Lying six miles off the Suffolk coast, it appears to be an old oil platform, or perhaps the disused World War II fort it once was, according to the Daily Mail.But the Principality of Sealand, as residents call it, claims to be the world’s smallest country, with its own Royal Family, currency, and even postage stamps.The tiny state (though no other country officially recognizes it as such) occupies a 5,290sq ft (550sq m) edifice consisting of two concrete towers connected by an iron platform a few miles off Felixstowe, in international waters.But since 1967, Sealand’s residents – all 22 of them – have declared themselves independent of Britain.They produce their own drinkable water, and land their own fish and lobster, but have to import most of their food and other goods from the British mainland. The micronation even has its own currency, the Sealand Dollar, and its own football team, the Sealand All Stars.Residents make money by selling Sealand mementoes via an online shop, as well as titles: for £199.99 you can buy the title Count or Countess of Sealand, while you can settle for Lord or Lady for just £29.99.Alternatively, you can buy one square foot of the territory for £19.99, a mug or a football shirt.Sealand began on Christmas Eve 1966 after Roy Bates, a former infantry major in the first battalion Royal Fusiliers, took over the fort, then known as HM Roughs.The fort had been built as one of a series of defense forts off the Suffolk coast during World War II before being abandoned in the 1950s.Mr Bates, then 46, was a fisherman turned pirate radio broadcaster, who had fallen foul of British broadcasting laws and wanted to find a new base somewhere outside British jurisdiction.On Christmas Eve 1966, he took over Fort Roughs with his wife, Joan, daughter, Penelope, 16, and son, Michael, 16, and the following September he declared himself Prince of Sealand and his wife, Princess Joan.Thereafter followed a series of challenges, from the British government, who sent delegates to recce Sealand, to a group of German and Dutch ‘invaders’, but the Bates family – who gave themselves the motto E Mare Libertas (From The Sea, Freedom) – managed to hang on to the windy platform they had made their own.In October 2012, Roy Bates died at the age of 91, and the Sealand crown passed to his son, Michael, 63, who is still said to live on Sealand with his family and friends.The younger Mr Bates, aka His Majesty Prince Michael, has claimed that his micronation has been recognised by Germany and France. And he said Scottish people wanting to claim independence from the United Kingdom could seek inspiration from his father’s struggle.He said: ‘It hasn’t been easy for us, but the situation is different inasmuch as Scotland is heavily dependent on Britain and vice versa.’I don’t believe it will ever happen but if it does, they would have our support. The Scots are great and fiercely independent people.’He added: ‘We import from the UK and Europe most of our provisions, apart from local produce like fish and lobsters. We make our own water and are 99 percent green energy producing.’We have something like 30 rooms of various sizes, and most of our days are spent with office and IT work these days, processing orders from our online shop, security and maintenance.’The Bates family are also planning to run tourist trips to their platform later this year.
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