Sealand was founded as a sovereign Principality in 1967, seven miles off the eastern shores of Britain.
A former army fort, It’s just two concrete pillars holding up an iron platform, about the size of a tennis court.
Pirates of Radio
It may be the smallest country, but it’s the most swashbuckling.
It was started, suitably enough, by pirate radio broadcasters trying to get around the stuffy BBC monopoly on radio by inhabiting international waters.
When the rival Radio Caroline claimed the platform for itself, Roy Bates and his crew repelled a boarding party with Molotov cocktails and warning shots.
On September 2, 1967 the Bates family declared independence, claiming the ancient ancient legal doctrine of jus gentium.
Henceforth, he announced, he would be known as Prince Roy and his principality would be Sealand.
It was his wife’s birthday, so Roy declared her “Princess Joan” which Sealand’s website says was the “…most romantic present he could think of…”
While Roy’s radio program never got restarted, Sealand issued passports to its nationals, minted official currency and commissioned its own stamps.
They had to revoke passports when 150,000 false passports were created and sold to East Europeans.
You can still become a count or countess for £199.99 (€281), and get your own Sealand identity card for £25 (€35).
The British government, wary of this “Cuba off the east coast of England”, sent mercenaries to destroy the other remaining forts, within spitting distance of Sealand.
The Bates family claims they chased away the British army:
Helicopters that had carried the explosives buzzed menacingly above, and the navy tug carrying the demolition crew passed close by our fortress home and shouted “You’re next!” with an angry waving of arms. A while later a government vessel steamed to within fifty feet of Sealand, its boisterous crew shouting threatening obscenities at Michael, and his sixteen year old sister. Warning shots were promptly fired across the bow of the boat by Prince Michael, causing it to hastily turn and race away towards the UK, amongst a large cloud of black engine smoke.
Since Roy was still a British citizen, a summons was issued under the UK ” fire arms act”.
The judge threw out the case, concluding that:
“This is a swash buckling incident perhaps more akin to the time of Sir Francis Drake, but it is my judgment is that the UK courts have no jurisdiction.”
Invasion of Sealand by Germany
Mercenaries flew a helicopter into Sealand in 1978.
Prince Roy as he was now called, was away at the time, negotiating a luxury casino deal with Dutch and German businessmen.
In an unusual business strategy, one of the German businessmen, Alexander Achenbach, sent mercenaries to invade the platform. They took 26 hostages, including Michael Bates.
Michael Bates told NBC News, “They were basically terrorists who locked me up with no food or water for four days.”
Michael was eventually released and dropped off in The Netherlands.
In a daring raid 100ft above the sea, Michael and Roy rappelled down a rope to the tiny helipad below. The Germans later confessed to being taken aback on encountering, in combat gear, an Englishman they had only known to wear a natty Savile Row suit and bowler hat.
Achenbach’s lawyer, Gernot Pütz, a Sealand passport holder, was seized, hustled into a tender and charged with treason.
Bates — by the “powers” vested in him as Prince Roy — solemnly sentenced him to life on the platform.
Since Britain followed its usual policy of pretending Sealand doesn’t exist, German diplomats had to intervene.
Prince Roy immediately granted Pütz a pardon.
Alexander Achenbach still considers himself the Prime Minister of Sealand, in exile.
In 1987 the United Kingdom extended its territorial waters by 9 miles, and the area now includes Sealand.
However, London shows no interest in invading the pirate kingdom.
In the meantime, Sealand has even made it to Everest.