Prince Leonard, founder of Australian micronation, dies at 93

Prince Leonard, a wheat farmer who founded a self-declared principality in Australia with its own stamps and currency and helped to launch a micro-nation trend, has died at the age of 93.

The prince, otherwise known as Leonard Casley, “seceded” from Australia in 1970 to form the Principality of Hutt River on his 18,000-acre property, about 300 miles north of Perth. His micronation became a popular tourist attraction and inspired dozens of others, though none has any legal status as an independent nation. 

Prince Leonard died on Wednesday morning after a long battle with emphysema. He abdicated due to poor health in 2017 and handed the reins at a ceremony to Prince George, his youngest son.

Prince Leonard created the micro-nation to protest low wheat production quotas imposed by Western Australia’s state government.

The province has never been officially recognised but received a letter from the Queen on its 46th anniversary in 2016, expressing “good wishes to you and to all concerned for a most enjoyable and successful celebration”. Prince Leonard, who regarded himself as a loyal subject of the Queen, was delighted.

Prince Leonard with Hutt River Province money and passport

Credit:
Gamma-Rapho

In the years since its formation, Hutt River became a significant tourist attraction and gathered a population of 10,000 non-resident citizens. It produces stamps, signed a treaty with Aboriginal land owners,  has its own Hutt River dollars, and issues visas and stamps visitors’ passports.

Prince Leonard was born in Western Australia and left school at age 14 before serving in the air force during World War II in Borneo. He married his wife, later Princess Shirley, in Fremantle in Western Australia in 1947 after they met at a wartime dance. She died in 2013.

After seceding, his fight with authorities continued for decades.

In 2017, he and his son Prince Wayne, or Arthur, were ordered to pay more than £1.8 million in taxes after a judge dismissed the province’s legal claims to sovereignty as “gobbledygook”.

“Anyone can declare themselves a sovereign in their own home but they cannot ignore the laws of Australia or not pay tax,” said Western Australian supreme court judge Rene Le Miere.

Prince Leonard is survived by seven children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.