The World Mourns Prince Paddy Roy Bates of Sealand


I didn't expect the death of Prince Paddy Roy Bates—the founder and ruler of my favorite monarchy, the Principality of Sealand—to attract so much media attention. But here's The New York Times with a generally respectful obituary. An excerpt:

No Rule, Britannia!

In the 1960s, Mr. Bates, a former major in the British Army, was among a group of disc jockeys who tried to avoid England's restrictive broadcasting regulations by setting up pirate radio stations on some of the country's abandoned offshore outposts, which had been used to fire ground artillery at German aircraft during World War II. Mr. Bates began broadcasting from one outpost within the three-mile limit of England's territorial waters, and when he was driven from there in 1966 he planned to start a station at Her Majesty's Fort Roughs, which was in international waters. Instead, he founded Sealand.

On Sept. 2, 1967, Mr. Bates declared it an independent nation, himself its royal overseer and his wife, Joan, its princess. It was her birthday.

The obit goes on to describe the attempted coup of '78, when some Germans hired mercenaries to storm the platform. Unfortunately, the piece brushes quickly past the turn-of-the-century attempt to make the micronation into a Cryptonomicon-style data haven. For that tale you should read James Grimmelmann's article in the University of Illinois Law Review, "Sealand, HavenCo, and the Rule of Law" [pdf]. Or his shorter but still substantial account of the affair in Ars Technica.

I never was a seasteading enthusiast, but I have to give props to a man who actually went out and homesteaded the sea. Rest in peace, Prince Bates.

Bonus links: A few years ago I wrote an appreciation of micronations for The American Conservative. And I discuss the offshore radio boom of the '60s in my book Rebels on the Air, though I don't get into the subject of Sealand there.

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  1. Was that what influenced the movie Pirate Radio with Bill Nighy, which was about, well, a pirate radio ship off the British coast? Or was airwave regulation so very bad back then that lots of Brits were setting illegal rock stations afloat in the North Sea?

      1. And no. There were a bunch of pirate operations going on at that time, and some of them were on actual ships, and I think the movie was based on one specific ship that had little to do with Sealand. (I didn’t see the movie because I heard it was stupid.)

        1. You missed a fair amount of good nudity.

          1. I’m sure I saw it on one of those skin sites.

            1. Well good enough then. I remember it being better than I expected, but my expectations were pretty low.

              1. The movie or the nudity?

                1. Uh, movie. The nudity was a complete (and happy) surprise.

                  Kind of like in that British Christmas movie. Just don’t expect it in that kind of movie.

          2. I’d settle for a good amount of fair nudity.

            1. I too am in favor of quantity over quality.

              1. Two words: Roseanne Barr.

        2. The movie was inspired by Radio Caroline. It took some liberties with the truth.

          1. I knew I had to have formed both my opinions of the movie and my historical knowledge of British pirate radio stations from somewhere.

  2. A decade later, a greater drama ensued when a group of Germans with plans to build a luxury casino on the platform tried to take control of Sealand while Mr. Bates and his wife were away. They held Michael Bates hostage for several days before Roy Bates stormed Sealand and retook it in a dramatic helicopter raid. He imprisoned one of the men there. When the German government sought Britain’s help in freeing him, Britain declined to intervene, citing the 1968 ruling.

    Germany sent a diplomat, the man was eventually freed, and Mr. Bates asserted that Germany had effectively recognized Sealand as a sovereign nation.

    I’m stunned, both by the British courts’ decency and attention to law, and by the incompetency of the “German” mercenaries. Where did they hire these guys and are we sure they were properly licensed mercs?

    1. “”””I’m stunned, both by the British courts’ decency and attention to law,”””

      Unfortunately the last few British governments have been working hard to get rid of such things and now they throw people in jail for what they say and have gotten rid of pesky legal things like double jeopardy.

    2. 1970’s mercs generally sucked. They were slightly better than your typical African soldier in the various civil wars there, but they were nothing like Blackwater (or whatever it’s called now).

      Even German Special Forces weren’t all that great in the 70’s – those were the guys who took a vote and decided not to rescue the kidnapped Israeli athletes during the Olympics.

      1. Big black cocks.

      2. Well, I have a feeling that vote might not have been on purely skill/technical grounds…

      3. Except that the guys in Munich weren’t special forces but regular police – that was the problem. They also didn’t take a vote not to rescue the hostages. Instead they did try it. The way they went about it was what caused the carnage.

        The whole fiasco prompted the creation of a proper special forces unit who did a good job freeing a hijacked passenger plane in 1977.

        1. The ones on the 727 who were supposed to take out the kidnappers voted not to try it.

          1. They voted to abort the mission because there were more hostage takers than they had planned for.

            The police snipers otoh decidedly did not vote to abort, hence the fiasco that ensued.

            Saying that they voted not to rescue the hostages is simply not true.

      4. “Blackwater (or whatever it’s called now).”

        First they were Xe Services, now Academi (believe it or not).

    3. I’m stunned that the Germans tried to take land they wanted by force.

  3. Rest in peace, Prince Bates.

    Being England, as a boy, he would have been referred to as Master Bates.

    1. Actually, titles are generally used with christian names not surnames.

      He’s either Prince Paddy or Price Roy.

      Or he can invoke some kind of royal privelige and choose some other name altogether.

      I actualy knew a guy who claimed that he had a classmate named Rupert Bates at an English school in the 1950s.

      Normally the teachers would normally only call the boys by there last names but there was one who every so often would get used Master — when he got mad. So, yes, Master Bates.

  4. The obit goes on to describe the attempted coup of ’78, when some Germans hired mercenaries to storm the platform.


    Why were the Germans involved?

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