Odds are that you have never heard of the Kingdom of Redonda. Even if you know where it is, it’s unlikely you have a map that is detailed enough to find it. This tiny island may be cloaked in obscurity, but it is claimed by at least 9 kings. Despite the disputed claim of these kings, none of them seem to have any interest in living there.
Redonda is a tiny island in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean. Located between the islands of Nevis and Monserrat, it is the tip of an extinct volcano. Officially, it is one of the six districts of Antigua and Barbuda. The total surface area is approximately 2 square kilometers. It was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. The famous explorer saw the island from his ship but did not attempt to set foot on it. He claimed it for Spain. In 1869, the island was claimed by Great Britain.
To say that Redonda is not a tourist Mecca is an understatement. Its primary occupants are several feral goats, reptiles, insects, and various seabirds. Until 1912, the island was inhabited by workers, who gathered guano, reselling it as a valuable fertilizer. Upon the outbreak of World War I, all work at Redonda was stopped because of problems with transportation and markets. Modern fertilizer technology has made further guano collection unprofitable. Consequently, no workers remain, and the island is uninhabited by humans.
What the island lacks in inhabitants, it more than makes up for with kings. At least nine people claim to be the sovereign monarch of Redonda, each having their own flag, emblem, and national anthem.
The first declared monarch of the Kingdom of Redonda was Matthew Dowdy Shiell. In 1865, he sailed from neighboring Monserrat, proclaimed himself sovereign, and returned to Monserrat, ready to rule. After a 15-year reign, he abdicated in favor of his son, Matthew Phipps Shiell. Matthew apparently thought his name did not sound regal enough, so he declared he would henceforth be known as King Felipe. Drawing upon his experience as a writer of fiction, he began publishing pamphlets that declared the glory of his kingdom and making its fame known far and wide.
The House of Shiell passed the crown from generation to generation — sometimes through family inheritance and other times passing to anyone interested in taking it, until poet and writer John Gawsworth declared himself King Terence Armstrong in 1947. This monarch endured a number of bankruptcies and sold all right, title, and interest to the kingdom and crown to any number of people. Consequently, whoever acquired whatever legitimate right he may have had has, at best, a dubious claim.
There are now at least nine monarchs who claim a legitimate right to rule the kingdom. Curiously, none of them are interested enough in the place to actually live there. William L. Gates, who goes by the name King Leo, John Wynne-Tyson, Javier Marias, and Bob Williamson (aka Robert the Bald) are among the more notable individuals who have claimed the throne.
Robert the Bald succeeded in one of the more public claims to the throne. One day he came across Redonda and declared himself ruler in front of a group of 61 people who accompanied him. He also took the liberty of knighting around 100 people, including various bartenders of his favorite pubs. He established an official website, where he even recruited members of the Royal Redondan Navy. King Robert recently passed away, and so the official website is no longer active, but at the time, it carried this opportunity:
The Royal Redondan Navy Wants You!
There is an ever-present threat to the Kingdom of invasion by various foreign groups of disenchanted people, envious of our way of life and determined to undermine, often by foul means, the very essence of the Realm. The latest threat has been issued by a self-proclaimed Brigadier in the British Royal Marines, but since this august body does not offer the rank of Brigadier it is felt that the threat is completely without foundation. Even so, we must all be vigilant, and so we issue a Call to Arms. Below you will find a link to the RNN Application Form. Print it off, complete the application and send it, with your International Money Order for $US35 to cover the cost of administration, certification, postage etc. and we will judge your boat’s suitability for a position in the Fleet. At the same time you may be entitled to a rank in the RRN. If you wish to be so honoured you should submit, with this application, a further administrative fee of $US35.
In 2007, a man called Bob Beach declared his pub the Embassy of Redonda to gain diplomatic immunity from the public smoking ban. His efforts were unsuccessful.
Read more fun facts about micronations.
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