Monday, 31 March 2008

WRONG: The British Isles have only one monarch

First, some definitions:

• The British Isles are a collection of islands off the north west shoulder of Europe: together they all belong to or are dependent on either the United Kingdom or the Republic Of Ireland.

• Great Britain is the largest of the British Isles and is home to England, Scotland and Wales. Ireland is the next biggest. Others include the Scilly Isles, the Isle of Wight, the Hebrides, Orkney, Shetland, Anglesey and the Isle of Lundy off the coast of north Devon, which is home to 30 people and a flock of feral goats.

• The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the proper name for the political entity ruled by Queen Elizabeth. It includes Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but not the Crown Dependencies of the Isle Of Man and the Channel Islands. And if you think the Channel Islands means Guernsey, Jersey and a couple of others, you've forgotten Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou, Lihou, the Minquiers group, the Ecréhous, the Dirouilles, the Pierres de Lecq, the Casqets and Burhou.

The Isle of Man’s Head of State is the Lord Of Mann (note the second “n”), a title held at present by Queen Elizabeth. However, in 1405 King Henry IV granted the kingdom of Man to Sir John Stanley and his descendants. In 1504, King Thomas III of The Isle Of Man renounced his throne in favour of the title “Lord”, but the royal line is alive and well and claims de jure sovereignty. He’s called David Howe. You can cheer on King David Of The Isle Of Man at his website.

As well as Ireland, the UK and the Crown Dependencies, the British Isles also include the little-known principality of Sealand. In 1967, Major Paddy Roy Bates occupied the abandoned WWII sea fort of HM Fort Roughs, six miles off the coast of Suffolk (they were international waters until 1987), renamed it Sealand and appointed himself His Royal Highness Prince Roy.

No nation officially acknowledges Sealand’s independence, but it was the site of a “war” when, according to its sovereign, German and Dutch citizens attempted a coup in 1978. Sadly, the nation was brought to its knees by a fire in 2006, but you can help them rebuild their fragile economy by becoming a Lord or Lady of Sealand for just £19.99.

EDIT: There's someone else at it now – Stuart Hill has claimed the island of Forvik in Shetland as a Crown Dependency, independent of the UK, on the basis of an ancient marriage settlement.

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