When Is Principality of Sealand’s Independence Day?

Principality of Sealand viewed from above.

Principality of Sealand is a WWII-era gunnery platform — called Roughs Tower — in the North Sea, outside Britain’s pre-1968 three nautical mile claim of sovereign waters. Founded by Roy and Joan Bates in 1967, over time, Roy wrote a constitution and named himself and Joan as prince and princess.

The Wikipedia article on Sealand tells the story of the world’s smallest micronation about as well and evenly as might be possible, but Sean Hastings’ website offers a more gripping tale. Hastings is one of the founders of HavenCo, the company that made big news in 2000 by entering into an agreement with Sealand to operate a datahaven there. HavenCo and Sealand were the subject of a July 2000 article in Wired magazine. A number of pictures of modern Sealand can be found at Metacolo.com, a site that claims a mission similar to HavenCo’s.

Interestingly, Sealand’s soverignty has been upheld in a handful of small cases that faced the British courts. The first, in 1968, resulted from warning shots being fired on an advancing boat. Sovereignty, we know, is best proved in battle. And that’s what makes Hasting’s telling of the 1978 war so enthralling:

In August of 1978, a number of Dutch men came to Sealand in the employ of a German businessman. They were there to discuss business dealings with Sealand. While Roy was away in Britain, these men kidnapped Prince Roy’s son Michael, and took Sealand by force. Soon after, Roy recaptured the island with a group of his own men and held the attackers as prisoners of war.

During the time that he held the prisoners, the Governments of the Netherlands and Germany petitioned for their release. First they asked England to intervene in the matter, but the British government cited their earlier court decision as evidence that they made no claim to the territory of Sealand. Then, in an act of de facto recognition of Sealand’s sovereignty, Germany sent a diplomat directly to Sealand to negotiate for the release of their citizen.

Roy first released the Dutch citizens, as the war was over, and the Geneva Convention requires the release of all prisoners. The German was held longer, as he had accepted a Sealand Passport, and therefore was guilty of treason. Prince Roy, who was grateful that the incident had not resulted in a loss of life, and did not want to bloody the reputation of Sealand, eventually released him as well.

Roy’s knowledge of how British law applies to sea platforms likely came from his dabbling in ‘pirate’ radio which started in 1965 on Knock John Tower, another offshore gunnery platform. In 1966 he was charged, and a failed appeal in 1967 apparently set the groundwork for Roy’s later declaration of sovereignty on Roughs Tower. One report quotes the judge in that appeal as saying “it appears to this court that the Knock John Tower is about 1 1/2 miles inside inland waters.” Roughs Tower stands about seven miles into the North Sea, while Knock John Tower stood only a mile and a half off the coast.

But don’t cue the Sealand national anthem yet. Matt Roseberg is pretty sure Sealand is not a country and in How to Start Your Own Country Erwin S. Strauss tells of a number of failed attempts and described’s Sealand only as “the most successful new-country venture known.”

Related: micronations in the Yahoo! Directory, Wikipedia’s list of places with fewer than ten people, and Erwin S. Strauss’ How to Start Your Own Country.

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9 thoughts on “When Is Principality of Sealand’s Independence Day?

  1. NPR’s On The Media ran a story about Sealand in May, and why even in a “safe haven” for data, fears of copyright lawsuits still managed to shutdown HavenCo.

    Sean Hastings, one of the founders of HavenCo, has now moved onto “seasteading”, which is apparently building floating sovereign, self-sufficient floating platforms that are free from government oversight. Sounds to me like someone has been reading a little too much Neal Stephenson.

    Apparently a documentary – From the Sea, Freedom – is being made about Sealand. But, a quick search on IMDB and Yahoo! doesn’t return any relevant results.

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  4. If your country is so small and defensless why is it that no one tries to take it over?

  5. Alfred Jateon

    Why is this even a country? Why don’t you just blow it up or somthing…..

    —> Why don’t you just fuck yourself you little motherfcuker??

    Why would somewany to take over it for god’s sake.. just leave this people alone.

  6. The Rough Tower Sealand ist since 17th January 2009 a U.N registered sovereign state territory of the Monarchystate – State Kingdom of Marduk – this is reality. The bristish government and Government of Essex / Suffolk is informed.
    The 15 n.m. sea zone araound Rough Tower Sealand is state territory of Kingdom of Marduk as Pirate Bay proclaim.
    More information in next time under http://www.king-marduk.de or http://www.kingmarduk.de

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