Buckingham Palace’s extraordinary secrets revealed by fake footman
The biggest royal security scandal ever is exposed today by a Mirror reporter working secretly as a footman in Buckingham Palace.
Ryan Parry was able to prepare the Queen’s breakfast and take pictures of the bed President George Bush slept in last night.
Parry, who used bogus references to get the job, was still in the Palace last night as Mr Bush arrived. He watched unchallenged as the president and his wife Laura were met by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in the Palace garden at around 8pm.
He had a full view from a pitch by the state dining room through a net curtain. Had he been a terrorist hell bent on assassinating the royals or Mr Bush, nothing could have stopped him.
Parry, who infiltrated the Palace two months ago, would have served breakfast today to the president’s chief aides, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Bush’s exact itinerary had been handed out to staff more than 90 minutes before he arrived.
In the wrong hands the details could prove devastating.
Even the time the president – met by Prince Charles at Heathrow last night – was due to get up today, 5.30am, was given out.
But Parry walked out of his £11,881 job at the end of his shift last night, leaving his uniform on the bed in his room at the Palace.
The security scandal will send shock waves across the world. Our investigation exposes the serious flaws in the £10million security operation to protect Mr Bush.
Our probe began less than two months after police vowed royal security had been tightened following “comedy terrorist” Aaron Barschak’s gatecrashing of Prince William’s 21st birthday at Windsor Castle.
But it was the ease with which Parry, 26, got the job that is so shocking. His credentials were never properly checked, although a simple search on the Internet would have shown his name and picture next to another Mirror investigation he carried out last summer into security at the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
He was able to wander freely in and out of the Palace often carrying luggage and electrical equipment. On duty he always had a camera in a pocket but was never searched.
Only hours before the president’s arrival, Parry was sent to lay out chocolates and fruit for the US leader and his following.
He was allowed into every room to deliver a medium box of Bendicks special chocolates, a glass jar of Charbonnel & Walker mints, a jar of chocolate digestives, a basket of fruit, a bowl of strawberries and cherries.
A Right Royal Fiasco
FOR the past eight weeks, I have enjoyed unfettered access throughout Buckingham Palace as one of the Royal Family’s key aides.
Had I been a terrorist intent on assassinating the Queen or President George Bush, I could have done so with absolute ease.
Indeed, this morning I would have been serving breakfast to key members of his government, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Such is the shocking incompetence at the heart of the biggest security operation ever in Britain.
Not once, from the moment I applied for my job as a footman to my walking out of the palace last night, did anyone ever perform anything close to a rigorous security check on my background.
Not once during the entire three-month operation did anyone ever search me or my bags as I came and went at Buckingham Palace.
On my first day I was given a full all-areas security pass and the traditional uniform of the Queen’s trusted aides that allowed me unquestioned access to every member of the royal family.
And within days of starting my job, I was even shown the secret hiding places for keys that will open the royal apartments.
From my small bedroom on the palace’s second floor, directly above the famous Picture Gallery and just yards from the Queen’s bedroom, plotting a devastating terrorist attack would have been simple.
Because I frequently had direct contact with the Queen’s food – delivering her tray was one of my tasks – I could have easily poisoned the monarch.
And just days ago, as the supposedly impenetrable security was prepared for George Bush, I was able to wander at will through the rooms he and his wife will use during their stay, taking snaps of the bedroom they slept in last night.
I was also able to wander unchecked through Prince Andrew’s private apartment and those of the Earl and Countess of Wessex and Princess Anne. But most remarkable is the sheer ease by which I managed to win myself a job living and working in direct contact with the Queen – on the eve of the biggest security operation in British history.
It began last August when I applied for a job as a royal footman advertised on a recruitment page of the Buckingham Palace official website.
I composed a CV – leaving out details of my journalistic career – with one real reference and one fake.
At one stage the palace even accepted a character reference over the telephone from a regular at the pub where I used to work as a barman.
Exposing my lies would have taken a simple check on the internet.
During my time at the palace I worked on a daily basis as a personal servant to the royals and served VIP guests and A-list celebrities. I was even invited to join the police gym.
Our investigation makes a mockery of the £10million security operation set up to protect the President.
I spent the early part of yesterday in a royal carriage with the Portuguese ambassador and other VIPs.
I left last night at 9.45pm, loading my gear into two holdalls. I walked out past two British armed guards, my heart pounding.
Then I stepped out into Buckingham Palace Road, unchecked and unchallenged for the last time.
Inside the President’s Bedroom
THIS is the bedroom George Bush and his wife slept in last night. But five days ago, as Britain and the US geared up for the biggest security operation at the Palace since World War Two, I was able to take this photograph.
My tour of the Belgian Suite couldn’t have been easier. And despite the false credentials I gave to secure my job as the Queen’s footman, I had complete access to the room the US will use as an operations centre.
With most of the senior members of the American government staying here, this is where they are effectively running the most powerful government in the world.
Had I been a terrorist, the consequences are unthinkable.
My assigned duties for today would have been to serve breakfast on the Principal Floor. In other words, to the American top brass accompanying the President on his state visit.
The senior Americans staying at the Palace are White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, National Security Adviser Condeleezza Rice and Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State.
After serving them breakfast from 7am, I would have been on standby to attend to their needs throughout the day including providing them tea and biscuits.
I would also have been valet to the Queen’s Equerry, Major James Duckworth-Chad, ensuring his clothes were ready for him to wear before he met the Queen this morning.
In the footman’s room I would steam the creases from his jacket and trousers, polish his medals and boots and press his shirt.
But that was all before I revealed myself as an undercover reporter exposing the shockingly weak security surrounding the world’s most powerful leader.
When I voluntarily left my post late last night, President Bush and his wife Laura were just settling down for their first night in the Palace, in the famous Belgian Suite, just as Russian president Vladmir Putin did last June.
Over the next three days the suite will allow him access to a collection of luxurious and beautifully decorated rooms. They include the 1844 room, where he was served a private dinner last night, the Spanish Room, the Carnarvon Room and the swimming pool complex.
Two British security officers and two American Secret Servicemen are posted at the entrance to his suite.
But security before the visit was so lax I was able to wander around at will, completely unchecked, with my uniform guaranteeing me unquestioned access to the suite.
Bush’s security team has commandeered the Regency Room as an operations centre.
Communications systems have been brought in and key staff will work from this room throughout the day, shrouded by a huge blue tent which has been erected in the middle of the room.
All the President’s Men are there.
Joseph Hagin, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff of Operations, Dan Bartlett, the White House Director of Communications, Michael Gerson, Director of Presidential Speech Writing, Donald Ensenat, the Chief of Protocol, and Brett Kavanaugh, Assistant White House Counsel.
I was even shown a detailed floor plan of the building which one officer said police were relying upon to help them ward off any threat.
Bush was greeted by Prince Charles last night as Air Force One touched down at Heathrow Airport.
Within minutes his helicopter had landed within the seemingly safe compound of Buckingham Palace, where I was still on duty.
My shift only ended at 9.30pm and afterwards I returned to my room inside the palace.
US agents in charge of the massive security surrounding the visit believe they have taken every precaution to ensure the trip runs smoothly.
Not least are the two Boeing 747-200 jets and three huge military cargo planes, which have been laid on to carry a fleet of limousines, surveillance vans and helicopters. Enough military hardware is on board to invade a small nation.
The American CIA were even said to have carried out their own checks on all palace staff. But they weren’t as thorough as they thought.
Ironically, I was allowed to slip through the security net to be handed the key post on the Principal floor.
Every branch of the British security establishment is involved in the operation to keep the President safe.
While Scotland Yard has insisted there is no specific warning of a plot against the president, because of Britain’s alliance with the US over the Iraq war London has become a possible tar- get for terrorist attack.
Every rooftop that might provide a vantage point for a sniper or would-be terrorist has been checked. Drains have been searched for bombs and uniformed officers have been told to look out for anyone acting suspiciously.
Inside the Palace, Bush and his advisors will have armed guards.
Tonight, the Queen, the US President and PM Tony Blair will join under the same roof for a State Banquet.
Had I chosen not to quit, I would have been there, pouring their champagne and serving their dinner.
I could have poisoned the Queen
A thick white napkin embroidered with the EIIR emblem lies folded on the table next to the cornflakes and porridge oats in their Tupperware containers.
Opposite, Prince Philip’s radio is set up in the exact place it sits every morning and space is cleared for the national newspapers, with the Racing Post on top of the pile.
The amazing scene is the setting for the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s breakfast at Buckingham Palace.
And I took this picture just minutes before the royal couple took their places at the table on the first- floor dining room.
It’s a terrifying thought that it would have taken less time for a terrorist to poison the Queen’s food.
As her footman, my job was to set out a plate of fruit and the cup and saucer for their Earl Grey tea and serve the Duke’s cooked breakfast on the mornings he chose to have it.
My training involved my being given a detailed plan of the breakfast table, right down to the position of the honey and maple syrup and the silver spoons for the marmalade.
The Queen prefers toast with light marmalade – although she ends up feeding most of it to her corgis who gather at her feet under the table.
My first real glimpse of the monarch came on October 9 when I was on duty at the Grand Entrance of the Palace during an investiture.
It was the day actor Roger Moore and pop star Sting were honoured by the Queen in the historic ceremony.
I could hear the national anthem playing in the background and as she walked in a procession of household staff along the East Gallery, I glanced up to see her looking straight at me.
I could easily have caused her harm at any moment.
Although I was given a full security pass, it was my uniform that effectively became my passport to Britain’s royal residences.
A footman told me shortly after I arrived: “The uniform is your right of passage. The police and senior members of the household both know we’re there to do a job.
“We’ve probably got more access to the Palace than any other member of staff. Even some of the royals haven’t seen half the rooms we’ve seen.”
I also had access to Windsor Castle, St James’s Palace, Kensington Palace and the Queen’s private residences at Sandringham, Norfolk and Balmoral in Scotland.
I didn’t even have to make an appointment if I wanted to visit, I was told.
But the most shocking breach of security took place on October 15, when the Queen was left completely unguarded.
I had been given the task of delivering an envelope for the monarch to her page Paul Wyebury who would then pass it on.
I knew the Queen was at home because I had earlier been on stand-by to meet her from the royal helicopter when she returned from engagements in Enfield.
The route from the Privy Purse Door to Wyebury’s post in the page’s vestibule takes you directly to the Queen’s private corridor.
From there I had a clear view through every doorway inside her private apartments. The Queen’s corgis were sprawled out in the corridor asleep.
But when I reached the landing, her page and her footman, who should normally have been on duty, had disappeared and I could hear the monarch talking on the phone in a room just feet away. The door was half open and within seconds I could have been alone with the Queen.
Instead, I quietly dropped the envelope on a sideboard in the vestibule and left the same way as I came in.
But I shuddered at the thought of the damage a terrorist could have inflicted had they been in the same position.
Such was my unrestricted access around the Palace that I had a prime position for the changing of the guard from one of my posts at the Privy Purse door, the entrance on the forecourt. Officers in charge of the parade would often pop in for a glass of water.
More senior household staff use the door as well as guests with appointments to see the royals or to attend royal lunches or meetings.
One day last month, I quietly ushered Jeremy Paxman into the waiting room after he arrived for an appointment with the Queen’s private secretary Sir Robin Janvrin. Astonishingly, given the state of my own credentials, I was also told to check visitor passes.
Passes should be scrutinised at the front gates by uniformed police. But one officer told me: “People often sneak through undetected, so a second check should be made if you don’t recognise the face.”
Often officers at the front gate would send people to the door who weren’t on the security check-list. Amazingly, few seemed to have their bags searched.
When one visitor carrying a huge black briefcase offered to open his bag, a policeman told him: “I’m sure it’s a very nice bag, sir,” before taking just a cursory peek inside to humour him.
The extent of the threat towards the monarchy was brought home to me by livery porter Paul King, who revealed the Palace is constantly on alert for suspicious parcels.
He told me: “We had one worrying package around the time of the anthrax scare. It was filled with white powder and we had to shut down the whole area to contain it.”
The scare turned out to be a false alarm, however King added: “The Palace is a lot safer than it used to be but it is still always under threat.”
Just days ago, on Thursday November 13, explosive experts were called in after staff raised the alarm over an envelope addressed to President Bush. It turned out to contain tea-bags.
But the scare focused attention on the heightened security surrounding the US leader as he prepared to fly to Britain amid fears of terrorist attacks and threats of anti-war protests.
Once inside the household, I was quickly trusted with security information. One policeman even told me the secret code name which Prince Andrew uses to gain access into the Palace gate.
Later, another officer pointed out the CCTV cameras hidden along the perimeter of the Palace and showed me the exact location of a “tremble wire” which triggers a warning about potential intruders.
Stories of footmen, under-butlers, chefs and even housemaids sneaking strangers into the Palace make for colourful conversations below stairs.
However, these days guests are required to sign in and staff have to give police 24 hours notice of their arrival.
Oh yeah, I know him
Buckingham Palace gave me a job based on a casual reference over the telephone from a regular in my old pub.
The laughable attempts by the Palace to check my credentials also failed to find another reference was from a fictitious company foreman.
The call to the Parciau Arms, a small pub in North Wales which I had listed on my application form as a previous employer, was made by Catherine Jones in the Palace’s personnel department.
She found the landlord from the pub I named on my CV had left and it had changed hands years ago.
But rather than come back to me to demand an alternative referee, she allowed the barmaid to hand the telephone to a regular who said he recognised my name.
“Yeah, I know him,” he said when the barmaid shouted my name out in the pub. He’d been sitting at the bar sipping Southern Comfort and coke.
And this, according to the palace, was good enough to stand as one of my character references.
Like everyone else, I had assumed security at the Palace would be the strictest in the world, especially after self-styled Comedy Terrorist Aaron Barschak gatecrashed Prince William’s birthday party at Windsor Castle on June 21.
But little appears to have changed since a report revealed a “culture of complacency” in the Royal House.
The post of footman was advertised on the recruitment pages of the palace website early last August.
The ad read: “Applications are invited for the appointment of a trainee Footman based at Buckingham Palace. The successful candidate should have good communication skills, be able to work unsupervised and within a team and possess a friendly, polite disposition.”
After downloading the application form and compiling a fake CV, but using my real name, I sent the documents to the palace.
Two days later I received a call inviting me for an interview on August 7, 9.30am. I was being considered for footman and under-butler roles.
When I arrived on interview day dressed in a suit I checked in with reception at a side door off Buckingham Palace Road and was given a temporary pass by the policeman.
Nigel McEvoy, the Travelling Yeoman met me and I was led to a basement office, next to the footman’s room, and introduced to Matthew King, Sergeant Footman, and Simon Hajjar, Deputy Sergeant Footman.
Nigel, who conducted the inter-view, came across as a pleasant, professional, and explained the role in detail before quizzing me about my background and prior employment.
My cover story was that I was an office manager for a paint firm in Manchester and that after leaving university I had briefly worked as bar manager and waiter in Anglesey, North Wales, where I grew up. As my referees I provided two names – a former university lecturer and the fictitious director of the paint firm.
My work history included the name of the Parciau Arms in Anglesey, which I said had employed me as a bar manager. In reality, I was a glass collector and left in under a year.
Most of what I said was accurate, although I left out one vital fact – my job as a Daily Mirror journalist.
At the end of the half-hour inter- view, Nigel took me to see Stephen Murray, Yeoman of the Silver and Gilt Pantry, who wanted to interview me for the under-butler role.
My third and final interview, with Edward Griffiths, the Deputy Master of the Household and head of G- Branch, provided my first glimpse inside the main section of the palace.
Griffiths was more interested in why I wanted to be a footman after working in an office for so long and quizzed me in detail about the pub.
He seemed encouraged by my enthusiasm but it was difficult to tell whether I’d made an impression.
I waited less than a week to find out. That’s when I received a call from Nigel telling me I had got the job.
Getting security clearance could take weeks, he added. But I was given a start date – September 23.
Other formalities were carried out with frightening speed.
On August 13 I was called back to the Palace to be fitted in my new livery, a uniform of distinctive black tails, three white shirts, a scarlet waistcoat and a black tie.
I was also given white tropical livery with gold trim for the summer and later a scarlet livery for state occasions.
At any point, my true identity could have easily been rumbled. A simple search on the Internet would have revealed my occupation as a Daily Mirror journalist.
My official employment confirmation letter was dated August 14 and signed by Edward Griffiths.
An envelope containing my contract, a security and counter-terrorism form, an employee manual and medical documents arrived days later.
The security forms were straight-forward and I answered them honestly. They asked about criminal convictions – I have none – my parents and the name of my girlfriend.
Throughout the next couple of weeks, however, I fully expected a call turning down my application – Scotland Yard’s Royal Protection Unit is responsible for security checks.
On September 1, Catherine Jones from palace personnel rang to say she hadn’t received my references.
That’s when she told me she had rang the Parciau Arms.
Nigel McEvoy called me on September 18, telling me my start date would have to be postponed until my references went through. Yet again, there was an opportunity for the Palace to expose my lies.
But on the following Friday, Catherine faxed a reference form to an imaginary foreman at the paint firm. A fake reference was compiled in the name Mike Halliwell and dispatched back.
On Monday, September 22, I rang Catherine at 9.20am to see if she had everything. Moments later Matthew King called. There was no need to postpone my start date, he said.
At 9am the next day I walked through the side entrance of Buckingham Palace and into the heart of the British monarchy.
My Life as a Footman
THE horse-drawn carriage came to a halt outside the Grand Entrance to Buckingham Palace. I jumped off, opened the heavy carriage door and lowered the blue-carpeted steps.
It was a grand occasion for the occupants – they were about to have an audience with Her Majesty the Queen.
Moments earlier I had stood proudly on the rear of the black and gold carriage as hundreds of tourists and royal watchers saw our convoy clatter up The Mall.
Special Escort Group police motorcycles carved a safe route through London and all security measures were taken – the royal parks managers were even asked to ensure covers were placed over waste paper bins.
The Royals at Christmas
Yet, dressed in the royal footman’s livery of a long scarlet wrap doubled up over the shoulders and a gold-lined top hat, I once again had direct access to the royals and their VIP guests from Prime Ministers and foreign leaders to international celebrities.
The Queen’s Equerry, Major James Duckworth-Chad, will be waiting on President Bush this week. One of my duties was to wait on the major, placing me one person away from the president himself.
I had previously waited on the Equerry on Remembrance Day, watching him on TV accompanying the Queen to the Cenotaph in all his ceremonial glory, knowing I had spit-polished his boots.
I spent the previous weeks working within the Master of the Household’s department – what royal insiders refer to as the G-branch, general household staff comprising valets, butlers, footmen and drivers. Other footmen work for F-branch – food and drinks – and H-branch – housekeeping and cleaning.
My duties, on a £11,881 salary, cut to £9,338 after living costs, included manning the Grand Entrance and receiving and escorting guests.
EACH day began at 7.30am in the footman’s room in the basement where we got our instructions. Were I a terrorist I would have found useful a card on the noticeboard with the Queen’s schedule for the day – handwritten by Major Duckworth-Chad.
Working for G-branch was like stepping back into another era where royal pomp and ceremony – down to the tiniest detail of where to place the Queen’s marmalade – have changed little since Edwardian times.
One weekend I joined another footman, two kitchen porters, two chefs, two silver pantry under- butlers, a page and a coffee-room maid – just to tend to the Queen.
The maid waited two-and-a-half hours to pick up a pot of coffee from a hot plate and pour it into a silver jug.
She then handed it to me. My role was to take the tray 20 metres to the page’s vestibule and hand it to the page, who then carried it another eight metres to the Queen in her dining room.
One of the staff said to me: “It’s incredible, isn’t it?”
At official events such as investitures and receptions, footmen show distinguished guests into the ballroom and serve drinks and canapes.
At one reception held for British pioneers, I served Sir Cliff Richard a gin and tonic. Dignitaries including David Trimble, Lord Attenborough and Sir Trevor McDonald accepted drinks from me as they mingled with the Queen.
I also learned how to lay out the grandly titled Prime Minister’s Drinks Tray with its choice of whisky, soda, clarets and beer.
Footmen also ride the Queen’s carriages at the State opening of Parliament and Royal Ascot. We serve at State banquets and diplomatic receptions. But all this is secondary to attending royals – serving , delivering mail and being at their beck and call.
The myriad of personal instructions for each member of the household would be invaluable to anyone who meant them harm.
Tea trays for each royal have their own precise map, indicating where condiments, teapots and milk jugs must be placed.
Philip’s always includes oat cakes next to the honey. Sophie Wessex eats breakfast in private from 7.30am to 8.10am, and prefers white wine at dinner.
Prince Andrew does not drink alcohol but will often have wine on the table for guests. We were told: “Do not dither around, be positive in his presence.”
As part of the working rota, footmen come into contact with the royals, speaking to them personally in the mornings to find out their movements and their daily needs.
Some are easy to attend to. Princess Anne gets on with her work without fuss. But she’s also quite particular. Her fruit bowl must contain a very black banana and ripe kiwi fruit.
The Wessexes are known for being laid back and pleasant with footmen but Andrew is known for his abrasive and demanding attitude.
When he flies through the main gates in his Aston Martin, even the police stand well back. And he is well known for dressing down staff.
Some often talk about what kind of mood the Duke is in because it can mean the difference between an easy and a nightmarish day. Each morning at 7.30 a footman wakes him up with his “calling tray” – a pot of tea with a china cup and saucer.
The response can as easily be “f**k off” as “good morning”. My senior footman Robert Ferris told me: “You get used to it.” Ferris, who has been at the Palace for three years, told me that after he made a mistake over a task, Princess Anne once blurted out “You f*****g incompetent tw*t.”
New footmen start on a three-year programme spending time in the glass and silver pantries and receive a certificate highly regarded in the hospitality industry.
One of three new recruits, I shadowed a senior footman for six weeks. Once, when I dropped a cup, Ferris laughed: “Just ensure you don’t do that with the Queen’s Georgian china.”
AT THE end of my six-week trial period, he told me: “Next week, you’re on your own. Good luck and don’t f**k up.” Now, I had the complete run of the Palace without a shadow.
Master of the Household Tom Arnold summoned me for a 15-minute introduction. He said: “You never know what is going to happen. Consider security a high priority but your safety is also extremely important. You need to know ways of getting out quick.”
There are bizarre rules and protocol to follow. It’s frowned upon for junior staff to walk along the middle of the carpets. Footmen keep to the edges on what is described as “the slow lane”.
I was given Day Livery of a black tailcoat and red waistcoat, Scarlet Livery for ceremonial events and State Livery for the state opening of Parliament and coronations.
In contrast to the Royals’ luxurious surroundings, I lived on the footman’s floor in a section known as London Bridge. The small room was basic with a bed, wardrobe, desk and sink. Toilets and showers are communal.
Live-in staff have three meals a day. Dishes like roast pork and banoffi pie – served to royals the previous day – often popped up.
I was told many of the footmen’s secrets.
One said: “When the Tories are in power, there are always two footmen at the door to welcome the Prime Minister and another to serve the tea tray, but there are no footmen on hand when Tony Blair comes for his fortnightly meetings every other Tuesday.
"They don’t think it looks good having liveried staff everywhere for the socialists.”
A footman’s hours are often long, especially if there is a dinner or a reception. But every day is different. Valeting is a big part of the job. I often steam ironed the Equerry’s shirts.
Major Duckworth-Chad’s boots have to be spit polished to a “glass finish” and his sword and belt buffed before being laid out in his room.
One worker said of senior household members: “They think they’re more royal than royalty. They fire orders around and some don’t bother to say please, thank you or even hello.
“I’ve seen Duckworth-Chad on shooting days at Sandringham. He drags picnic baskets around and the Queen has him doing all kinds of jobs. He’s just like us at the end of the day.”
There are 13 footmen at the Palace but G-branch are always looking to recruit more as there is a high turnover of staff.
Four weeks into my training another recruit was sacked. I was told his work wasn’t up to standard and the personnel office had discovered a problem when they checked his references. Yet they hadn’t checked mine.
It is a demanding job with long periods away. The atmosphere can be tense with staff rowing over trivialities like whose duty it is to clear away the cheese, biscuits and butter dishes.
Page Richard McCue, who runs the Palace social club, orders junior staff around and does his utmost to catch them out.
“Nice tram-lines, get them sorted,” he would shout pointing at my badly ironed trousers.
I soon realised life as a footman is not my cup of tea. With long hours and pitiful pay, no wonder the novelty of working for the Queen soon wears thin.
These reports originally appeared in the Daily Mirror on November 19, 2003.
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