Self-declared prince of sovereign principality
of Sealand dies aged 91
Paddy Roy Bates proclaimed offshore fort where he lived a principality after moving there in 1960s
- The Guardian, Wednesday 10 October 2012 17.18 EDT
Paddy Roy Bates, who occupied an abandoned fort in the North Sea and declared it the sovereign Principality of Sealand with himself as its prince, has died aged 91, his son said on Wednesday.
Michael Bates said his father died on Tuesday at a care home in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's.
In the 1960s, inspired by the "pirate radio" movement, Bates set up Radio Essex on an offshore fort. When that was closed down, he moved in 1966 to Fort Roughs, a disused second world war platform in international waters about seven miles off the coast.
Michael Bates said his father initially intended to set up another radio station, but then "had the bizarre idea of declaring independence".
Rejecting a British order to leave, he proclaimed the fort the Principality of Sealand, declaring himself Prince Roy and his wife, Joan, as princess.
The 550-square-metre (5,920-square-foot) fort two concrete towers connected by an iron platform claimed to be the world's smallest sovereign state, though it was not internationally recognized.
Since an initial attempt to reclaim the fort was rejected by an English court, Britain has largely ignored the breakaway platform.
Despite the lack of legal status, Bates gave Sealand its own constitution, red, white and black flag, passports, stamps, coins, national anthem and a motto, E Mare Libertas: "From the sea, freedom".
Today, Sealand makes money by selling aristocratic titles and hosting Internet servers.
"I might die young or I might die old, but I will never die of boredom," Bates said in a 1980s interview.
According to Sealand's official website, Bates fought in the Spanish civil war and worked at Smithfield meat market in central London before joining the British army during the second world war, serving in North Africa, the Middle East and Italy.
After the war, he imported meat from Ireland to northern England, where rationing was still in effect, imported rubber from Malaysia and ran fishing boats off Britain's east coast before founding Sealand.
In his old age, Bates moved to the mainland, making his son, Michael, regent and head of state of Sealand.
Michael Bates remembered his father as a "huge, huge character".
"How many people do you know that are discussed by governments and prime ministers?" he said. "The history is absolutely amazing."
Bates is survived by Joan, Michael and his daughter Penny.