Sealand – Outpost of Liberty

The story of Sealand, an anti-aircraft platform off the coast of East Anglia, is one of the more bonkers tales of English sovereignty and quirky individualism. This is from an article by Cahal Milmo from Saturday’s i paper:

On Christmas Eve, 1966, .. Roy [Bates], an enterprising former infantry officer, took over the abandoned HM Fort Roughs with the idea of riding the wave of pirate radio then crashing on to Britain’s pop-starved shores. Crucially, the rusty bur robust reinforced-concrete structure, on a sandbar off Felixstowe, was just outside the then limit of UK territorial waters, in theory allowing its occupiers to invade the airwaves with impunity. But when legislation killed unlicensed radio by making it an offence to supply the pirates Major Bates came up with a different idea – he declared the fort a sovereign state ad bestowed upon Joan, his beauty queen wife, the title of Princess of Sealand. It was her birthday The subsequent 5 decades have been an a-times riotous else during which the Bates family have repelled multiple attempts indcluding an attempted coup by German businessmen, to remove them from their North Sea perch. They have bestowed o it all the attributes of a fully-functioning micro-state, including running water, a constitution, a national flag, passports, a football team and the fishing pots necessary to ensure a steady supply of its most populous subjects – lobsters.

But now the passing of tine and tide has put Sealand at a crossroads. It was announced on Monday that Princess Joan who has lived on Sealand for several years with her husband and their 2 children, had died at the age of 86- 4 years after Major Bates. Here passing leaves Michael, 63, who was declared Prince Regent after his father’s death, in sole charge of he principality along with his two adult sone. They are pondering the future of the island, built in 1942 as one of 5 Mansell Forts designed to defend Felixstowe and Harwich from Nazi attack. The structure remains sound but its royal family are now appealing for new ideas about what to do with their statelet. Its motto E Mare Libertas (“from the sea, liberty”) – remains defiantly intact but Sealand still awaits formal recognition from any United Nations member, the uK included. .

Sat in his kitchen, Leigh on Sea’s only resident constitutional monarch told i:”Since we’ve been in existnce, I’ve seen entire countries come and go and Sealand is still there. A lot of people have bee inspired by what it represents – that sense of freedom and adventure. We have 100,000 Facebook followers and we’re very open to ideas about what happens next. The structure needs fairly constant maintenance but it would be an ideal environment of a small community. Who knows, maybe there’s an oligarch out there who might  be interested?”

Over the years, Sealand has had several incarnations,from serving as the Bates’ family home to a stint in the 1990s as an offshore server farm for those wishing to store electronic data in international waters. Now schemes to create a an artificial island or a series of floating platforms anchored to the 30ft-wide platform legs are being discussed. However, such multimillion-pound project would probably be beyond the means of the Sealand Treasury, otherwise known as Mr Bates’ bank account, without significant help from an outside investor.

Any such outside outside assistance owed be treated cautiously. A previous entanglement with a supposed co-investors led to one of he more dramatic episodes in Sealand’s piratical history, when a German businessman Alexander Achembach tabled proposals in 1978 to turn the platform into a luxury hotel and casino and was granted the role of prime minister for his efforts. The entrepreneur then lured Major Bates and his wife away to Austria and brought in a group of investors by helicopter to effectively stage a coup, briefly taking Michael hostage. It was only the the Major launched a counter-offensive with Michael enlisting the help of a James Bond film helicopter pilot, that Sealand was restored to its founding family.

Mr Bates, who when not dealing with affairs of state helps ru the family’s cockle fishing business supplying cutters in Spain (Sealand is consequently opposed to Brexit), said there had been a “cessation of hostilities” with the Government over its continued failure to recognise Sealand. He said: “I think if the Royal Navy showed u these days we’d get out the best china.l My parents were very patriotic. I suppose my father was eccentric but he was in no way anti-British – he always said he stood ready to fight for his country. They just liked to tweak the tiger’s tale every now and again.”

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