Paddy Roy Bates, Pirate Broadcaster and Prince, 1921-2012

Paddy Roy Bates, a 1960s pirate radio entrepreneur who set up his own nation on an abandoned platform in the North Sea and tenaciously held on to it for more than forty years, passed away yesterday after long illness with Alzheimer’s. Prince Roy, as he titled himself when he founded the Principality of Sealand in 1967, combined swashbuckling derring-do with a healthy disrespect for the niceties of the law. A man of many contradictions, he defined himself for decades by his stubborn refusal to submit to British jurisdiction but remained a staunch British patriot proud of his service of World War II.

Bates was a teller of tales and a leader of men. Among his many deeds, he:

  • Founded an offshore pirate radio station, Radio Essex.
  • Outwitted the British government on multiple occasions until it finally left him alone on Sealand.
  • Defeated a coup by Sealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs at shotgun-point.
  • Partnered with American entrepreneurs to create the ill-fated data haven HavenCo.

In the words of David Sinclair, one of his Radio Essex employees:

Roy was a throwback. He should have been born in the time of the first Queen Elizabeth and sailed with Drake. If ever there was a true buccaneer, it was Roy. A tall, burly man, with a ruddy face and the kind of high, hectoring voice which afflicted so many of his generation who had been to private schools. He had been at one time, the youngest Major in the British Army, and he ran his household and his business along more or less, army lines. In addition, as I was to find out later, he was the kind of man who had creditors everywhere, but it never seemed to bother him.

Bates is survived by his wife Princess Joan, his children Penny and Prince Michael, and multiple grandchildren. The official Sealand obituary is here and my article about Roy and Sealand, Sealand, HavenCo, and the Rule of Law, is available here.