The Eccentric World of DIY Kingdoms

All it takes to form a micronation is a little domain and a lot of nerve. Meet the emperors and dictators who have struck out on their own.

This story ran in the April 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine.

A king without a kingdom is not without options. For centuries, wannabe rulers intent on independence, political subversion, religious freedom, or just a laugh have laid dubious claim to territories. Some call these domains “micronations.”

Where have self-appointed rulers planted flags? On islands: Off Denmark’s coast is the Kingdom of Elleore, which bans Robinson Crusoe as slander against island life. In deserts: Nevada’s Republic of Molossia sells bonds to fund its war—with East Germany. And in the ocean: The ruler of the Principality of Sealand, a WWII-era British Navy sea fort, says he once foiled a hostage-taking coup.

By international law, those aspiring to nationhood must have a government, a permanent population, defined territory, and a capacity for foreign relations; some tiny nations also have flags, constitutions, and currencies. What most don’t have is recognition. They exist, as their founders do, on the fringes.