The story of Prince Leonard of Hutt River: a rebel
A principality in western Australia
Leonard George Casley, first prince of Hutt River
Proclaimed independence
The origin of the dispute was wheat
Their own province
And then: their own country
Thanks to the 1945 Treason Act
Prince Leonard I and Princess Shirley
The territory of Hutt River
Symbols of a national state
The shield of Hutt River
The principality's coin
Touristy spot
A curious travel destination
Visa required
No recognition by the Australian government
Lawsuits in the Western Australian Supreme Court
The opinion of the Western Australian Supreme Court
Queen Elizabeth II of Hutt River
Mail to Hutt River via Canada
Princess Shirley, icon of Hutt River
The founder passed away
The second Prince of Hutt River
Prince Greame I
Fewer tourists and then... pandemic
Nation dissolved in August 2020
Tribute to the Prince of Hutt River
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The story of Prince Leonard of Hutt River: a rebel

There once was a prince in the extensive lands of western Australia. It wasn't long ago at all: Prince Leonard of Hutt River - and his heir, Prince Graeme I - ruled from the 1970s through the pandemic. But then, the independence of the small rebellious terriroty was over. Let's revisit the curious history of Hutt River.

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A principality in western Australia

At the approximate mark in this image lies the former Principality of Hutt River. It's a tiny, rebellious territory where in 1970 a few farmers decided to declare independence from Australia.

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Leonard George Casley, first prince of Hutt River

The instigator of Hutt River's quest for independence was Leonard George Casley. He ruled as the self-declared prince Leonard I until he passed away in 2019.

(Image: http://www.principality-hutt-river.org/gov)

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Proclaimed independence

The prince had proclaimed independence from the Australian government because he disagreed with its agricultural and tax policies.

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The origin of the dispute was wheat

In the territory of Hutt River, five families dedicated themselves mainly to the cultivation of wheat. When the Australian government imposed a quota on wheat in the 1960s, the five clans rebelled.

 

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Their own province

In 1969, they managed to transform little Hutt River into a province with the idea of obtaining more autonomy from the central government. They did all of this just to continue growing their wheat without government interference.

(Pictured: Lord John Davies, the first agent General in for the Hutt River province)

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And then: their own country

Declaring a province was not enough for the Hutt River people. When they failed to reach an agreement with the government, they declared their territory independent with exclusive loyalty to Queen Elizabeth II.

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Thanks to the 1945 Treason Act

The Hutt River families called upon an old British law, the 1945 Treason Act, then still in force in Australia, to Hutt River a separate state on April 21, 1970.

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Prince Leonard I and Princess Shirley

It was necessarity to make the state a principality in order to get the protection of another, old British law: the rule protecting all monarchies from government meddling. Leonard and Shirley Joy Casley became Hutt River's prince and princess.

(Image: http://www.principality-hutt-river.org/gov)

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The territory of Hutt River

The territory of Hutt River measures only 75 square kilometres. Its population consists of about 60 people.

(Image: Aotearoa, Wikimedia. Based on: Australian topographic map 1:250.000 and maps from Hutt River web site)

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Symbols of a national state

As a principality, Hutt River had its own flag, shield, money, stamps, and other official symbols to emphasize that it was its own country.

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The shield of Hutt River

The principality had its own shield, as all noble and royal houses do.

(Image: Abigbro - own work, Wikimedia)

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The principality's coin

The territory's coin was the Hutt River dollar, portraying (of course) the face of Prince Leonard.

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Touristy spot

The principality of Hutt River - with Princess Shirley as its poster girl - was an Australian curiosity for a long time. They called Prince Leonard 'The Prince of Oz.'

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A curious travel destination

The remote town drew travelers who liked to explore something different.

(Image: Baras, Wikimedia)

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Visa required

They had to get a visa stamp in their passports!

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No recognition by the Australian government

The Australian government never recognized Hutt River as a separate state. The central government and the principality of Hutt River spent decades litigating in the courts.

(Image: Prince Leonard holding local currency and the Hutt River passport)

 

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Lawsuits in the Western Australian Supreme Court

The legal battle between Hutt River and the Australian government was always centered on taxes. The Western Australian Supreme Court repeatedly called upon Hutt River to comply with Australian tax laws.

 

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The opinion of the Western Australian Supreme Court

The Supreme Court said in 2007: "Anyone can declare themselves a sovereign in their own home but they cannot ignore the laws of Australia or not pay tax."

(Image: Alex Proimos - own work, Wikimedia)

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Queen Elizabeth II of Hutt River

And even the Queen paid Hutt River no mind. The principality always claimed to be under the protection of the British crown. But Elizabeth II never made any personal gesture in support of the principality.

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Mail to Hutt River via Canada

The fight between the principality of Hutt River and Australia went so far that in 1976 the Australian postal service stopped providing its services to the territory. For some time, the mail arrived to Hutt River via Canada.

(Photo: John McArthur, Unsplash)

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Princess Shirley, icon of Hutt River

The principality of Hutt River has its own website. Iconic for its 'national' culture is the figure of Princess Shirley. She died in 2013.

(Image: http://www.principality-hutt-river.org/gov)

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The founder passed away

Prince Leonard died six years after his wife, in 2019. He was 93 years old.

Photo: screenshot from A Current Affair

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The second Prince of Hutt River

Prince Leonard appointed a successor among his seven children: Prince Graeme I.

(Image: http://www.principality-hutt-river.org/gov)

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Prince Greame I

However, as various journalists noted, the heir never had as much interest as his father in continuing the struggle for Hutt River's independence.

(Image: http://www.principality-hutt-river.org/gov)

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Fewer tourists and then... pandemic

Australia wasn't as hard hit by the Covid-19 virus as many other parts in the world, but its economy still suffered. To Hutt River, which had been in a pickle since 2019 after income from agriculture and tourism had decreased, the pandemic was the final blow.

(Image: OIC)

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Nation dissolved in August 2020

On August 3, 2020, the country officially ceased to exist. Hutt River stood under an incredible pressure from the Australian Tax office for millions of unpaid taxes during its 50-year history, CNN reported. In fact, as WA Today later noted, the land owned by the rebellious families of Hutt River had to be sold off to settle the tax dispute.

(Image: http://www.principality-hutt-river.org/gov)

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Tribute to the Prince of Hutt River

Although Hutt River is now longer independent and its founders likely broke, there are still tributes to the Prince of the remarkable microstate. They reflect on his life and on how it was dedicated to the preservation of a nation's independence and a people's protection against what they considered as predatory taxes.

(Image: Prince Leonard Bust, by Chris Fithall, Wikimedia)

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