Sealand may not look like much, but it is a country, at least according to its self-appointed ruler. Although it has never been recognized as a sovereign nation, Sealand's Prince Roy and the rest of the “royal family” have claimed for decades that it is, in fact, a country. It has its own stamps, currency, flag and even a national anthem to prove it.
Located ten kilometers off the coast of Sussex in England, the principality of Sealand is in reality a man-made structure initially called HM Fort Roughs. Its main purpose in life was to help defend Harwich Port in Essex from German attack during the Second World War.
At the height of its usefulness, the tiny structure— measuring just 550 square meters—was home to some two hundred servicemen. No Germans ever got their hands on Sealand, but pirate radio broadcasters did. Then, in 1965, Roy Bates, a rival to the group occupying the fort, took control of the platform.
But it wasn't until later that Bates and his family started calling the platform a country, as opposed to just home. That came to pass when Bates fired shots at a British Royal Navy vessel that had been sent to remove him. In court, a judge ruled in favor of Bates since Sealand was situated outside of Britain's territorial waters. In 1975, Bates introduced a constitution and the other requisite status symbols of nationhood, including the aforementioned national anthem. The family now claims Sealand is not only a country, but also the smallest one in the world.
In the ensuing years, Sealand has seen its fair share of drama, including an attempted coup. Last year, a fire broke out and severely damaged the structure's— we mean, country's—infrastructure.
The Bates family no longer inhabits Sealand, but they have taken steps to write the next chapter in its fascinating history. They recently appointed an estate agent in Spain, where Prince Roy has retired, to sell “ownership” of the country. The listing price: $1 billion (€755 billion). Since a principality cannot technically be sold, the plan is to transfer custodianship. The Bates, however, will remain Sealand's royal family.