The End of Australia’s Oldest Micronation
The Principality of Hutt River cedes to the government due to the economic impact of the pandemic
I love this story so much. One man’s battle against an oppressive government. Standing up to ‘the man’ in response to an unfair system that prevented him from selling his goods. And then he went extreme! If the only way to beat the system was to enact an archaic law and declare independence as a country…then so be it!
There’s a lot to be admired in one man’s determination not to break.
Leonard Casley was angry. In his mind, the Australian government was demanding too much. They had upped the wheat quota production and Casley was fighting back. Casley announced in April 1970 that Hutt River seceded from Australia as the dispute escalated.
Seven years later, now a prince, Casley declared war on Australia over what he described as prime minister Malcolm Fraser’s hostilities.
500km north from Perth sits the Principality of Hutt River (PHR). At 75 sq km (18,500 acres) in area, the former self-styled principality in rural Western Australia, 517km north of Perth, is the size of Hong Kong and has a population of 26. To enter this kingdom, you’ll need a stamp from the “Government Offices”, a single-story building that is part museum, part immigration office, and part souvenir shop.
Prince Leonard would pass away on 13 February 2019, aged 93. In ailing health, he abdicated in February 2017, selecting his youngest son Graeme Casley to inherit the throne.
“His Royal Highness Prince Graeme took over the mantle as Sovereign and Head of State, in addition to holding a plethora of eccentrically charming regal and ministerial titles, including the likes of Duke of Gilboa and Grand Master of the Order of Wisdom and Learning. His brother, Prince Richard, meanwhile, holds the posts of Minister of Postal Services and Grand Master of the Illustrious Order of Merit.” Source- BBC
It was through tourism that the principality survived. But, like many businesses during the pandemic, the overseas travelers ceased to visit. The debts quickly spiraled out of control. Once again, it was the Australian government putting the screws in and demanding repayment to their once foreign, tax department. To be fair, the government had been pursuing the prince since 1977 when in retaliation to the tax demands, war was declared by Casley. The Royal Hutt River Defence Force was established 11 years later. This force included an army, a navy, and a military college, which developed artillery manuals and training programs so impressive they were adopted by affiliates of the US Army, claims Hutt River’s official website.
Inside the kingdom, the biggest tourist attraction is the post office where you can send a letter overseas using the PHR stamps. Other attractions include a non-denominational chapel and Princess Shirley’s Sacred Educational Shrine. You can even trade-in your Australian dollars for PHR dollars.
All this came to an end late last year in 2020. There’ll be no more government granted visas or driver’s licenses. No more state-issued passports, currency, or stamps. The state flag will be pulled down for the last time and each of its reportedly operated 13 foreign offices in 10 different countries, including the US and France, will close.
The Australian government’s position was absolutely clear when Justice Rene Le Miere ruled that “anyone can declare themselves a sovereign in their own home, but they cannot ignore the laws of Australia or not pay tax,” as reported by WA Today.
Reigning monarch Prince Graeme Cassley told CNN:
“It’s very sad watching your father build up something for 50 years and then you have to close it down,” said Casley. “They’re very harsh times economically and health-wise around the world due to Covid and we’re feeling that too.”
Back in 1969, Casley was raging. The wheat quota imposed on Western Australian farms would have left his family thousands of acres of wheat they couldn’t sell legally. Frustrated, Casley took the only option he could by declaring independence from Australia. This would enable him to ‘export’ the wheat instead. It may seem extreme, but Casley would back his succession by delving into archaic laws from the United Kingdom as his legal defense.
The obscure English common laws (part of the basis of Australian law) and international laws he believed allowed him to form what he termed an independent “Self Preservation Government”. It wasn’t long before he renamed himself His Royal Highness Prince Leonard I of Hutt and handed out regal titles to his family and supporters. All the while he continued to sell his ‘illegal’ wheat across the ‘border’.
Leonard declared himself a prince to take legal advantage of the archaic English “Treason Act 1495”.
“The act was passed by a medieval English parliament, and Leonard interpreted it as protecting a de facto ruling monarch such as himself from charges of treason within the Commonwealth. He further believed that if the Australian government attempted to stop the formation of a Hutt River government, then they themselves would be committing treason against Queen Elizabeth II, the constitutional monarch of both “countries”.” Source - BBC
In 2017, four years on from mourning the loss of the nation’s mother, Princess Shirley, the micronation lost its latest battle in the Supreme Court of Western Australia and was subsequently handed a A$3 million bill by the Australian Tax Office.
A debt that the principality would never recover from.
On the 31st January 2020, PHR announced their borders would close. By August of the same year and during their 50th Anniversary, they formally declared the principality would cease to exist. The Principality of Hutt River would be ceded back to Australia, and the Casley family farm would be sold to pay debts owed.
Prince Richard was defiant to the end. “We never seceded for crowns or titles, we seceded to fight injustices.”
Something tells me the fight isn’t over yet.
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