Tuesday, July 06, 2010


I almost want to say that this is a hoax, but apparently truth is stranger than fiction. (All of the following is a paraphrase of Wikipedia)

During WWII, Great Britain constructed several floating 'forts' a few miles outside its territorial waters to prevent the Nazis from mining its shipping lanes. The forts consisted of a pontoon base, with two hollow towers rising from the base, holding up a deck. by 1956, the structures were abandoned.

In 1967, a guy by the name of Major Paddy Roy Bates, a British pirate radio broadcaster, and his family, occupied the abandoned platform. He declared the platform the 'Principality of Sealand', with him as the head of state.

A year later, when a group of British workmen approached the fort to service a buoy, Michael Bates, the 'Crown Prince' chased them off with gunfire. In the subsequent court case, the British legal system ruled that as the fort lay outside the 3 mile British territorial waters, they had no jurisdiction over the fort and dropped the case. By 1975, Sealand had a constitution, an anthem, a currency and passports.

But wait, the story gets weirder. In 1978, while the 'Prince' and 'Princess' were visiting Austria, Sealand was attacked by some German dude named Alexander Achenbach, who declared himself the 'Prime Minister of Sealand'. Achenbach and a group of German and Dutch mercenaries attacked the platform, taking the 'Crown Prince' hostage. However, upon return from Austria, the elder Bates managed to turn the tables. He re-captured his platform, freed his son, and in turn took Achenbach and his band hostage. They were charged with 'treason' and a ransom was levied against them.

Various European governments petitioned Britain to intercede, but the Brits refused, citing lack of jurisdiction. Finally, Germany wound up sending a diplomat to Sealand and negotiating Achenbach's release. Upon regaining his freedom, Achenbach set up a 'government in exile' in Germany.

I have to say, this is one of the weirder stories I've come across in my life... I don't even know what to say about it, other than - I need to find a platform somewhere in the Carribean and declare myself His Serene and Most Excellent Highness Prince E-Kvetcher the First.


Blogger Tobie said...

Just because I'm in the middle of studying for my international law final...

Given that Sealand never received international recognition (or probably sufficient land or population), it couldn't really have been defined as a state. Which would make Achenbach probably a pirate, attacking private property (assuming that Bates achieved ownership by some form of squatter's rights) in international waters. That being said, Bates' actions were legitimate self-defense and defense of property, although the ransom seems a little legally iffy. It might wander back into the territory of being piracy itself. In any case, it's pretty generally agreed that there is universal jurisdiction for piracy (the only crime for which this is true), so I think that Britain could have been justified in stepping in. Except, of course, if she preferred not to because the whole thing entertained her, which seems legitimate enough.

More generally, though, if you want to start your own country in the middle of wherever, nobody's really going to care, but you're not actually going to be a country under international law. Unless they decide to create a special exception for monarchs with awesome titles.

July 06, 2010 3:02 PM  

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