People who tried to start own countries including squatters and icons brother

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Sparky Aaron Sanderson has taken on the 170-year-old title of the “King of Piel Island,” as we reported this week.

The 33-year-old electrician has become landlord of the Ship Inn on the 26-acre islet, off the Cumbrian coast, which comes with the ceremonial moniker. He will be officially “crowned” by having beer poured over his head while wearing a helmet and sword.

And he’ll have the power to “knight” those who have benefited the island, which also boasts a ruined castle, but some intrepid folk have even tried to start their own countries from scratch.

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Here James Moore reveals some amazing tales of so called “micronations”…


Where: Principality of Sealand

Former British Army major Paddy Roy Bates decided to occupy a disused Second World War anti-aircraft platform called Roughs Tower in 1967, planning to set up a pirate radio station.

Located in the North Sea, seven miles off the Suffolk coast, he declared the 120x60ft concrete platform – which was then outside UK territorial waters – the Principality of Sealand and raised his own flag.

Bates, styling himself 'Prince Roy' set up a home there with wife Joan and his two children eventually creating a chapel and prison and keeping firearms to ward off intruders.

They even managed to retake Sealand when a group of mercenaries stormed it in a bizarre row with a German entrepreneur over a proposal to turn the place into a resort and casino.

Stamps and coins were issued, but in 1997 Sealand’s “passports” were cancelled after the Bates family discovered fake ones were found to be involved in a money laundering ring.

Despite an extension of the UK’s territorial waters around Sealand and the death of Roy, aged 91 in 2012, his son “Prince Michael” still runs it.

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Where: Republic of Minerva

American property mogul Michael Oliver dreamt of founding a new nation with no taxes for 30,000 people in the apparently unclaimed Minerva Reefs in the Pacific Ocean.

From 1971 he had sand dumped there to build up the land, created a flag on top of a tower, appointed a president and began producing Minerva dollar coins.

But the following year the unnerved monarch in nearby Tonga, suddenly claimed the land as part of his kingdom and arrived with troops, pulling down the Minervan flag.

An international summit eventually had the reefs declared Tongan territory, ending Oliver’s dream.

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Where: Republic of New Atlantis

In 1964 Leicester Hemingway, the brother of writer Ernest, declared a 240sq ft bamboo raft located off the coast of Jamaica a republic.

He claimed sovereignty from an old US law allowing citizens to take possession of unclaimed islands with guano deposits and by 1965 there were six inhabitants including his family.

Hemingway began minting his own stamps, designed a flag and aimed to create an island on the spot by building up rocks from the seafloor.

But the fantasy eventually failed when the raft was destroyed by tropical storms.

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Where: Frestonia

Inspired by the 1949 movie Passport to Pimlico, a group of squatters living in Freston Road, west London, decided to declare their independence from Britain when threatened with eviction.

On Halloween 1977 their two-acre enclave became the Free and Independent Republic of Frestonia.

It appealed to the United Nations for help, boasted Time Bandits star David Rappaport as foreign minister and created its own flag, national anthem and stamps – often honoured by the Post Office!

Backed by shadow chancellor Geoffrey Howe, Frestonia’s publicity campaign meant the council backed down on the eviction, delaying demolition of their homes for five years.

They eventually agreed to redevelop the site and let them stay…but Frestonia was no more.

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Where: Republic of Molossia

Ex US soldier Kevin Baugh is the self-proclaimed president of this micronation, set up in 1998 and covering just an acre of land in Dayton, Nevada.

He dresses in dictator chic regalia and claims to rule his 35 citizens undemocratically.

The country’s currency, the valora, is pegged to the value of cookie dough and while it does pay local US taxes, it dubs the cash “foreign aid”.

Molossia has even hosted the Micronational Olympic Games and is at war with East Germany, even though that state no longer exists. There’s also an inflatable kayak navy.

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Where: Kingdom of Redonda

Back in 1865 trader Matthew Dowdy Shiell, from nearby Montserrat, landed on the one mile long, unclaimed volcanic island of Redonda in the Caribbean.

He even wrote to Queen Victoria asking if he could have the title of King there and she apparently gave her approval.

His son, the novelist MP Shiel was crowned king there, at 15, by a local bishop, in 1880.

He later passed the title to a friend, John Gawsworth, but since then there have been rival royal claims and, since the 1960s, the island has technically been part of Antigua.

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Where: Principality of Hutt River

Angered by wheat production quotas, farmer Leonard Casley declared his 29-square mile landholding in Western Australia, independent in 1970.

Calling himself “His Majesty Prince Leonard I of Hutt” he issued passports, drivers licences and currency to the 30-strong population and even declared war on Australia for several days.

Casley claimed loopholes in the law made it possible for him to break away from the mother country while still being loyal to Queen Elizabeth II. But Australia never recognized Hutt’s legitimacy.

In 2020, following Leonard’s death and the economic impact of the pandemic, his family were forced to sell the land, ending the micronation’s existence.

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