Tributes pour in for Prince Leonard — ‘another Sinatra’

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
Unique in his field: Prince Leonard with his royal likeness at the Hutt River Province near Northampton.
Camera IconUnique in his field: Prince Leonard with his royal likeness at the Hutt River Province near Northampton. Credit: Kerry Edwards/Picture: WA News

Micronations around the world have taken to social media to express their condolences after Leonard Casley, the founder and first sovereign of the Principality of Hutt River, died February 13.

Mr Casley, or Prince Leonard as he was known, died of a severe chest infection, aged 93.

The self-proclaimed sovereign ruled over the nation for 47 years, making the principality Australia’s oldest micronation.

The Union of Millania and New Granada, a micronation in Colombia established in 2017, described Prince Leonard as inspirational.

“He has inspired our people, and our nation, to keep going,” the message on Twitter read.

The President of the Union of Geovannia, in the Mexican State of Guanajuato, conveyed similar sentiments on the micronation’s official Facebook page.

“(He) contributed immensely to the development and welfare of his people,” Generalissimo Gabriel Geo wrote. “(He was an) inspiration for the other micronations.”

Upon hearing the news of Prince Leonard’s death, the Empire of Guanduania, which claims the whole universe as legitimate territory, declared a national day of mourning.

The Principality of Hutt River was founded in 1970 when Leonard Casley declared his farm independent after a dispute about wheat production quotas with the State Government.

Covering 75sqkm, the principality is larger than several countries, including San Marino and Monaco.

With its own currency, stamps and passports, the micronation has become a major tourism attraction in the Mid West, with thousands visiting the principality’s capital, Nain, each year.

Shire of Northampton president Craig Simkin, who attended Prince Leonard’s abdication ceremony in 2017, said his death was a sad loss in the region.

“He had a bit of notoriety but he was a drawcard — he brought people to our region,” Mr Simkin said.

“Prince Leonard attended the Airing of the Quilts, rolling along in his Rolls Royce in the parade.

“He wasn’t afraid to step out and make himself known.

“He was a little bit eccentric but he was another Frank Sinatra — he did it his way.”

Mr Simkin’s sentiments echo how Prince Leonard spoke about himself in 2017, after he passed the reins onto his youngest son, Prince Graeme.

“I’m a little bit of a controversial (leader), I think,” he said outside Nain’s chapel.

“Some people think ‘he’s a nut’, others think ‘he’s a genius’, but I’m just myself.”

Over the years, the principality has faced battles with the Australian Taxation Office, including in 1977 when the micronation declared war on Australia after refusing demands for payments.

In 2017, the Casley family lost a Supreme Court battle and was ordered to pay about $3 million in unpaid taxes.

But Prince Leonard never gave up and continued fighting for what he believed in. On Twitter, television chef Adam Liaw —– winner of MasterChef Australia in 2009 — commented on how humble Prince Leonard was.

“I respect his spirit in ceding from the Commonwealth, and his humility in declaring himself a prince instead of a king,” he wrote. Author Holden Sheppard, who grew up in Geraldton, said Prince Leonard “totally stuck it to the man” in the “most punk way”.

The borders of the province will reopen March 4.

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