Prince Michael’s fiefdom isn’t exactly grandiose: it’s two towers sticking out of the water, housing some 20 citizens. But Sealand has its own currency, stamps and passports.
“No country has officially recognized Sealand”, explains Prince Michael. “But remember that a country can exist without formal recognition by other countries. For many years the United States didn’t recognize China.” Prince Michael succeeded his father, Prince Roy, as monarch of Sealand in 1999.
Prince Roy founded the tiny principality four decades ago. The British government had banned Roy Rates, then a pirate radio operator, from broadcasting from an abandoned military base off the English coast. Angered, Bates declared independence on September 2, 1967. Since then, Sealand has been Great Britain’s unwanted neighbor.
"Sealand, officially known as Roughs Tower, cannot constitute a separate independent state since it has none of the characteristics of a state, such as a territory or the ability to conduct international relations,” a spokesperson for the British Foreign Ministry tells Metro.
While micronations are a legal oddity, they’re also the newest trend in international politics. In the Baltic, the Baltic Seasteading group aims to form several modern Sealands. “On land we can’t live the way we want, so we want to form our own countries”, explains Baltic Seasteading coordinator Lasse Birk Olesen.
“Ideally, we’d like to be totally independent, but for the time being we’ll stay closer to the shore and have some relations with the government.” The Baltic country-builders initially plan to settle in international waters between Helsinki and Tallinn.
The Seasteading Institute in San Francisco has even grander plans. “We’ll build many independent ocean settlements around the world”, explains Executive Director Patri Friedman. “Each settlement will have different cultures and rules. People who have an idea of how society should work can display it in our ocean communities.”
TSI’s first community will launch in five years. “Some day we want them to be countries, but legal recognition is 50 years away”, explains Friedman. Futurist Thomas Frey predicts a boom of new micronations, primarily in the Middle East, where countries can sell new island-countries to wealthy buyers. The Google Republic may be the first such country, according to Frey.
People regularly apply for asylum in Sealand. The country has more than 20,000 fans on Facebook, too. “And in the past, people forged our passports, so after 9/11 we had to stop issuing passports”, says Prince Michael.
“We just don’t have the resources to chase forgerers around the world. Running a country is expensive.” To raise funds, Sealand sells titles. For £29.99, anyone can become a Lord, Lady, Baron or Baroness of the Principality of Sealand.