Family:Whitney, James (c1544-1587)

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Signature of James Whytney, 1578

Sir James Whitney (Robert, Robert, James, Robert, Eustace, Robert, Robert, Robert, Eustace, Eustace, Robert, ...), son of Sir Robert and Sibyl (Baskerville) Whitney,[1] was born about 1544, Whitney, Herefordshire,[2] and died 31 May 1587, Whitney, Herefordshire, aged 43 years.[3]

He was never married.

James Whitney, eldest son of Sir Robert, was born in 1544, and succeeded to the estate in 1567. Three years later he was knighted. In "A Book of Knights" by Walter 0. Metcalf, London, 1885, is a list from an old manuscript, of "The Names and Armes of those that were advaunced to the honourable Ordre of Knighthode in the Godlye, quyet and fortunate reigne of Queen Elizabeth," including
Sr Robert Whitney dubbed at Wyndesore anno 1570.
and further down
Sr James Whitney 1578.
The records of the College of Arms show that both of these are mistakes. No Whitney was knighted in 1578, and no Robert Whitney in the reign of Elizabeth. James was the only one, and his date was 1570. In looking up this matter the interesting fact was discovered that Sir James, when he paid to the college the fees attendant upon knighthood, by some inadvertence was overcharged, and the mistake does not seem to have ever been rectified in the three hundred and twenty-five years since elapsed. The matter is therefore respectfully referred to the representatives of Sir James's residuary legatee. In 1581, as commissioner, he collected the Lay Subsidy, and a facsimile of his signature annexed to a report is here shown. In 1574 he became sheriff, was reappointed in 1586, and died in office the following year. Though he never married, the knight's life was not without its romance, and there is even a suggestion that his celibacy was the result of disappointment in love. In the "Gentleman's Magazine" for 1847, commencing at page 484, there is printed an interesting collection of Elizabethan letters relating directly or indirectly to Barbara, Countess of Leicester. This lady was the only daughter of John Gamage of Coity in Glamorganshire, Wales, born in 1562, and left an orphan at an early age, heiress to a great estate. Her cousin, Sir Edward Stradling, of St. Donats Castle, in the same county, was her guardian. Her hand was sought by a multitude of suitors before it was finally bestowed on Robert Sydney, afterward Earl of Leicester, younger brother of the celebrated Sir Philip Sydney. Sir Walter Raleigh intimated that her marriage was a matter of bargain and sale, and the correspondence bears out this idea. With a single exception, all the ambitious young men seem to have done business entirely with the guardian, and to have considered that the lady had no voice in the matter. Edward Popham wrote to Stradling in behalf of Sir Robert Lindsey, second son of David, Earl of Crawford. Sir Henry Johnes, of Abermarles, in County Carmarthen, urged the claims of his son, afterward Sir Thomas Johnes. Sir James Croft, a privy councilor, lord deputy of Ireland, and comptroller of the Queen's household, brought all his influence to bear in behalf of his grandson, Herbert Croft; while the Earl of Pembroke, the most influential man in South Wales, demanded the heiress for young Sydney, the brother of his countess. Meanwhile, Whitney, trusting apparently in personal qualities alone, was, as appears from the following letter, regarded as a dangerous rival: To the right worll. Sr Edward Stradling, Knight. Sr: I understand that Sir James Whytney hath byn in your country to gayne that which I would fayne haue, but what successe he hath had I knowe not. Wherefore I am most earnestlye to pray you to take the paynes to wrytte unto me thereof, for the which curtesye, as I am already for a great many, soe shall I for this thinke my selfe excessively bounde to you. I hope I shall, ere yt be longe, see you, being bould to trouble you; those to whome I fynde my selfe behoulding I knowe not how I may, but I woulde be right glad to fynd any occasion to deserve some parte of your curteseyes. Thus, hoping that you will contynue your favour towards me in this matter, I comytt you to God. From the Courte, this fyfth of July, 1584. Your kinsman at commaund in what I maye,

Herb. Croft.

Later Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham, afterward the Earl of Nottingham, interfered in the matter, and the strife waxed so hot that the Queen herself took a hand.

This we learn from a letter of Sir Walter Ra1eigh.

To the R. worshipfull Sr Edward Stradlinge, Knight.

Sir Edwarde. Her Majestye hath now thrise caused letters to be written unto you, that you suffer not my kinswoman to be boughte and solde in Wales, without her Majesties pryvetye, and the consent or advice of my L. Chamberlayn and myselfe, her father's cosen germayns; consideringe she hath not anie niror kyn nor better; her father and myselfe came of twoe systers, Sir Philipp Champernownes daughters. I doubte not but, all other perswa- sion sett aparte, you will satisfie her Highnes, and withall do us that curtesie as to acquaint us with her matchinne. Yf you desire anie matche for her of youre owne kynn, yf you acquaynt us withall, you shall fynde us readye to yeilde to anie reason. I hope, sir, you will deale hearein moste advisedlie; and heerin you shal euer fynde us readye to requite you in all thynges, to our power. And soe with my verye hartye commendacions I end. In haste. From the Courte, the XXVIth of September, 1584.

Youre moste willinge frend

W. Ralegh

With this went a letter of Sir Francis Walsingham, containing the Queen's command that the young lady be brought to court. But two hours before it reached Stradling he had yielded to the demands of the Earl of Pembroke, his feudal lord, to whom he was under such obligations that he could not venture to oppose his will, and the union with Sydney had been arranged.

With the exception of Whitney, the unsuccessful gallants do not seem to have been deeply wounded, and soon fixed their affections elsewhere.

Sir James died, at the age of forty-three, on May 31, 1587, having, on his death-bed, made the following will:


Dated 20 May, 1587. Proved 16 June, 1587.
(P. C. C. 38 Spencer.)

In the name of God amen. The twentith Daye of Maye a thousand five hundreth eightye seauen I, JAMES WHITNEY, of Whitney, Knighte, being sick in bodye yet of good and perfect remembraunce thanke be to Almighty God, Doe make, ordayne and constitute this my Last Will and testament in manner and forme following. First, I commend my sowle to the mercy of God my maker and redeemer. And my bodye to be buryed in the parishe churche of Whitney where my Father and other my auncestors are buryed.

Item, as touching the Disposing of all suche Lands and Worldly goods as it hathe pleased God to blesse me withall I devise giue and bequeathe unto Eustauce Whitney, my brother, all those my severall manors, Lands and Lordshippes of Whitney, Pencombe, Ocle Pitchard and Kings Capel1, within the county or sheire of Hereford, Boughrid and Tremayne [Truman] within the County of Radnor, Icombe in the County of Gloucester, Clifton upon Dumnesmoore in the County of Warwick, and Comwiche in the County of Somerset with all and singular the Lands, tennements and inhereditaments to the said manners and Lordshippes and to every of them belonging with all and singular the appurtenances to have and to holde unto the said Eustauce Whitney for terme of his naturall lyfe and after his Decease to his heires males and to all the heires males of his bodye Lawfu11y begotten.

And for Defaulte of yssue male of the bodye of the said Eustauce the Remainder of all and singular the said Mannors, Lordshippes Lands, tennements and hereditaments to George Whitney, my uncle, and to the heires males of his bodye lawfully begotten; And for Default of suche yssue the Remainder thereof to William Whitney, my uncle and to the heirs males of his bodye lawfully begotten; And for Defaulte of suche heires the premises with theire appurten'nces to remain and to be to Thomas Whitney of Clyro and to the heires males of his bodye Lawfully begotten; And for Lack of such heires the same to remaine to Thomas Whitney of Castleton and to the heires males of his bodye Lawfully begotten; And for Lack of suche heires the same to remaine to Richard Whitney brother to the said Thomas and to the heires males of bis bodye Lawfully to be begotten; And for Lack of suche issue the same to remaine to James Whitney of Clifford and to the heires males of his bodye Lawfully begotten; And for Lack of suche yssue the same to remaine to Francis Whitney of London gent and to the heires males of his bodye Lawfully begotten; And for Lack of suche heires male the same to remaine to Eustauce Whitney of Clifford and to the heires males of his bodye Lawfully begotten; And for Lack of heires males Lawfully to be begotten of the bodyes of all and euery the aforesaid persons. then the same mannors and Lordshippes and every of them and all other the premises with theire appurten'nces to remaine to Quene Elizabeth, her heirs and successors Kings and Quenes of this Realme forever.

Provided allwayes and my will is that if the said Eustauce Whitney my brother or any of the heires males of his body lawfully begotten or to be begotten or any heire male of the bodyes of any issue male of the body of the said Eustauce to be begotten or any other to whome the remainder of the premises is by this my Last will and testament limitted and appointed or the heires males of the bodyes of any the foresaid person or persons shall Directly or indirectly publiquely or privately goe abowte indevour intend pactyze or putt to use to make any feoffment levye any fine or suffer any recoverye or otherwise to make any Discontynuance in or upon the premises or any parcell thereof whereby the remainders before by this my Last Will and Testament limitted and apointed or any of them shall or maye be Discontynued altered chaunged Debarred made frustrate or voyde, That then and so often the estate before Lymitted to any suche person or persons and the heires males of his bodye Lawfully begotten shall for so muche of the premises as is or shalbe intended to be alyened or Discontinued contrary to the true intent and meaning of these presentes shalbe and remaine to suche other person or persons to whome the same should or oughte to have remayned or come by these presentes and true meaning of this my Last Will if the same person or persons so intending to make alteration or Discontynuannce as is aforesaid weare then Deceased withoute yssue male of his bodye Lawfully begotten.

Item. I Demise giue and bequeathe unto Thomas Stephens of Whitney the yonger all my purchased Lands viz., Talbodwyn within the Lordshippe of Peynes Castell within the County of Radnor. The third parte of the farme of Aberthlewne in the County of Brecon whiche I late purchased of Roger Vaughan of Hinton in the County of Hereford, gentleman, And one yard Land in Oclepitchard whiche lately I purchased of one Thomas Knott To have and to holde all the said three Last recited parcells of Lands and Tenements with all and singular theire appuryten'nces to the said Thomas Stephens for and During the terme of his naturall lyfe. And after the Decease of the said Thomas my will is that the same shall remaine to the foresaid Eustauce my brother During his naturall lyfe onely And after his Decease successively to all the heires males in the foresaid former entayle specified according to the true tenor and meaning thereof and upon suche condicions and limitacions as before are sett Downe, Limitted and appointed for the guyding and Directinge the estate and estates remainder and remainders of the manors and Lordshippes as is first mencioned in this my Last Will and testament.

Item. My will is that Eustauce Whitney, my brother shall haue and enjoye all and singular the proffitts, emoluments and commodityes arysing and coming forthe and owte of my Lease whiche I have of the Lordship of Clifford During his Lyfe time and after his Decease my will is that the same farme and the residue of the yeares in the said Lease conteyned and whiche then shalbe unexpired shalbe and remaine to every suche person and persons to whome my said mannors, Lordships, Lands, tenements and hereditaments be by this my Last will and testament appointed to be and remaine after my Decease with the same and Lyke condicions and Limitacions as are herein mencioned for the limitacion of the inheritaunce of the same mannors, Lordshipes, Lands, &c. Provided further that it shall not be lawfull for the said Eustauce my brother nor his heirs males nor to any other the persons and heirs above named to alyenate sell assigne or surrender or forfeite or sette lease otherwise than for theire naturall lyfe of everyone of them nor suffer the saide Lease to be alienated soulde assigned or surrendered forfeyted or sette Lease the terme of yeares there in expressed or any parte or parcell thereof otherwise than is beforesaid.

Item. I giue and bequeathe unto my sister Blanche Grevil the sum of one hundred pounds of good and Lawfu1l money of England to be paide unto her by mine executors.

Item. I giue and bequeathe to the fower Daughters of my said sister Blanche Grevill, viz., Anne, Blanche, Katherine, Dorothye Grevill, one hundred ponnds sterling apeece to be paid to them at the severall Dayes of theire marriages or within one halfe yeare after and next following. Provided that if any of the said foure Daughters happen to Dye before the solemnization of any of theire said marriages, That then the Legacye of her or them so dying to be equally devided amongst the rest that live and survive.

Item. I giue and bequeathe to Foulke Grevill sonne untoe Robert Grevill and Blanche my sister the some of one hundred pounds of good and Lawfull money of England to be paid unto him when he shall come to the full age of one and twenty years.

Item. I giue and bequeathe unto Alice Price my sister's Daughter nowe Dwelling in the howse with me the some of Foure hundred pounds of lawfull Englishe money to be paid unto her at the Daye of her marriage or within one yeare next after if so be that the said Alice is choosing of her marriage and husband shalbe onely ordered Directed and ruled by the advyce counsel and agreement of the righte Reverend Father in God Marmaduke nowe Lord Bishopp of St. Davids and my uncle George Whitney.

Item. My will is that my uncle George Whitney, Julyan his wyfe and theire sonne George shall quietly and peaceably haue holde occupye enjoye and possesse the Lordshipp of Icombe aforesaid for and During theire naturall lives and the longer liuer of them anything aboue expressed to the contrary notwithstanding, yielding and paying there-fore yearly threescore and six pounds thireene shillings and foure pence of good and Lawfull money of England to my foresaid brother Eustauce Whitney and the heires above mencioned and expressed.

Item. I giue and bequeathe to William Whitney the base sonne of Sr Robert Whitney, Knighte, one annuitye or yearely porcion of twenty pounds sterling During his naturall lyfe or after the Deathe of Richard Syrell of Pencombe to haue in Lewe thereof the farme whiche the said Richard nowe holdeth at his charge During his Lyfe.

Item. I giue and bequeathe unto Blanche Whitney of Clifford my kinswoman tenne pounds sterling to be paid within one yeare after my Decease by mine Executors.

Item. I giue and bequeathe to Harrye Price als Henry Price and Anne nowe his wyfe and to the childe with the whiche the said Anne nowe goeth withall and is (gravida facta) twoe Fermes in Clifton whereof the one is presently in myne occupation the other in the tenure or occupation of one Margerie Frost als Jordan and the twoe other tennements whiche nowe the said Henry and Anne enjoyeth lying in the villages of Stowe, Millhaughe and Whitney, During theire three lives and the Longest Liver of them, They and every of them paying the olde anncyent and accustomed rent to my heires before expressed. Provided allways that it shalbe lawfull for them and every of them to sett and lett the said tennements During theire lives.

Item. I giue and bequeath to William Penkin the tenement or farme which he holdeth of me in Stowe During his naturall lyfe paying the olde anncyent and accustomed rent for the same as before.

Item. I giue and bequeathe unto Charles Jones my seru'nte the grounde which he nowe holdeth of me During his naturall lyfe paying the olde accustomed rent for the same.

Item. I giue and bequenthe unto Thomas Walwill of Hereford, Chamboyes meadowe During his lyfe rent free and afterwards to my foresaid heires.

Item. I giue and bequeathe to every of my householde seru'nts as well men as women (if my brother Eustauce will not entertayne them unto his service or for to so many of them as he will not entertayne and kepe) three yeares wages apeece, The names of whiche servaunts are herunder expressed with the sume of theire severall wages by the yeare uppon theire heades. Imprimis William Byrte forty shillings; Thomas Patye forty shillings; William Turner forty shillings; Thomas Smith als Williams forty shillings; Roger Williams forty shillings; John Morgan twenty-six shillings eight pence; William Taylor, forty shillings; Thomas Brewar forty shillings; Edward Horsman twenty-six shillings eight pence; Thomas Walter, Bayliffe, twenty-three shillings foure pence; Thomas Prichard, thirty-three shillings foure pence; Thomas ap Owen . . . . . . John Sheparde als Hall fortye shillings; John Williams twenty shillings; Edward Ystance twenty shillings; Symeon Abeynon, Watkyn Price twenty-six shillings eighte pence; William Morgan referred to the executors; Robert Picke forty shillings and referred to the executors; Robert Price als Lycence eightene shillings; John Price my foote boye eighte pounds onely to be imployed by my executors to his proffitt; Dame Cooke forty shillings in all; Margaret Bradford eightene shillings.

Item. I giue and bequeathe Margaret Richard two shillings; Margaret Jones twelve shillings; Elizabeth Hall XIIs; Katherine Thomas thirtene shillings.

Item. I giue and bequeathe to Marye Milnes Daughter to my uncle George Whitney twoe hundred pounds of good and Lawfull money of England to be paid to her within one yeare next after my Decease.

Item. I giue and bequeathe towards the reparac'on of the Cathedrall Churche of Hereford three pounds six shillings eighte pence.

Item. My will is that Anne Edmonds, Henry Edmond and John Edmond her sonnes shall have and enjoye the tenement they nowe holde and the keping of the boate with the proffitts thereunto belonging during theire three lives and the longer liver of them paying onely twenty shillings by the yeare to my foresaid heires.

Item. My will is that myne executors hereafter to be named shall and maye after my Decease Demise and sett these three mannors and Lordshippes viz., Oclepitchard, Clifton and Comewitche for three lives or fourscore yeares at the auncyent and accustomed rents and all suche fynes as they shall receive for and uppon my Demise to be by them made to reserve and take towards the payment and Discharge of all my Debtes, Legacies, Aunuityes and Funerall expences. And if there be any overplus of the saide fynes together with the moveable goods after my Debts Legacyes annuityes and Funerall expenses Discharged Then my will is that the rest and overplus thereof be Delivered to mine executors. Provided allwayes and my will is that Eustauce Whitney my brother shall enter into bond obligation of tenne thousand pounds to myne executors and overseers not onely to fulfill and performe all the singular the contents in this my last will and testament specified and conteyned but also to permitt and suffer all and singular my gifts, Legacies, Leases, grants and Annuitycs to stand in force and to be performed according to the true meaning purpose and intent of this my Last will and testament. And further withall to suffer and permitt all and singular my seru'nts whiche hold any Land of me by Lease or otherwise peaceablye and quietly to enjoye and possesse the same During the yeares and termes in theire said Leases and grants conteyned into whiche bonde if my said brother Eustauce will refuse to enter or will not suffer and permitt all and singular the clauses articles gifts graunts anunityes Leases thing or things in this my Last will and testament specified to be performed accordingly by myn executors and overseers, Then my will is that my Uncle George Whitney shalbe my next and ymediate heire and that the saide Eustauce Whitney my brother shall reape no proffit or benefite by this my Last will and testament. But thereof and every parte and parcell thereof shalbe clearely secluded Disannulled and Exempted. And if my saide brother Doe refuse as is aforesaid Then Doe I hereby revocate all my former Legacies to him or to any the yssues males of his bodye Lawfully begotten before bequeathed anything in this my Last will and testament conteyned to the contrary notwithstanding.

All the Rest of my goods and chattells as well moveable as unmovable before not Demised given or bequeathed I give and bequeathe to George Whitney and William Whitney my uncles and to Richard Shippam of London, my kinnesman towards the Discharge and payment of all my Debts Legacies Annuityes and Funerall expenses the whiche said George Whitney, William Whitney and Richard Shippam I doe make constitute and ordayne executors of this my Last will and testament to see the same truly and faithfully kepte fulfilled and performed according to my true meaning And Doe nominate and appointe the saide Reverend Father in God Marmaduke nowe Lord Bisshopp of St. Davids and the Worshipfull Mr. John Watkins Deane of the Cathedrall Churche of Hereford to be overseers of this my last will and testament.

Item. My will and meaning is that this my present Last will and testament shalbe orderly Drawen and putt in writing according to Lawe and my true meaning by Counsell Learned in the Lawes of the Realme so that no poynte clause or thing whiche shalbe materiall therin conteyned be altered and changed contrary to my intent and purpose whiche my meaning intent and purpose yf any Doubte or question shall happen at any time hereafter to arise I referree to be Declared and Deluded by the Right Reverend Father in God Marmaduke Lord Bishopp of St. Davids and the said Mr. John Watkins and Mr. George Whitney my uncle or to any twoe of them.

Item. My will is that all and singular suche plate as I have shalbe and remayne to the howse of Whitney forever as standards never to be soulde nor removed the particular parcells whereof are hereunder specified, nominated and Declared.

In wittnes wherof I have hereunto subscribed my name and putt my seale of armes the Daye and yeare of our Lord first above written viz. vicesimo May 1587.

Item. If my foresaid brother Eustauce Whitney will not suffer and permitt the foresaid Thomas Stephens of Whitney the yonger quietly and peaceably to enjoye and possesse all those my purchased Lands whiche by this my Last will and testament I haue given him During his naturall lyfe and according to the true meaning of this my last will and testament Then my will is and I giue and bequethe and by these presents assigne and sette over unto the saide Thomas Stephens all that my Lease of the mannor or Lordshipp of Clifford with all my righte title or interest I haue or oughte to haue therein or thereunto with all and singuler the Lands hereditaments and appurtenances with all emoluments proffitts and comodityes whatsoever to the same in any wise belonging or apperteyning During his naturall Lyfe paying therefore onely the olde accustomed rent Due by my saide lease unto suche as by the said Lease it is Due and the residue of the yeares unexpired after his Decease my will is it shalbe at the disposicon of myne executors and overseers.

THE PARTICULIARITYES OF MY PLATE. Imprimis, one Bason and ewer of parcell gilte Item, one nest of gilte gobletts with one cover Item, twoe white bolls parcell gilte with a cover Item, one standing cuppe Dubble gilte with a cover Item, twoe greate saltes gilte with a cover to them1 Item, one white gobblett. Item, one casting bottle gilte. Item, twoe gilte potts. Item, one pott parcell gilte. Item, one spoone bowle. Item, six gilte spoones. Item, seaven white spoones of Divers sortes.


Probate of the above written will was granted at London, before the Venerable Master William Drury, Doctor of Laws, Master keeper or Commissary &c. the 16th day of the month of June, 1581, by the oath of Francis Clerk, Notary Public, Proctor for George Whitney, William Whitney and Richard Shippam the Executors in the said will nominated, to whom was committed &c. well and truly to administer &c. being sworne upon the Holy Evangelists of God.

In the Record Office there are the fragments of parchments that were once the pleadings in a suit in Chancery, begun in October, 1595, entitled "Thomas Myll2 vs. Eustace Whitney et al," brought to establish, in opposition to the foregoing will, another, made a week earlier. They originally consisted of the bill of complaint, the answer and demurrer of Eustace Whitney, and the answer of William Whitney, uncle to the said James and Eustace. Much of the writing is destroyed by the rotting away of the material on which it appeared, but enough is left to explain why a second will was made. William, for example, makes this statement:

And this defendante further sayeth that true yt ys that all the tyme of the laste sicknes of the saide Sir James Whytney whereof he dyed, wch this defendante taketh to be the tyme when the saide Sir James Whytney did firste cause his laste Wyll and Testamente to be sett downe in Wrytinge, there was greate displeasure or dislike betweene the saide Sir James Whytney and the saide Eustauce Whytney; But afterwards and before the departure out of this lyfe of the saide Sir James Whytney he the saide Eustauce Whytney, by the medyac'on of this defendante, beynge uncle unto both the said parties was reconcyled unto the said Sir James. After wch reconcyliac'on he the saide Sir James Whytney did [and here occurs a hole in the parchment]

The sums of money mentioned show that Whitney was, in personal property, to say nothing of his estates, a wealthy man. "Foure hundred pounds," the amount given to Alice Price, now would only be equal to two thousand dollars, but then it was equivalent to nearly or quite twenty thousand dollars. Such things are relative. It will be noticed that forty shillings was then the highest pay per annum that any of Sir James's men-servants received.

In the fifteenth century haymakers received only a penny a day; laborers, three half pence; carpenters, two pence; and masons, three pence. In the reign of Henry VIII., beef and mutton sold for a half penny a pound, and veal and pork for three farthings; yet fresh meat was seldom eaten by the common people, and by gentlemen only from Midsummer to Michaelmas. In the beginning of the seventeenth century, when King James's translation of the Bible was made, it seemed proper enough, in the parable of the vineyard, to speak of the laborers as receiving each their "penny" for bearing "the burden and heat of the day."

There is an interesting subject for speculation in the question, what finally became of those articles of plate that were to "be and remayne to the howse of Whitney forever as standards never to be soulde nor removed."[4]


1.^  Melville, Henry, A.M., LL.B., The Ancestry of John Whitney: Who, with His Wife Elinor, and Sons John, Richard, Nathaniel, Thomas, and Jonathan, Emigrated from London, England, in the Year 1635, and Settled in Watertown, Massachusetts; the First of the Name in America, and the One from Whom a Great Majority of the Whitneys Now Living in the United States Are Descended (New York, NY: The De Vinne Press, 1896), p. 165.

2.^  Ibid., based on his age at the time of his father's Inquisition Post Mortem.

3.^  Melville, op. cit., p. 167. His will was dated 20 May 1587, and proved 16 Jun 1587.

4.^  Melville, op. cit., pp. 165-179.

Copyright © 2006, Robert L. Ward and the Whitney Research Group

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