06 Sep Sealand—Home of the Petulant, Land of the Free
Have you ever been fed up with the arbitrary laws and rules you are subject to? Have you ever longed for an existence where you could make your own rules? Rules that were fair?
Most of us have felt like that at one point or another in our lives. By the time we become adults, most of us make peace with the laws and rules and seek to prosper in spite of them.
This month’s story is about a man named Roy Bates who turned teenage petulance into his life’s work by homesteading on an abandoned metal structure in international waters and unilaterally declaring his little outpost to be the micro nation of Sealand.
Just outside of UK territorial waters stood one of several former defense outposts that Britain had created during WWII as a first line of defense against German air raids. The rest of them were either within territorial boundaries or were eventually pulled down by the British Navy. In 1967, Roy Bates, a former army Major himself, decided to occupy this metal structure with his family, and declare his adopted fortress a country in its own right, beyond the reach of British law.
He crowned himself Prince Roy and his wife Princess Joan, and got busy with the details of forming a nation. Over time, he would establish a flag, a crest, a national anthem and a constitution. He adopted a motto (e Mare Libertas—From the Sea Liberty), minted coins (currency to be tied to the U.S. Dollar exchange rate), and appointed other dignitaries to further the prosperity of the tiny nation.
Trouble on the horizon
Of course, not everybody saw things the way Roy thought it should be. His first skirmish with the original owners of the fortress came when he fired a warning shot across the bow of a British Navy vessel who had ventured too close to the fortress. That incident landed him in British court on weapons charges. Although a sovereign ruler in his own right, the UK passport he still retained required that he humor his accusers with a court appearance. To his immense delight (and the equally great chagrin of the British government) The judge refused to hear the case on the grounds that it took place outside of the jurisdiction of British law.
A challenge from a different quarter came in 1978 when a rival mounted an assault after luring Prince Roy and his wife away from their metal island to pursue an alleged business opportunity. The attackers, led by a German who claimed the title of Prime Minister of Sealand, took Bates’ son hostage and had to be repelled with a retaliatory attack.
These days, the royal family rules their island without having to endure the hardships of actually living there. Health concerns caused Prince Roy to relocate to Essex, and his successor, son Prince Michael lives on the mainland as well. Sealand itself is occupied by caretakers who are prepared to defend it if necessary.
Obviously mom was right when she said, “It takes all kinds to make a world.”
Have a Great Month!