In the wake of World War II, strategic defensive structures all over the world became decommissioned and fell into disuse. Nowhere was this trend more prevalent than along the coasts of two of the war’s key players: Germany and the United Kingdom. One type of defense built by the British was an oceanic tower equipped with armaments intended to shoot down Axis planes before they reached Great Britain. Following the war, many of these fortresses were torn down.
One tower, originally called Fort Rough Tower, simply fell into disuse. In 1967, a former member of the English military settled in the tower, claiming it as his sovereign territory. He proclaimed himself Prince Roy of the Principality of Sealand. At a distance of seven nautical miles (11 kilometers) from the English coast, the tower was technically outside of British territorial waters (3 nautical miles).
Over the years, Prince Roy has made many attempts at establishing true sovereignty. He released coins (Sealand dollars), a national anthem, stamps and a flag. Thus far, however, sovereignty has yet to be recognized by any national or international governing body. With the 1987 extension of British territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, it seems unlikely that sovereignty will ever be recognized.
Sealand’s national Web page announces a number of important events mark the history of Sealand. A year after Prince Roy’s declaration of independence, the British Navy came to the tower to investigate. Prince Roy declared defensive action, shooting on the boats of the Navy. Then, in 1978, German and Dutch businessmen came to the island in order to undertake business negotiations and were briefly held captive by Prince Roy and his family. In the early 2000’s, an internet hosting company, HavenCo, was based in Sealand. It offered internet hosting that could circumscribe many of the regulations of traditional onshore internet hosting. The company has since folded.
The future of Sealand is looking dim. Prince Roy’s health has declined with his age, and power has been shifted to his son, Prince Michael. BBC News reports the micro (or pseudo) state is currently for sale for 750 million euros, or just more than $1 billion (U.S.).