How to Set Up Your Own Country

by Julian Ku

How did I miss this story?

In a declaration on his Web site, Stuart Hill, who owns the 2.5 acre island of Forvik in the Shetland Islands in the North Sea, said he no longer recognised the authority of the government or the European Union, and cited a centuries-old royal marriage dowry deal as the basis for his claim.

“Forvik owes no allegiance to any United Kingdom government, central or local, and is not bound by any of its statutes,” Hill wrote.

The website with Hill’s declaration is, of course, a blog site. There are, of course, all sorts of legal questions raised by Hill’s declaration, many of which relate to the complexities, but some might also pertain to the definition of a state under international law. The basic argument, as I understand it, is that the island was transferred to the King of Scotland temporarily until the King of Norway (its original owner) could come up with cash for a wedding dowry. No payment was ever made and the King of Scotland retained the island in trust, but without the authority to incorporate it into his realm. It thus remains a crown dependency, owing allegience to the King of Scotland’s successor, the Queen, but otherwise independent.

I obviously do not opine on any question of UK or Scottish law, but under international law, there are a variety of requirements to achieve status as a state, if that is what a crown dependency is. Forvik doesn’t seem qualify, but whether that matters remains to be seen. In any event, Hill seems to have a semi-serious claim here. And he has invited immigrants to his new nation, which has drawn inquiries from round the world, apparently.

4 Responses

  1. Only in Britain…

    If Forvik owes allegiance to the Queen, why would she not be entitled to have her government exercise her prerogative power of governing this crown dependency? That’s how the other crown dependencies are run. After all, the Queen wouldn’t dream of exercising any real power herself.

    For the purposes of domestic law, incidentally, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands likewise are deemed to be not part of the United Kingdom, though they owe allegiance to the Queen as Lord of Man and Duke of Normandy, respectively (not ‘Lady’ and ‘Duchess’, as it happens). Still, this means that the United Kingdom takes responsibility for the international relations of the various territories, so that they are part of the UK for the purposes of international law.

  2. Not only in England . . . Here is some information about “Achzivland,” which has claimed the status of independent state for decades. Being of an older generation, Achzivland seems not to have a website, or at least not one that I could quickly locate on a Google search.

  3. Oops — make that opening line, “Not only in Britain.”

  4. As luck would have it, the High Court has just decided a case in which it explains the – somewhat arcane – constitutional detail of the Channel Island of Sark. The case is R (Barclay) v The Seigneur of Sark [2008] EWHC 1354 (Admin). For explanations of the role of The Queen as Duke of Normandy, Sark as part of the UK (or not) for purposes of domestic and international law, and of the role of the UK government, see esp. paras. 15-20 and 89-96.

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