Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Dublin: 14°C Saturday 20 August 2022

PHOTOS: Welcome to Sealand, the bizarre 'micronation' off the coast of England

The Principality of Sealand has its own currency, flag, and royal family.

Image: Ryan Lackey via Flickr

YOU’VE ALMOST CERTAINLY heard of some of Europe’s smallest nations — San Marino, Liechtenstein, and the Vatican City immediately spring to mind.

But there are a host of other tiny, self-declared independent states around the continent that haven’t been recognised by other countries.

The Principality of Sealand is at the top of that list.

Nearly 50 years since this man-made platform split from the United Kingdom, Sealand is still going strong.

It’s one of the world’s smallest micronations — though it is not recognised by the UK, it is effectively autonomous since it wasn’t located in British territorial waters when it was established in the late 1960s.

sealand-is-one-of-the-worlds-smallest-micronations--though-it-is-not-recognised-by-the-uk-it-is-effectively-autonomous-since-it-wasnt-located-in-british-territorial-waters-when-it-was-established-in-the-late-1960s Source: Ryan Lackey via Flickr

It’s 7.5 miles off the coast of Essex. The site was previously known as HM Fort Roughs, a military installation built during the Second World War.

its-off-the-coast-of-essex-located-75-miles-from-great-britain-the-site-was-previously-known-as-hm-fort-roughs-a-military-installation-built-during-the-second-world-war Source: Wikipedia

As you can see, it’s pretty small and isolated, with a helicopter platform taking up much of the space at the top of the building. Full-time military personnel were withdrawn from the structure in 1956.

as-you-can-see-its-pretty-small-and-isolated-with-a-helicopter-platform-taking-up-much-of-the-space-at-the-top-of-the-building-full-time-military-personnel-were-withdrawn-from-the-structure-in-1956 Source: Ryan Lackey via Flickr

It was part of a string of other defencive structures called the Maunsell Forts, built to protect south-eastern England against Nazi Germany’s naval threat.

it-was-part-of-a-string-of-other-defencive-structures-called-the-maunsell-forts-built-to-protect-south-eastern-england-against-nazi-germanys-naval-threat Source: Wikipedia

Here is HM Fort Roughs (now Sealand) being towed into place in 1942. The installation didn’t begin being used for its current purpose until a quarter of a century later.

here-is-hm-fort-roughs-now-sealand-being-towed-into-place-in-1942-the-installation-didnt-begin-being-used-for-its-current-purpose-until-a-quarter-of-a-century-later Source: The Principality of Sealand

In 1967, former British army Major Roy Bates took over the fort with the idea of setting up a pirate radio station, keeping others who had the same idea at bay.

in-1967-former-british-army-major-roy-bates-took-over-the-fort-with-the-idea-of-setting-up-a-pirate-radio-station-keeping-others-who-had-the-same-idea-at-bay Prince Roy and Princess Joan Source: Principality of Sealand

In 1967 Bates declared the “Principality of Sealand,” declaring himself Prince Roy, and his wife Princess Joan. The fort has been effectively independent ever since.

in-1967-bates-declared-the-principality-of-sealand-declaring-himself-prince-roy-and-his-wife-princess-joan-the-fort-has-been-effectively-independent-ever-since Prince Roy and Princess Joan Source: Principality of Sealand

Sealand has a red, black and white-striped flag, while the royal coat of arms says “E Mare Libertas” or “from the sea, freedom.”

sealand-has-a-red-black-and-white-striped-flag-while-the-royal-coat-of-arms-says-e-mare-libertas-or-from-the-sea-freedom Source: Wikipedia

In 1987 the United Kingdom extended its territorial waters by 9 miles, and the area now includes Sealand. However, no serious challenge to the micronation’s de-facto independence has been posed by London.

in-1987-the-united-kingdom-extended-its-territorial-waters-by-9-miles-and-the-area-now-includes-sealand-however-no-serious-challenge-to-the-micronations-de-facto-independence-has-been-posed-by-london Source: Wikipedia

Some of the threats to Sealand’s independence have come from the UK — in 1978 mercenaries employed by Alexander Achenbach invaded the island, but were eventually captured.

Making a difference

A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article.

Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can make sure we can keep reliable, meaningful news open to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.

some-of-the-threats-to-sealands-independence-have-come-from-the-uk--in-1978-mercenaries-employed-by-alexander-achenbach-invaded-the-island-but-were-eventually-captured Source: Principality of Sealand/YouTube

The fort issues its own currency, Sealand dollars, which are worth one US dollar. The ones they sell on their online shop, however, are slightly more expensive.

the-fort-issues-its-own-currency-sealand-dollars-which-are-worth-one-us-dollar-the-ones-they-sell-on-their-online-shop-however-are-slightly-more-expensive Source: Principality of Sealand

Sealand has also run a sideline business selling titles and stamps issued by the country. You can become a count or countess for £199.99 (€281), and get your own Sealand identity card for £25 (€35).

sealand-has-also-run-a-sideline-business-selling-titles-and-stamps-issued-by-the-country-you-can-become-a-count-or-countess-for-19999-31474-and-get-your-own-sealand-identity-card-for-25-3934 Source: Wikipedia

Michael Bates, son of Roy Bates, is Sealand’s current regent. He was 14 when independence was declared. Roy Bates died at the age of 91 in 2012.

michael-bates-son-of-roy-bates-is-sealands-current-regent-he-was-14-when-independence-was-declared-roy-bates-died-at-the-age-of-91-in-2012 Source: Principality of Sealand

The fort’s main access to the rest of the world is by boats — which then have to be lifted up onto the top platform. There’s also a helicopter platform.

the-forts-main-access-to-the-rest-of-the-world-is-by-boats--which-then-have-to-be-lifted-up-onto-the-top-platform-theres-also-a-helicopter-platform Source: Principality of Sealand via Facebook

Given the fort can sometimes be cut off by the choppy North Sea weather, there’s quite a serious stock of tinned food on offer.

given-the-fort-can-sometimes-be-cut-off-by-the-choppy-north-sea-weather-theres-quite-a-serious-stock-of-tinned-food-on-offer Source: Ryan Lackey via Flickr

Sealand has picked up a cult following over the years — here’s British climber Kenton Cool, unveiling the flag at the top of Mount Everest.

sealand-has-picked-up-a-cult-following-over-the-years--heres-british-climber-kenton-cool-unveiling-the-flag-at-the-top-of-mount-everest Source: Principality of Sealand

Quiz: Can you guess these country flags?>

Quiz: Can you match the country with the national motto?>

Published with permission from:

Business Insider
Business Insider is a business site with strong financial, media and tech focus.

Read next: