[Note: Please see this blog’s obituary of Prince Roy of Sealand, posted Oct. 11, 2012.]
Sealand, despite its name, has no actual land associated with it. Its “territory,” all 550 square meters (5,920 square feet) of it, consists entirely of the H. M. Fort Roughs, an abandoned Second World War–era floating pontoon fort situated 10 kilometers off the coast of County Suffolk, England. In 1967, the Royal Marines responded to an outbreak of violence between different factions running a pirate radio station on the Fort Roughs. One Paddy Roy Bates was tried in the legal aftermath of the incident and determined by a British court in 1968 to be immune from prosecution because the incident occurred on an abandoned built structure on the high seas, outside of any state’s jurisdiction. With this legal guarantee of non-interference, Bates styled himself Prince Roy and set up the Principality of Sealand on the derrick. Neither the United Kingdom nor any other nation (except other unrecognized micronations) has recognized it as sovereign, but it functions as a sovereign nation. Although the small royal family are its only residents, thousands worldwide hold Sealandic passports, and the principality issues its own currency and stamps.
The flag of Sealand
There are no details as to whether Sealand, which generally does not allow foreign visitors, would welcome WikiLeaks’ servers. Presumably, Assange’s people have been talking to Prince Roy’s son, Prince Michael (to whom Roy handed the reins of power in 1999 when he became ill, making Michael “Prince Regent as Sovereign Pro Tempore”). This would be a big step, since Sealand has never quite gotten around to setting itself up as an offshore tax haven. It is generally an eccentric family project and probably wants to stay out of trouble. However, the Data Center Knowledge tech news website followed up on the story and was told by Prince Michael that, although Sealand officially shut down its colocation server service in 2008, they still have the capacity to host customers. Apparently, he did not confirm or deny a deal with WikiLeaks.
Prince Roy and Princess Joan in the 1960s
Sealand’s coat of arms