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.