Death of Paddy Roy Bates, “Prince” of Sealand

  October 13, 2012 at 4:36 pm by

Royal Standard of the Prince of Sealand

Paddy Roy Bates, the self-proclaimed Prince of Sealand, passed away on October 9.  Prince Roy was the founder and first sovereign of the non-recognised Principality of Sealand.

Bates was born on 29 August 1921 in London to Harry and Lilyan Bates He served in the British Army, rising to the rank of Major. After leaving active service, he was briefly a fisherman before moving into pirate radio.

In 1965, Paddy ousted Radio City staff who had occupied Knock John Tower (a World War II British naval defence platform) and, using the military equipment left behind, started broadcasting his own radio station. His channel, renamed BBMS (Britain’s Better Music Station) in 1966, became the first pirate radio station to provide 24 hour entertainment. Unfortunately, it was forced off the air at the end of the same year because of insufficient funds.

Prince Roy and Princess Joan

After the station was closed, Bates moved to Roughs Tower – a platform beyond the boundary of the United Kingdom’s territorial waters. On 2 September 1967, Paddy Roy Bates declared the independence of Roughs Tower and named it the Principality of Sealand. In 1968, the Royal Navy entered what Bates claimed to be his territorial waters, in order to service a navigational buoy near the platform. Michael Bates fired warning shots for “trespass” into Sealand territorial waters to scare the workmen off by firing warning shots from the former fort. Both Michael and his father were then swiftly arrested.

Ironically, it was the subsequent court ruling that, at least according to Bates, became the first de facto recognition of Sealand. The court threw out the case, claiming that because the platform was outside UK’s territorial waters, they did not have jurisdiction to charges Paddy Roy and Michael with anything. Inspired by the ruling, Bates issued a constitution, national anthem, flag, passport and other attributes of a sovereign state for his Principality.

The Sealand Royal Family

Another international incident connected with Sealand occurred in 1977: several German and Dutch citizens invaded Sealand and took Prince Michael hostage, before releasing him a couple of days later in the Netherlands. Paddy and his “countrymen” launched a successful counter-attack and held the invaders captive, claiming them as prisoners of war. recaptured the fort, taking all the “invaders” hostages. While they later released most of them, one of the German citizens also carried a Sealand passport, which enabled Prince Roy to accuse and try him for treason. He was held unless he paid DM 75,000 (over US$ 35,000). Germany requested Britain to negotiate the release of their citizen, but to their bemusement the British claimed to have no jurisdiction over Sealand. Germany was then forced to negotiate with Sealand directly – another de-facto recognition of its sovereignty (although Germany denies the claim).

In recent years, Prince Roy suffered from Alzheimer’s and lived at a care home in Leigh-on-Sea where he died on October 9. He lives behind his widow, Princess Joan, and two children – Michael and Penny. While succession to the Principality of Sealand is not an automatic process, it is expected that Prince Michael (who has already been Regent for several years) will continue his father’s work.

Whatever is made of Paddy Bates’ principality, he was certainly a colourful man, an epitome of strength of British character, sense of humour and harmless eccentricity. As Bates put in a 1980s interview, “I might die young or I might die old, but I will never die of boredom”. He was certainly a man of his word, for what with such eventful life, boredom is one thing that should have been quite unknown to him.  Prince Michael said about his father following the death announcement that he was a “huge, huge character”. It’s hard to not to agree.

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3 Responses to Death of Paddy Roy Bates, “Prince” of Sealand

  1. pmzq says:

    Weird……and something I would think Royal Forums would have ignored. He wasn’t rea Royalty. Slightly disappointed in Royal Forums.

  2. Artemisia says:

    @ pmzq
    That he wasn’t “real” royalty was mentioned several times in the article. Then again, all real royalties have to start somewhere…

    Sorry if you think this didn’t belong to The Royal Forums. You might be right, but I thought such an interesting, colourful figure deserved a mention, even if he hadn’t been born in the purple.

  3. Mark, Graf v. Hohenstein says:

    I suppose when ancestors of the Grimaldi rulers of Monaco, after fleeing Venezia, invaded a monastery and murdered the monks, it created a legitimate royal house? Yet, here we are….

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