Fifty years before the Pilgrims left Holland for a new life in the Americas, French pilgrims had sailed to America in search of religious freedom. In both cases, autonomy was the goal. The chance to guide one’s own life was worth that very life.
For others, like the band of survivors in Stephen Edwin King’s The Stand, the journey to a faraway land and the formation of a new colony centers on companionship and freedom from the pandemic that has killed most of the population.
But for Prince Leonard Casley, it was all about a legal loophole, a remote bit of land five-hundred kilometers from Perth, and the chance to be the head of a nation, in this case, the Principality of Hutt River. Unfortunately, it was also about a US$2.15 million tax bill that the heir to the Hutt River throne, Prince Graeme Casley, has decided to settle by winding up this micronation and selling the land it occupies.
And so ends Hutt River’s fifty-year journey. It’s currency, passport, and flag pass now into the world of collectors, and I know at least one person who’ll be after their stamps like a hawk.
As the pandemic rages across the world, and leaders shrug their unworthy shoulders in lieu of a solution that would also give them votes in November, the idea of leaving it all behind and starting afresh in a new place has certainly crossed my Facebook feed in the last few weeks, as it did the doomed Donner Party in 1846.
And as it did, I suspect, for Paddy Roy Bates, who founded the Principality of Sealand in 1975, on a disused anti-aircraft gun platform called Rough Towers, in the middle of the North Sea. His written constitution and flag did nothing to help his micronation be recognised, though the solitude and peace compensated for the disappointment.
Or, for His Excellency Kevin Baugh, who created the Republic of Molossia in 1977, just outside of Dayton, Nevada, in the US, and on a slice of the planet Venus. He claimed it as a separate territory in 1994, and laid out impressive and important decrees, like a ban on all goods produced in Texas, and on walruses. You’ll need your passport to get in, but you do get to visit the official tiki bar while you're there.
Other micronations have been created out of a sense of angst and anger and the creative urges that accompany such fiery emotions.
Take Edwin Lipburger, who was so annoyed with the Austria governments dismissal of his balls - his house was shaped like one - that he declared independence and said auf wiedersehen to taxes. Unfortunately, the government didn’t share the same enthusiasm for his Republic of Kugelmugel, and sent him to prison. He was pardoned, of course, and died of the relief.
Or, Jacopo Fo, who dreamed up the Free Republic of Alcatraz in 2009, and placed it, as you would, in the middle of a forest near Perugia. His utter frustration with Silvio Berlusconi’s daily corruptions spurred Fo to craft currency, a passport, and stamps, all bearing the Republic’s designs.
Other micronations were created for more relaxing reasons.