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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 Full-time military personnel were withdrawn from the structure in 1956.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withdrawn-from-the-structure-in-1956 Source: Ryan Lackey via Flickr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.

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?>

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