Kingdom of Redonda
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Kingdom of Redonda
Motto: Floreat Redonda!
Anthem: O God Who Gave Our Island Soil
Words by Leigh Vaughan Henry, Words attributed to John Gawsworth
|2 km2 (0.77 sq mi)(estimate)|
|Membership||More than 100 Redondan peers have been created since the 1930s|
The island lies between the islands of
Despite these difficulties, from 1865 until 1912 Redonda was the centre of a lucrative trade in guano mining, and many thousands of tons of phosphates were shipped from Redonda to Britain. The ruins associated with the mineworkings can still be seen on the island.
Redonda also is a
The history of the "Kingdom" of Redonda is shrouded in doubt and legend, and it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.
According to tradition, Shiel's father, Matthew Dowdy Shiell, who was a trader and Methodist lay preacher from the nearby island of
The son (originally named Matthew Phipps Shiell but later known as the writer M.P. Shiel) claimed he was crowned on Redonda at the age of 15, in 1880, by a bishop from Antigua. However, as M.P. Shiel's recounting of this story never saw print until 1929, it is possible that some, or most, or possibly all of the story of his being crowned King of Redonda may in fact be pure invention.
In his writings about Redonda, however, Shiel is critical of the egotism that led him to accept the title, suggesting that there may have been some truth behind the story of the coronation. Shiel does however cite two different names for the bishop who performed the coronation: the Reverend Dr. Mitchinson and the Rev. Hugh Semper. These men were both genuine clerics in the Caribbean during this period. The contradiction could of course be explained as due to Shiel's faulty memory rather than the story being based on total invention. In “About Myself” Shiel writes that his attempt to impose a tribute tax on the American guano miners was a request they refused. This early non-recognition of his kingship is another possible argument that the coronation actually occurred.
Several of Shiel’s works of fiction concerned various aspects of monarchy. One of his detective heroes is called Cummings King Monk. In Shiel's 1901 end-of-the-world story
In later life, Shiel gave the title, and the rights to his work, to his chief admirer, London poet and editor
Gawsworth had also apparently promised to make the first son of his friends Charles and Jean Leggett, Max John Juan Leggett, his Redondan heir if they gave the child (born in the late 1950s), his royal name of Juan.
Some Redondan scholars accept that Gawsworth bestowed the title on his friend the publican Arthur John Roberts in 1967, by "Irrevocable Covenant". Prior to this the late writer
Self-appointed monarchs of Redonda include
Publisher, author and environmentalist
Jon Wynne-Tyson subsequently visited Redonda in 1979, on an expedition organized by the philanthropist and Shielian publisher A. Reynolds Morse. Wynne-Tyson ruled as King Juan II until abdicating in favour of the novelist
Arthur John Robert’s title was subsequently inherited by William L. Gates, whom Gawsworth had given the title of "Baron L'Angelier de Blythswood de Redonda". From his home at Thurlton, Norfolk, Gates, as "King Leo", presides over a group known as "The Redondan Foundation", not be confused with "The Redondan Cultural Foundation" set up by Paul de Fortis (see below). As in Gawsworth’s reign, meetings of these rival groups have been held at the Fitzroy Tavern in London. King Leo has reigned as king since 1989. Bob Williamson, who lived on Antigua until his death in 2009, set himself up as the rival "King Robert the Bald". King Robert the Bald was succeeded in 2009 by yachting writer Michael Howorth.
In 1988, the late London clergyman Paul de Fortis established "The Redondan Cultural Foundation". Because of what he viewed as the inaction of the various rival monarchs, de Fortis promoted a new king, Cedric Boston (born on Montserrat in 1960). Boston claimed the Redondan throne in 1984, winning the allegiance of a number of Gawsworth’s peers.
On the question of the kingdom of Redonda, Wynne-Tyson has written:
The legend is and should remain a pleasing and eccentric fairy tale; a piece of literary mythology to be taken with salt, romantic sighs, appropriate perplexity, some amusement, but without great seriousness. It is, after all, a fantasy.
A stellar legion of Redondan peers, largely writers, date back to the Shiel and Gawsworth eras. They include
Wynne-Tyson, Javier Marias, Bob Williamson, William Gates and Cedric Boston were all interviewed in the BBC Radio 4 documentary Redonda: The Island with Too Many Kings, broadcast in May 2007.