After 50 years of defiance, one of the world’s smallest self-declared states - the Principality of Hutt River - will rejoin Australia.
Wheat farmer and mathematician Leonard Casley declared the province independent in 1970 after a clash with Australia’s federal government over wheat production quotas.
Prince Leonard I gained a degree of national and international fame as the 30-square-mile micronation issued passports, stamps, citizenships and a new currency, the Hutt River Dollar.
For decades, tourists in Western Australia made the journey to the remote province to have their passport stamped, and some visitors were made knights. An estimated 10,000 people – almost all of whom do not reside there – are citizens of the principality.
In 1977, the Prince declared war on Australia following repeated demands for payments by the Australian Taxation Office, withdrawing the declaration several days later. The Principality had no standing army, but does have a national anthem penned and recorded by Hampstead-born singer, the late Jon English.
In April 2016, the Queen’s senior correspondence officer, Sonia Bonici, wrote to Prince Leonard conveying to him Her Majesty’s wish for “a most enjoyable and successful celebration” of the upcoming 46th anniversary of his declaration of independence.
The letter also acknowledged the Prince’s previous birthday greeting to the Queen, and said Her Majesty was sorry to hear of Leonard’s recent fall and hoped he had made a full recovery.
The Hutt River sovereign abdicated in 2017 in favour of his youngest son, Prince Graeme, the same year the province lost a Supreme Court case and was ordered to pay almost A$3million (£1.64 million) in tax. Prince Leonard died in 2019.
On Monday the province issued a statement that the micronation would be dissolved, and the land sold as farmland to pay most of the bill.
Prince Graeme told the ABC he did not believe the sale of the property would cover what was owed.
“We are meeting with the ATO to try and come up with a more favourable figure,” he said.
Falling revenue from tourism was also a factor in the decision, the last prince of Hutt River confirmed, as the industry has taken a battering from the pandemic crisis.
Prince Graeme said he hoped the story of the principality and its stand against what it saw as unjust bureaucracy would be remembered.
“That's the history, and you can't unwrite it… You just have to keep the archives and hope the story continues for the family.”