Launching of Sealand in 1967
The Principality of Sealand was founded in 1967 upon an abandoned wartime gun tower 7 miles off the coast of out into the North Atlantic. Ray Essex (Prince Ray) has run radio and tv stations; issued passports, coinage and postage stamps from his principality while holding his ground amidst storms, coup attempts, a 2006 fire and failed data haven venture. But here is where it stands today – after the jump.
Interview With Prince of Sealand
The principality of Sealand is a former World War II Maunsell Sea Fort in the North Sea 10 km (six miles) off the coast of Suffolk, England, United Kingdom.
Since 1967, the facility has been occupied by former radio broadcaster British Army Major Paddy Roy Bates; his associates and family claim that it is an independent sovereign state. External commentators generally classify Sealand as a micronation. It has been described as the world’s best-known micronation.
History of HM Fort Roughs
In 1942, during World War II, HM Fort Roughs was constructed by the United Kingdom as one of the Maunsell Forts, primarily for defence against German mine-laying aircraft that might be targeting the estuaries that were part of vital shipping lanes. It comprised a floating pontoon base with a superstructure of two hollow towers joined by a deck upon which other structures could be added. The fort was towed to a position above the Rough Sands sandbar, where its base was intentionally flooded to allow it to sink to its final resting place on the sandbar. The location chosen was in international waters, approximately six miles from the coast of Suffolk, outside the then three-mile territorial water claim of the United Kingdom.
The facility (called Roughs Tower or HM Fort Roughs) was occupied by 150–300 Royal Navy personnel throughout World War II; not until well after the war, in 1956, were the last full-time personnel taken off HM Fort Roughs.
Occupation by Roy Bates and the establishment of Sealand
On September 2, 1967, the fort (with a habitable area of 550 square meter (5,920 sq ft)) was occupied by Major Paddy Roy Bates, a British subject and pirate radio broadcaster, who ejected a competing group of pirate broadcasters. Bates intended to broadcast his pirate radio station Radio Essex from the platform.
In 1968, the Royal Navy entered what Bates claimed to be his territorial waters in order to service a navigational buoy near the platform. Michael Bates (son of Paddy Roy Bates) tried to scare the workmen off by firing warning shots from the former fort. As Bates was a British subject at the time, he was summoned to court in England following the incident. The court ruled that as the platform (which Bates was now calling “Sealand”) was outside British jurisdiction, being beyond the then three-mile limit of the country’s waters, the case could not proceed.
In 1975, Bates introduced a constitution for Sealand, followed by a flag, a national anthem, a currency (see Coins and postage stamps of Sealand) and passports.
In 1978, while Bates was away, the Prime Minister of Sealand, Professor Alexander G. Achenbach, and several German and Dutch citizens, staged a forcible takeover of Roughs Tower, holding Bates’ son Michael captive, before releasing him several days later in the Netherlands. Bates thereupon enlisted armed assistance and, in a helicopter assault, retook the fortress. He then held the invaders captive, claiming them as prisoners of war. Most participants in the invasion were repatriated at the cessation of the “war”, but Achenbach, a German lawyer who held a Sealand passport, was charged with treason against Sealand, and was held unless he paid DM 75,000 (more than US$ 35,000). The governments of the Netherlands and Germany petitioned the British government for his release, but the United Kingdom disavowed all responsibility, citing the 1968 court decision. Germany then sent a diplomat from its London embassy to Roughs Tower to negotiate for Achenbach’s release. Roy Bates relented after several weeks of negotiations and subsequently claimed that the diplomat’s visit constituted de facto recognition of Sealand by Germany.
Following his repatriation, Achenbach established a “government in exile” in Germany, in opposition to Roy Bates, assuming the name “Chairman of the Privy Council”. He handed the position to Johannes Seiger in 1989 due to illness. Seiger continues to claim — via his website — that he is Sealand’s legitimate ruling authority.
In an incident in 1990, the Royal Maritime Auxiliary vessel Golden Eye was fired upon from Sealand in defense of their claim to the waters surrounding Roughs Tower to the extent of twelve nautical miles.
Due to the massive quantity of illegal passports in circulation (estimated at 150,000), in 1997 the Bates family revoked all Sealand passports, including those that they themselves had issued in the previous thirty years.
On the afternoon of 23 June 2006, the top platform of the Roughs Tower caught fire due to an electrical failure. An RAF rescue helicopter transferred one person to Ipswich hospital, directly from the tower. The Harwich lifeboat stood by the Roughs Tower until a local fire tug extinguished the fire. All damages were repaired by November 2006.
In 2007, Sealand was offered for sale through Spanish estate company InmoNaranja. However, because a principality cannot technically be sold, Sealand’s current owners plan to transfer “custodianship”. The asking price is between £65,000,000 and £504,000,000 (€750 m, according to the BBC). Sealand also has the world record for “the smallest area to lay claim to nation status”. Plans for an online casino have been announced.
Several dozen different Sealand coins have been minted since 1972. Most were produced in precious metals so as to appeal to investors and coin collectors. In the early 1990s, Achenbach’s German group also produced a coin, featuring a likeness of “Prime Minister Seiger”.
Sealand’s coins and postage stamps are denominated in “Sealand Dollars”, which it deems to be at parity with the U.S. dollar.