May 5, 2010
In the Fifties, Leonard George Casley was a mathematician and physicist working with NASA, in between farming wheat in the rolling hills of Hutt River in Western Australia. In 1969, he sent off his usual wheat production figures to the government saying that he had 10,000 acres ready to sell, and the government sent back the news that he was only allowed to sell 1,647. Naturally, Leonard then did what any reasonable man would do: founded the Hutt River Principality as an independent state, refused to pay tax and declared himself as HRH Prince Leonard, his wife as Her Serene Highness Princess Shirley, and their eldest son as the heir apparent, Crown Prince Ian. Amazingly, he got away with it: the government decided there was nothing they could do about him, and the principality stayed in place, with official languages of English, French and Esperanto, a population of 20 and a worldwide citizenship of 13,000 fans, a navy in spite of being entirely landlocked and an industry based on exporting wildflowers, coins and stamps. After Australia Post refused to recognise the stamps in 1976, forcing Hutt River mail to be redirected via Canada, Prince Leonard declared war. Thankfully, Australia then backed down, avoiding carnage on a scale which can hardly be imagined. Best of all, we were passing by on April 21, the 40th anniversary of the principality. After crossing the border in a cloud of red dust, we arrived to find Her Serene Highness Princess Shirley serving behind the post office counter. “Leonard’s gone into Northampton with Ian to sort out some things for the weekend celebrations, but they should be back soon,” she said, and sure enough, the other two thirds of the Royal Family arrived shortly after in a ute. Before long, we had been granted an exclusive interview with the 84-year-old monarch, in which he expounded the history of mathematics, physics, jurisprudence, the principality and wheat farming at such length and in such detail that by the end we were entirely convinced that his royal family was just as delightfully loopy as we have come to expect from our own. “You blokes staying for the weekend? We’ve got a brass band and a pipe band, a grand ceremony in the chapel involving several knightings, a nice family dinner, although everyone’s welcome, and a visit by the Royal Enfield Club, since I’m president of that,” he said. “Afraid not, unless there’s any chance of being made a knight,” said Colin. “Not at this stage, but log onto our website and you never know next time. Still, give us your passports and I’ll stamp them to make up for your disappointment,” said the prince, sending us on our way with a regal wave. Sadly, having been touched by royalty, we ended the day as commoners, in the grimmest hostel yet; a rambling seafront mansion in Geraldton with bulbs which gave out the light of a jaundiced glow worm. Still, the discoveries of a cheap Thai takeaway next door and that I had some red wine left from the bottle I bought last night, almost made up for our disappointment at not being knighted earlier in the day.
October 16, 2016