The Principality of Sealand is a rogue micronation located about 6 miles from Suffolk, England.
What’s that Story?
Sealand’s story begins during the second World War. In an effort to keep an eye on the Germans who were planting sea mines off the coast of England, the British installed several forts a few miles off the coast. The legality of these fortresses being placed in International Waters is a subject of debate. In 1943, HM Fort Roughs was constructed as a sea fort. Rather than a floating pontoon structure, Fort Roughs was constructed with two hollow towers on top of a barge that was deliberately sunk allowing the fort to start firm on the sea floor. In its time as a fort, 150-300 Royal Navy personnel would occupy the fort to protect shipping lanes and spot German aircraft that would be attempting to drop sea mines in an effort to sink British mercantile ships.
Nearly a decade after the war, the last Royal Navy personnel left the fort where it lay almost forgotten for another decade until 1965 when it was occupied by Jack Moore and his daughter Jane who began squatting in the facility on behalf of pirate radio station, Wonderful Radio London in February and August of that year. Pirate Radio simply meant that by they were an unlicensed and illegal broadcasting station. The location of Ft. Roughs was far enough out away from the shore that it was technically in international waters. These Pirate Radio stations mimicked the style of popular American and Eastern European radio stations by playing hit songs and featured a very casual radio DJ personality.
Fort Roughs was again cast out of memory until 1967 when Major Paddy Roy Bates, a British Subject and Pirate Radio Broadcaster, ejected some squatters and began to build his own tower for pirate radio, though he never broadcast from it. Bates declared the independence of Roughs Tower and deemed it the Principality of Sealand on the 2nd of September, 1967, his wife Joan’s birthday. On that day, Roy, Joan, their son, Michael, and daughter, Penelope, became the first citizens of Sealand and he declared from that day forward, his wife would be known as “Princess Joan”.
In 1968, Sealand gained publicity when British workmen entered into what the Bates family considered their territorial waters and Michael Bates, son of Paddy Roy Bates, attempted to scare the workers away by firing warning shots from the former fort. Being that he was still a British subject at the time, he was summoned to court on firearm charges shortly after the incident. In a landmark case, the courts declared that the platform known as Sealand was outside of the British territorial limits and beyond the 3-nautical-mile limit of the countries waters so the case could not proceed and by 1975, Bates has written a constitution for Sealand, created a national flag, composed a national anthem, and manufactured currency and passports.
Sealand was at peace for a time until the fall of 1978 when Alexander Achenbach, who claims to be the Prime Minister of Sealand, hired German and Dutch mercenaries to take control of Sealand while Bates and his wife were onshore in England. The small army stormed Sealand with an arsenal of speedboats, jet skis, and a helicopter and took Bates’ son, Michael, hostage. Using his own weapons stashed throughout the fort, Michael was able to retake Sealand and capture Achenbach and his men. Achenbach, a German lawyer and holder of a Sealand passport, was charged with treason against the micronation and was held captive unless he paid 75,000 Deutsche Marks (equivalent to $35,000 USD). His home country made a case for his release, but the UK cited the 1968 court decision and washed their hands of the matter. A German Diplomat from the London Embassy was sent to Sealand to negotiate the release of Achenbach. After several weeks, Roy Bates handed over the prisoner and constituted the Diplomat’s visit as a de facto recognition of Sealand by German.
Events at Sealand have remained relatively calm since with only minor occurrences shaking the micronation. In 1997, the Bates family revoked all passports (estimated to be 150,000) in circulation. In June 2006, the top platform of Sealand caught fire and only one resident was airlifted to a hospital in England. The following January, notorious torrenting website, The Pirate Bay, attempted to purchase Sealand after they were forced out of Sweden. In 2012, Roy Bates, the self-declared Prince of Sealand passed away at the age of 91 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for several years. His son, Michael, now succeeds him as Prince. Joan Bates, wife of Roy, passed away in 2016 at the age of 96.
Sealand has since been involved in numerous business operations including the issuance of coins, postage stamps, and the establishment of an offshore Internet hosting facility, or “Data haven”. Their official website publishes an online newspaper as well as sells royal titles of nobility and merchandise as a way to raise money. Titles of Nobility up for sale include Lord, Lady, Baron, Baroness, Count, and Countess. After the initial 1978 invasion, the Bates’ formed the Sovereign Military Order of Sealand to protect the fort should it ever come under attack again. After his father’s death, Michael Bates opened up membership in the Order to the public and now sells Knighthoods along with nobility titles.
Sealand is not all serious issues though. Although not recognized by an major sporting body, Sealand is represented at international events by amateur athletes that volunteer to play for Sealand in a variety of sports. These athletes represent the micronation in curling, mini-golf, football, fencing, ultimate table football, and many more sports.
- In May of 2013, mountaineer Kenton Cool placed a Sealand flag at the summit of Mount Everest.
- Sealand’s National Motto is “E Mare, Libertas”, meaning “From the Sea, Freedom”.
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