|Map of Sealand with territorial waters (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Our first micronation is also the most famous- the Principality of Sealand. Its story begins in World War II. In 1942, the British designed a 550 square meter war fort called Fort Roughs (or Roughs Tower), just 6 miles off the South coast of England. It lost much of its purpose after the end of WWII and all personnel left the fort in 1956. The story could have ended there. Roughs Tower could have been dismantled like the other British war forts. But it was in international waters, and Major Paddy Roy Bates (a British illegal radio operator) saw opportunity.
Fined for his illegal broadcasting, Bates moved to Fort Roughs in international waters to continue; however, he never did. In fact, the Marine Broadcasting Act of 1967 illegalized broadcasting from platforms such as Roughs Tower. September 2nd of 1967, Roy Bates declared himself Prince Roy of a new nation called the Principality of Sealand (colloquially, Sealand). After an armed fight with another illegal broadcaster who sought to use Fort Roughs, Bates was brought to trial in Britain, only to be dismissed by the court, since “the British court [does] not have jurisdiction over international affairs as Roughs Tower lay beyond the territorial waters of Britain.” To Bates, this was recognition of Sealand as a country independent of Britain.
Hardly done there, Prince Roy did everything in his power to help Sealand flourish. He and his family resided on the fort, constituting a national population of only four. Bates developed a flag, constitution, motto, and national anthem for the micronation. Following this, Sealand came into world news once again. German and Dutch businessmen invade Sealand in 1977 and hold Roy Bates’ son, Michael, hostage. Bates and others fought the invaders off and kept them as prisoners of war. When Germany sent a negotiator to Britain, Britain denied responsibility, which led the negotiator to communicate with Sealand itself. Bates saw this as Germany’s recognition of Sealand as an independent nation, despite Germany’s subsequent denial.
Two later incidents happened within a year of one another. In 2006, Sealand caught fire and British firefighters quickly ran to the scene. Thankfully, there were no casualties, but an increased trust between the UK and Sealand who generally ignored one another. Another 2007 incident involved the Pirate Bay, formerly based in Sweden, a file sharing site that sought to buy the territory from the Bates family. The Bates’ refused the offer.
Roy Bates passed away last year in 2012, and the throne has passed on to his son, Prince Michael. Today, much of Sealand’s activity originates from its website, and anyone can become a Lord, Lady, Baron, or Baroness of Sealand and receive a noble title for 30 euros.
Sources: Sealandgov.org, Wikipedia, Sixties City, The Local