we owe a temporary superiority to the " dispersed of Judah " and the " outcasts of Israel," whose fathers bent before the Ark of the Covenant when ours were nameless idolaters, and whose seed will soon (if we read aright the signs of these latter times) be re-established in the " glorious land " of their sires, as the peculiar people of God and the priests of Christianity, when the times of the Gentiles shall have been fulfilled, and Judaea, no longer weeping under her palm-tree, shall have seen the vine of Christ overshadow the whole earth, one happy fold under one shepherd, in whose inheritance none but " the meek and lowly of heart " shall participate.

One word more. — Times are changed, and in many respects we are blessed with knowledge beyond our fathers, yet we must not on that account deem our hearts purer or our lives holier than theirs were. Nor, on the other hand, should we for a moment assent to the proposition, so often hazarded, that the virtues of chivalry are necessarily extinct with the system they adorned.  Chivalry, in her purity, was a holy and lovely maiden, and many were the hearts refined and ennobled by her influence, yet she proclaims to us no one virtue that is not derived from and summed up in Christianity. The " Age of Chivalry'' may be past — the knight may no more be seen issuing from the embattled portal-arch, on his barbed charger, his lance glittering in the sun, his banner streaming to the breeze — but the Spirit of Chivalry can never die ; through every change of external circumstances, through faction and tumult, through trial and suffering, through good report and evil report, still that Spirit burns, like love, the brighter and the purer — still, even in the nineteenth century, lights up its holiest shrine, the heart of that champion of the widow, that father of the fatherless, that liegeman of his God, his king, and his country — the noble-hearted but lowly-minded Christian gentleman of England.*

 " Take, then," let me conclude with Sir Philip Sidney, " this little book ; read it at your idle times, and so you will continue to love the writer, who doth exceedingly love you, and most heartily prays you may long live to be principal ornaments to the family of the" Lindsays.


* This was written many years ago, in early youth. I would say now, as the result of observation both at home and abroad, that, if there is one characteristic of the Englishman more peculiar than another in every rank of society, it is the spirit of Chivalry — manifesting itself in deference for women, self-sacrifice in their cause, and in always taking the weaker side.


Taken from pages XVII thru XXIII, Volume I, of the 1858 version of “Lives of the Lindsays” by Lord Lindsay [ Alexander William Crawford Lindsay (1812-1880), 25th Earl of Crawford & 8th Earl of Balcarres].


The interest excited by the following work in many who have read it in the original form, as circulated among my clan and friends, and the frequent applications for it which have reached me from public libraries, and even from beyond the Atlantic — some before, but most of them subsequently to, a recent review in the Quarterly — have determined me to publish it to the world in general : — And I have been confirmed in this resolution by the repeated proofs which have come to my knowledge of late years of a love and attachment to the name and race of Lindsay still lingering in Scotland among all classes — satisfying me that there at least, in my Fatherland, it will be received with welcome. But for the assurance of this national sympathy, 1 could scarcely have resolved upon withdrawing the curtain of privacy with which I had originally shrouded these ' Lives of the Lindsays.' 

The plan and the principles on which the work was written are so fully explained in the Introductory Letter as almost to supersede the necessity of any further remarks. But as the book was addressed to readers presumed already to hold Genealogy in reverence, a few additional observations, unnecessary to such an audience, may not be uncalled for in submitting it to the public.

Nothing, as it appears to me, can be less rational than the vulgar scoff at pedigree and genealogy. The adage so constantly quoted by the antiquary, that no one who could lay claim to family antiquity ever despised it, undoubtedly meets with exceptions ; but a reverence for the past, and a desire to establish a connection between it and self, are instinctive in human nature.  And if instinctive, then, rightly directed, they must be ennobling principles. " Whatever," says our great moralist, " withdraws us from the power of our senses ; whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings :" — I do not see why this sentiment might not have originated under the ruined towers of the De Veres or Percies, as well as among the cloistered cells of Iona. It is a mistake to suppose that the old feudal barons were uniformly worthless, tyrannical, unintellectual despots. Some of them undoubtedly were so, and those too of whom most is heard in history, and from whose character consequently the modern idea of the whole class is taken. But many of them, on the contrary, were worthy of all esteem and affection, courteous, frank, refined, kind, and Christian. Moreover, in the common estimate of those times, we almost entirely overlook the softening and endearing influence of woman, and the happiness diffused, then as well as now, around the places where she dwelt.  We are apt to think of the ladies of chivalry merely as spectators at the
tournament, forgetting that, for ten or twenty days of the year passed in such scenes, they spent the three hundred and fifty in the charities of home.  Descent therefore from one of the great historical families of Europe — or even from the less illustrious— or even from a mere line of respectable, undistinguished progenitors, when considered as a chain establishing a connection with the past — may well be considered as a valuable heritage, a source of lawful satisfaction, an influential though subordinate principle in the formation of character and the regulation of conduct through life. Few who have studied human nature will dispute this. The inheritance of an illustrious name may have but a slight influence in restraining a bad man from the commission of a dishonourable action, but there cannot be a doubt of its invigorating influence on those who are worthy to bear it ; it is an incentive to virtue, to emulation, to consistency, — and God forbid that in days like these we should cut away one sapling, however weak, which may assist us in climbing the rough, and rocky, and hilly path of honour and virtue which is set before us. At the same time, the sluggish — those who are disposed to rest their claims to consideration on the merit of their ancestry , and not their own individual activity — should remember Sir Thomas Overbury's pithy sarcasm on such characters, that they resemble potatoes, of which the only valuable portion is under ground. It was in truth a noble saying of the late Lord Clarendon, that birth conveyed no merit, but much duty, to its inheritor.

I make no apology therefore for Genealogy, — and even in a lower and merely intellectual point of view, as supplying many an hiatus in the page of early history, as unveiling many a secret spring which, unseen and unsuspected, has influenced the revolutions of human affairs, and as throwing no scanty ray on the spirit and manners of the past, she may stand fearless before the altar of Time, by the side of History, though on the step below her. While, intricate as are the mazes into which she leads her votaries, there is a pleasure in threading them to be appreciated only by those who have experienced the thrilling interest awakened by the exercise of Reason, Imagination, Intelligence, and Memory, all working together in the investigation of Truth — perpetually occupied in fresh researches, and making new discoveries. — But I have expatiated sufficiently, in the Letter above alluded to, on the intellectual pleasures of Genealogy.

Till lately indeed, more especially in Great Britain and North of the Tweed, Genealogy merited the ridicule which was so freely lavished on her.  It is but a few years ago since the most unfounded fictions were currently believed as to the origin of the Scottish families. The Stuarts were universally held to be the descendants of Banquo — the Douglasses of the " dark grey man " who fought under King Solvathius against the Danes,— it would be endless to enumerate all the fictions with which vanity and flattery peopled the blank of time; they are now forgotten, — all, save the beautiful legend of the patriarch Hay at Loncarty, on which Milton in his youth proposed to found a drama, and which has been immortalized by its adoption by Shakspeare into the plot of ' Cymbeline.'  

A new era in Genealogy commenced with the present century.  The ancient records of the kingdom were published, private papers and monastic chartularies were brought to light, charter-evidence was insisted upon as the test of descent, — and the first-fruits of this more critical spirit was the discovery of the real ancestors of the Stuarts and Douglasses by the indefatigable Chalmers. It was in fact the application of Criticism to the last stronghold of historical prejudice, — and at the first touch of the battering-ram the unsubstantial bulwarks crumbled into dust. The spirit thus awakened has given birth to a race of historical antiquaries and genealogists, most conscientious, industrious, erudite, and acute ; and to many of them, but especially to my friend

                           JOHN RIDDELL, ESQ., ADVOCATE,

whose name will be so frequently mentioned in the following pages, I have been indebted for most valuable assistance — assistance which has enabled me materially to improve these ' Lives of the Lindsays,' to rectify errors, supply omissions, and in short render them in all respects, I trust, more worthy of the favour they have been honoured with hitherto.*

* Among the friends to whom I have been thus obliged, may be mentioned — in anticipation of more special acknowledgments, scattered through the following pages — the following gentlemen : — James Dennistoun, Esq., of that Ilk, Advocate, — William Frazer, Esq., WS., of 11, Forres Street, Edinburgh, — Cosmo Innes, Esq., Sheriff of Moray, — David Laing, Esq., Librarian to the Writers of the Signet, and Secretary to the Bannatyne Club, — Alex. Macdonald, Esq., of the Register House, — James Maidment, Esq., Advocate, — Sir Francis Palgrave, K.H., — Robert Pitcairn, Esq., WS., — Joseph Robertson, Esq., of 12, Abbotsford Place, Glasgow,— Alex. Sinclair, Esq.,— W. B. D. D. Turnbull, Esq., Advocate, — and John Whitehead, Esq., of 84, Great King Street, Edinburgh : — With whom I may associate in this general expression of acknowledgment, the Rev. William Gregor, of Bonhill, the Rev. Harry Stuart, of Oathlaw or Finhaven, and the Rev. George Walker, of Kinnell, as having furnished me with valuable information regarding their respective localities : — Nor must I omit to acknowledge the advantage derived to these Lives from the courtesy of the Earl of Rothes, the Earl of Glasgow, the Earl of Fife, the Lord Forbes, Lord Gray, Lord Torphichen, Lord Panmure, Sir George Warrender, Bart., of Lochend, W. F. Lindsay Carnegie, Esq., of Spynie, Fred. Fotheringham, Esq., as guardian for his nephew, the young Laird of Powrie, and George MacNeal, Esq., of Ugadale, in entrusting my father with valuable papers for the prosecution of his claim to the Earldom of Crawford ; and from that of Sir John Ogilvie, Bart., of Inverquharitie, of Sir Robert K. Dick Cuninghame, Bart., of Prestonfield, and of Sir Charles Ross. Bart., of Balnagowan, in communicating interesting documents preserved in their respective repositories. My obligations to members of my own clan have been too manifold for enumeration here. — I have also profited by the collection of ancient Scottish seals, formed by Mr. Henry Laing, seal-engraver, 25, Clyde Street, Edinburgh, — a very worthy and deserving man, whose casts in glass of ancient seals are beautiful in themselves, and invaluable for perpetuating such fragile memorials of the past to future ages.

The multitude of historical works issued by the Bannatyne, Maitland, and other antiquarian book-clubs, within the last twelve years, have also been of great service to me in revising these volumes.

For my views of the manner in which it appears to me that Family History ought to be compiled, I may refer to my Introductory Letter so frequently alluded to, and will only add my conviction, that till the fact be recognized that, probably through an organization originally the same, an hereditary character is common in more or less development to all the individuals descended from the same stock — beginning, if the reader will, from Noah, but restricting the common character, first to Japhet and his descendants, then to whichever branch of those descendants history and philology may more peculiarly fix upon as the progenitors of the Teutonic race, and so downwards till the period when hereditary surnames became distinctive of particular families throughout Europe — that till this principle, I repeat, be recognized and adopted as the basis of disquisition, Family History will never rise or deserve to rise to the intellectual dignity it might otherwise attain to. It is not a little curious indeed, that, in Scotland at least, philosophy has been anticipated in this conclusion by common usage and experience. To each of the great historical families of Northern Britain its presumed peculiar characteristic has for ages been popularly assigned in alliterative epithets — their gaiety to the Gordons, their doughtiness to the Douglasses, their gallantry to the Grahams, their lightsomeness, or buoyant cheerfulness, to the Lindsays — epithets proverbial North of the Tweed, and so many keys to the character of the tribes to which they are applied, so many germs of that philosophy of genealogy which I would fain see more fully investigated and practically applied.  It is indeed my anxious hope that histories may be hereafter written of the great families of Britain and of Europe, on a plan similar to that which I have accomplished for " mine own people." Were the public and private annals of the Douglasses, Hamiltons, Seytons, Grahams, Maitlands, &c. , of Scotland, those of the Nevilles, Courtenays, Howards, Percies, Greys, Stanleys, Talbots, and Seymours of England, and those of the Fitzgeralds, Butlers, De Courcys, and the royal races of Ireland, illustrated in a similar manner, by the stores of original documents in the possession of their representatives, and with a view to the ascertainment and elucidation of the psychological characteristic of each race, as above stated, the result would be not merely morally beneficial to each of the families so commemorated, but creative of an entirely new class of literature, far from devoid of public interest or unconducive to the public benefit. That the circulation of the ' Lives of the Lindsays ' has in more than one instance suggested the undertaking of similar compilations, is a fact that has afforded me the sincerest gratification, as a pledge that this aspiration may not fall to the ground.

Two final observations occur to me in closing these preliminary pages. — In a work like the following there must of necessity be much that is not merely amusing,— much which, detachedly considered, may appear trifling and unworthy of insertion, and, to use the common phrase, "interesting only to the family." But — omitting the plea that it was for the family in the first instance that the work was written — this objection would apply equally to painting, poetry, history — in short, to every species of composition of which the moral lies in a general result. Any one on reflection will perceive how much this is the case in Biography. It is only during part of a life that the hero is the foremost agent, yet it is necessary briefly to detail the events in which he bears a subordinate part, and even those that immediately precede his entrance on the scene of action, in order to enable the reader to appreciate his conduct and influence when he does appear. And when the biography is that of a family considered as an individual, the same necessity recurs ; there are periods of preparation, periods of activity, periods of repose, — births, deaths, and marriages thus acquire extrinsic and collateral interest ; and in this manner of viewing things, the weight which mere adherence lends to a
good or a bad cause ought not to be disregarded.

On the other hand, as, in the history of an individual, public events are represented with more or less prominence according to the share the individual has in them — are, in short, grouped round the hero, though that hero may have been a hero only to very partial eyes ; and yet no one is offended at what is implied in the primary conditions of such delineation, — even so is it with the history of a family ; such incidents as the family mingle in must be brought prominently forward, the family must ever be painted conspicuously on the canvas, must assume a corresponding prominence in the narrative — exaggerated and untrue if the biography be misunderstood as history, but justifiable and inevitable under the conditions presupposed. — Without this forewarning, it might appear to the reader of the following ' Lives ' as if the history of the Lindsays were that of their country, as if I had attributed to them undue influence and importance, — but they assert no preeminence above their peers, the historical baronage of Scotland. — Of the character of the race thus commemorated, and of their claim to such commemoration, it would behove me to say somewhat were I not their kinsman as well as their biographer, — the one character impels me to speech, the other to silence ; and my readers will forgive me that I yield to the latter impulse.
   St. Germain-en-Luye, 21 Sept. 1847.

Since the above was written, the ' Lives of the Lindsays ' have been reviewed at some length in the Journal des Debals by M. Philari-te Chasles, the brilliant and learned author of the ' Etudes sur I'AntiquiteV ' Sur le Moyen Age,' &c. &c. His criticism is interesting from the point of view in which he regards the work, as a symptom and symbol of the mind of the North, and as expressive of the effort which, in his opinion, the Aristocratic spirit is making at the present moment to associate itself with the principle of progress, without forfeiting its own cherished traditions and recollections.  A few paragraphs may be here subjoined, — and I do not deny that I have great pleasure in citing the testimony of a distinguished foreigner to the interest of the characters whose ' Lives ' I have delineated, and of whom I may say in apology, as the Persian poet of his friends,

             " They are a string of pearls, and I
             The silken thread on which they lie.""


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