By Kathy Marks
Whether your subjects number in the millions or would struggle to fill a pub, the duties of a monarch can become insupportable in old age and poor health.
Battling emphysema at the age of 91, Prince Leonard I of Hutt River Principality a micronation in Western Australia has abdicated after 47 years, making way for his youngest son, 59-year-old Prince Graeme.
Once plain Leonard Casley, the former cereal farmer seceded from Australia in 1970, declaring his 30-square-mile property an independent state following a dispute with the government over wheat production quotas.
Hutt River which has its own flag, currency, stamps and passports, although they are not officially recognised is the oldest of about 30 micronations dotted around Australia, believed to be home to nearly half of the worlds such mini-states.
Others include the Empire of Atlantium, founded by three teenagers in 1981 and based in a suburban Sydney flat, and the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands, a cluster of tiny uninhabited atolls off the Queensland coast.
The latter, one of Australias newer micronations, was formed in 2004 in protest at the then conservative federal government rewriting the countrys Marriage Act to clarify that same-sex unions were illegal.
Of similar vintage is the Principality of Snake River, near the wine-growing town of Mudgee in New South Wales, which was established in 2003 by Paul and Helena Jensen following a legal dispute with their mortgage lender.
The Principality of Wy, meanwhile, was founded in the Sydney suburb of Mosman in 2004 after the local council refused a familys request to build a driveway.
Enthroned last weekend at a ceremony attended by 150 guests, Prince Graeme has stepped up at a tricky moment for Hutt River, situated 350 miles north of Perth. The Casleys have just been slapped with a A$2.6m (1.6m) demand for back tax.
Yesterday Graeme vowed to take on the Australian Tax Office in Western Australias Supreme Court. We havent got that sort of money, he said. Well just keep fighting until they understand that were an independent, sovereign country.
The case is the latest skirmish in a long-running battle with Australian authorities, who have at times taken a jaundiced view of Hutt River. Prince Leonard even briefly declared war on Australia in 1977, following repeated tax demands. (A truce was agreed without a shot being fired.)
Less bellicose these days, Leonard announced earlier this month that he had decided to hand over power, citing declining health and his lengthy reign he had been sovereign of our small nation for more than half my life, he noted.
The choice of Graeme, a primary school teacher, rather than one of his six elder siblings, was a surprise. However, as he explained, the others are all at retirement age, so they dont want to take on a demanding full-time job.
Hutt Rivers Minister of State and Education for the past three years, Prince Graeme said he was honoured and humbled to be named his fathers successor.
He hopes to establish friendlier relations with government, and to boost the principalitys population currently about 20, and consisting of the Casleys plus a few farm workers to closer to 2,000.
Depending on his health, Prince Leonard will continue to greet some of the 10,000 or so tourists who beat a path to Hutt River each year to meet the idiosyncratic royals, have their passports stamped and buy the local stamps and dollars.
At the enthronment ceremony, Leonard handed over the royal sceptre, seal and cloak. We dont actually have a crown, said Graeme. Although no dignitaries attended Australias Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, sent a cordial email explaining he was busy it was a wonderful day, according to Graeme.
Before abdicating, Leonard created two new Hutt River knights, one of the recipients being his long-time GP. Guests were offered cucumber, curried egg and salmon sandwiches.
The familys spirits were buoyed last year by a letter from Buckingham Palace conveying the Queens good wishes for Hutt Rivers 46th anniversary, which they interpreted as an official nod of approval. Might news of Leonards abdication in favour of his middle-aged son give the Queen pause for thought? Im sure it would have sprung a question into her mind, said Graeme.
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