Australian micronation 'prince' abdicates after 46 years

Prince Leonard in red robes and his late wife, Princess Shirley Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Prince Leonard (here with his late wife, Princess Shirley) says he wanted to step down while he could still be of help to his successor

A micronation in Western Australia has a new leader after its 91-year-old self-proclaimed "prince" stepped down due to ill-health.

Prince Leonard had presided over Hutt River Province, a private estate 500km (300 miles) north of Perth, since it announced it was seceding from Australia in 1970 in a row over wheat quotas. His position and regal robes have now passed to his son, Prince Graeme.

Micronations are self-declared states not recognised by world governments - one of the most famous, Sealand, is based on an offshore platform in the North Sea.

Referred to as a "principality" on its website, Hutt River Province covers 75 sq km (30 sq miles) of farmland and has its own flag and currency. It isn't recognised by the Australian government and is still subject to its laws. That's caused some friction with the Australian tax authorities, who are currently seeking 2.6m Australian dollars ($2m; £1.6m) from the family, ABC notes.

It welcomes visitors from across the border though, even promising that a member of the royal family will greet tourists and show them around. Anyone hoping to visit requires a visa, costing the princely sum of A$4 (US$3; £2.50).

As for what the future holds under Prince Graeme, he wants more people to move to Hutt River Province so that a community can develop. "We're hoping to build a harmonious relationship with the Australian government and the Australian people," he tells ABC, adding that he would like to see 1,000 to 2,000 people make the place their home in the next five years.

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