The Kingdom of Redonda is a micronation associated with the tiny uninhabited Caribbean island of Redonda.

Kingdom of Redonda
Micronation
Flag of Reino de Redonda
Flag
of Reino de Redonda
Coat of arms
Motto: Floreat Redonda!
Anthem:  O God Who Gave Our Island Soil
Words by Leigh Vaughan Henry, Words attributed to John Gawsworth
StatusCurrent
Official languagesSpanish, English
Demonym(s)Redondan(s)
Organizational structureAbsolute monarchy
Establishment
• Declared
1865
Area claimed
• Total
2 km2 (0.77 sq mi)(estimate)
MembershipMore than 100 Redondan peers have been created since the 1930s
Purported currencyNone
A view of the small island of Redonda from the southeast in 2012

The island lies between the islands of Nevis and Montserrat, within the inner arc of the Leeward Islands chain, in the West Indies. Redonda is legally a dependency of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. The island is just over one mile (1.6 km) long and one-third mile (0.54 km) wide, rising to a 971-foot (296 m) peak.

The island teems with bird life, but is more or less uninhabitable by humans because there is no source of freshwater other than rain, and most of the island is extremely steep and rocky, with only a relatively small, sloping plateau area of grassland at the summit. Landing on the island is a very challenging process, possible only via the leeward coast on days when the seas are calm. Climbing to the top of the island is also very arduous.

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 micronation which may, arguably and briefly, have existed as an independent kingdom during the 19th century, according to an account told by the fantasy writer M. P. Shiel. The title to the supposed kingdom is still contested to this day in a half-serious fashion. Despite the official appointment bt abdication of the King Josè Juan I in 2019, the Kingdom of Redonda is still associated with a number of supposedly aristocratic members, whose titles are awarded by whoever is currently the "King". Currently there are a number of individuals in different countries who may claim to be the sole legitimate "King" of Redonda until legal counterproof.

History edit

The history of the "Kingdom" of Redonda is shrouded in doubt and legend, and it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.[1]

During Shiel's lifetime edit

M. P. Shiel (1865–1947), an author of works of adventure and fantasy fiction, was the first person to give an account of the "Kingdom of Redonda," in 1929, in a promotional pamphlet for a reissue of his books.[2]

According to tradition, Shiel's father, Matthew Dowdy Shiell, who was a trader and Methodist lay preacher from the nearby island of Montserrat, claimed the island of Redonda when his son, Matthew Phipps Shiell, was born. Supposedly the father felt he could legitimately do this, because it appeared to be the case that no country had officially claimed the islet as territory. Shiell senior is also said to have requested the title of King of Redonda from Queen Victoria and according to the legend, it was granted to him by the British Colonial Office rather than by Victoria herself, provided there was no revolt against colonial power.[3]

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.[1]

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.[1] 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 The Purple Cloud, the protagonist Adam Jeffson, the last man on earth, establishes himself as monarch of the devastated globe, while Shiel's novel The Lord of the Sea (1901) has Richard Hogarth, another Overman figure, coming to dominate the world. In 1899, Shiel wrote about visiting Redonda in his adventure novel Contraband of War.

In later life, Shiel gave the title, and the rights to his work, to his chief admirer, London poet and editor John Gawsworth (Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong), the biographer of Arthur Machen, who was the realm's Archduke. Gawsworth (1912–70) seems to have passed on the title several times when the writer was low in funds.[1] Gawsworth's realm has been facetiously termed "Almadonda" (by the Shielian scholar A. Reynolds Morse (1914–2000)) after the Alma pub in Westbourne Grove, Bayswater, London, where "King Juan" frequently held court in the 1960s.[4]

After Shiel's death edit

Gawsworth had also apparently promised to make Max Juan Tonge Leggett, the first son of his friends Charles and Jean Leggett, his Redondan heir if they gave the child (born in the late 1950s) his royal name of Juan.[1]

Some Redondan scholars accept that Gawsworth bestowed the title on his friend the publican Arthur John Roberts in 1967, by "Irrevocable Covenant".[1] Prior to this the late writer Dominic Behan (1928–89) also claimed Gawsworth transferred the title to him in 1960. It is also said that Gawsworth handed on the throne to one Aleph Kamal, whose peers[clarification needed] include the novelist Edna O'Brien.

Self-appointed monarchs of Redonda include/included Michael Lawler in 2010, Marvin Kitman and William Scott Home. Scott Home's claim to the title was, he says, based on ESP and reincarnation.[1] Following the death of HRH Robert Williamson (aka King Bob the Bald), which created a royal vacancy, Michael Lawler visited Redonda on his sailing yacht "Traveler" on 29 January 2010, with his son Brian Lawler and an Indonesian crew member Yansen Padang. Lawler went ashore and filled the vacancy by proclaiming himself to be the Seventh King of Redonda, and crowned his wife Barbara Lawler as the Queen of Redonda.

Publisher, author and environmentalist Jon Wynne-Tyson, however, claims that Gawsworth, prior to dying in 1970, bestowed the kingship on him with the literary executorships, although the writer Iain Fletcher was the joint literary executor for Gawsworth.[citation needed]

Later developments edit

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 Javier Marías of Madrid in 1997, transferring the literary executorship of Gawsworth and Shiel along with the title.[5][6]

Arthur John Roberts’ title was subsequently inherited by William Leonard Gates, whom Gawsworth had given the title of "Baron L'Angelier de Blythswood de Redonda". From his home at Thurlton, Norfolk, Gates, who was known as King Leo, presided over a group known as "The Redondan Foundation", not be confused with "The Redondan Cultural Foundation" set up by Paul de Fortis (see below). Gates died on 2 January 2019 and his crown passed to Queen Josephine.

As in Gawsworth's reign, meetings of these rival groups have been held at the Fitzroy Tavern in Fitzrovia, central London. King Leo reigned as king for thirty years, since 1989.[7] Williamson, who lived on Antigua until his death in 2009, set himself up as the rival "King Robert the Bald".[8] King Robert the Bald was succeeded in 2009 by yachting writer Michael Howorth.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

A stellar legion of Redondan peers, largely writers, date back to the Shiel and Gawsworth eras. They include Arthur Machen, Oliver Stonor, Edgar Jepson, Thomas Burke, Victor Gollancz, Carl Van Vechten, Arthur Ransome, Lawrence Durrell, Gerald Durrell, G. S. Fraser, Michael Harrison, John Heath-Stubbs, Dylan Thomas, Henry Miller, Julian MacLaren-Ross, Philip Lindsay, Rebecca West, John Waller, August Derleth, Stephen Graham, Dorothy L. Sayers, J. B. Priestley, Eden Phillpotts, Stephen Potter, Martin Secker, Frank Swinnerton, John Wain, and Julia Morton-Marr (IHTEC), Esther Terry Wright and Julian Symons and the British beat poet, Royston Ellis, who was ennobled twice.

Actors ennobled during Gawsworth's reign were Michael Denison, Dulcie Gray, Barry Humphries, Diana Dors, Dirk Bogarde, Mai Zetterling, Vincent Price, Joan Greenwood, and Robert Beatty. Also honoured were broadcasters Libby Purves, Roy Plomley and Alan Coren. King Xavier's peers include Pedro Almodóvar, Francis Ford Coppola, A. S. Byatt, Alice Munro, Umberto Eco, George Steiner, Ray Bradbury, Frank Gehry, J. M. Coetzee, Éric Rohmer, and Philip Pullman. The artist Stephen Chambers was ennobled in 2017.

On John Gawsworth's trip to Florence in the spring of 1970, the investiture was confirmed to Giancarlo Noferi by deed signed before witnesses. Giancarlo Ezio I wished to pass on the meaning and mission of the Kingdom of Redonda, namely that the kingdom is a literary entity that creates an intellectual aristocracy, by conferring in 2013 the monarchical succession of Redonda by bequest in his will to Giuseppe G. Garbarino, a writer and administrator of a publishing house in Florence. After Giancarlo Noferi passed away in 2019, Giuseppe G. Garbarino officially picked up the cultural legacy associated with the island of Redonda by receiving the Crown of the Kingdom with the title of King Jose Juan I.

Among the various initiatives of liberality and cultural patronage of King Jose Juan I, we recall the establishment of the Knightly Order of Santa Maria de la Redonda, which took place in Florence with a solemn Investiture Ceremony in the summer of 2023.

Wynne-Tyson, Javier Marías, 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.[12]

coat of arms
Greater coat of arms
Lesser coat of arms

Death of Javier Marias edit

On 11 September 2022, Javier Marías died in Madrid, leaving the throne up for grabs.

List of kings edit

Undisputed

Disputed

  • Arthur John Roberts, 1967–1989 (styled as King Juan II)
  • Jon Wynne-Tyson, 1970–1997 (styled as King Juan II)
  • William Leonard Gates, 1989–2019 (styled as King Leo)
  • Javier Marías, 1997–2022 (styled as King Xavier)
  • Max Leggett, dal 1950
  • Giancarlo Ezio I di Montedoglio (Giancarlo Noferi, 1967 - 2013), who abdicated in favor of:
  • Giuseppe Giovanni I (Giuseppe G. Garbarino, from 2019)

Another pretender to the throne of Redonda was Giancarlo Noferi, or Giancarlo Ezio I of Montedoglio, as he called himself at the time, who died in 2019; Giancarlo Noferi was named after Ian Fletcher, a close friend of John Gawsworth and his administrator, or King Juan I, met during one of his travels (see British Fantasy and Science-fiction Writers, 1918-1960, and M. P. Shiel, A Biography of His Early Years). During John Gawsworth's trip to Florence in the spring of 1970, the investiture of Giancarlo Noferi was confirmed with a deed signed in front of witnesses. Giancarlo Ezio I wanted to hand down the meaning of the Kingdom of Redonda, or that the kingdom is a literary entity that creates an intellectual aristocracy, to Giuseppe Garbarino, who lives in Florence, Italy, writer and administrator of a publishing house, in 2013. After the death of Giancarlo Noferi, Giuseppe Garbarino has collected the cultural heritage linked to the island of Redonda.

Others

  • Bob Williamson, 2000–2009 (styled as King Bob the Bald)
  • Michael Howorth 2009– (styled as King Michael the Grey)

List of titles granted by King Josè Juan I (Giuseppe Giovanni I) edit

In 2023 edit

By birthright edit

Alberto Garbarino, Prince of Centaur's Cave and Lord of Landing Rock

Nicholas Garbarino, prince of Wild Goat Gorge and lord of South Point

Titles granted edit

Marco Francesco Giuseppe Crisci di Sant'Alfonso, Count of Phipps Point, Knight of Santa Maria de Redonda

Max Galardini, Marquis of Rasta Cliffs, Knight of Santa Maria de Redonda

Fabio Cecchini, Lord of Casaurina, Knight of Santa Maria de Redonda

Sergio Turini, Lord of Cactus Stand, Knight of Santa Maria de Redonda

Gabriele Malquori, Knight of Santa Maria de Redonda

Caterina Ceccuti, Countess of Shiel's Summit, Dame of Santa Maria de Redonda

Palace appointments edit

Marco Francesco Giuseppe Crisci di Sant'Alfonso, Grand Chamberlain and Chancellor of the Order of Santa Maria de Redonda

In popular culture edit

In 2007, the Wellington Arms pub in Southampton, England, attempted to declare itself an embassy of Redonda, in order to gain diplomatic immunity from a nationwide ban on smoking in enclosed workplaces, including pubs. This ultimately failed when the Foreign and Commonwealth Office pointed out that His Majesty's Government recognises Redonda only as a dependent territory of Antigua and Barbuda which, accordingly, is not entitled to establish an embassy or high commission in the United Kingdom.[13]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Squires, John D. "Of Dreams and Shadows: An Outline of the Redonda Legend with Some Notes on Various Claimants to its Uncertain Throne". alangullette.com. Archived from the original on 10 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  2. ^ Squires, John D. "The Redonda Legend: A Chronological Bibliography". alangullette.com. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2006.
  3. ^ de Fortis, Paul (1991). "A History of Redonda". In de Fortis, Rev. Paul (ed.). The Kingdom of Redonda, 1865-1990. Cheshire: The Alyesford Press.
  4. ^ Morse, A. Reynolds (1980). The Works of M. P. Shiel, Vol. 3: The Shielography Updated, part 2. Cleveland: The Reynolds Morse Foundation. pp. 531–552.
  5. ^ Wynne-Tyson, Jon (2004). Finding the Words: A Publishing Life. Wilby, Norfolk: Michael Russell. [Chapter 8, ‘The Cause of Half Our Sorrows,’ covers the author’s perspective on Gawsworth, Redonda, and the transfer of his disputed royal claim to Javier Marías, pp. 158–195.]
  6. ^ Fay, Sarah (Winter 2006). "Javier Marías, The Art of Fiction No. 190 (interview)". The Paris Review. No. 179.
  7. ^ Hutchison, Henry (2005). Realm of Redonda: A Definitive History of the Island-Kingdom of Santa Maria la Redonda in the West Indies. Thurlton, Norfolk: The Redondan Foundation. [The history of the legend from the perspective of William Gates’s claim.]
  8. ^ "Official Web-Site For The Kingdom of Redonda". thekingdomofredonda.com. 1 September 2009. Archived from the original on 5 January 2014. [Website of the late Bob Williamson]
  9. ^ "Welcome | Kingdom of Redonda | Michael the Grey, King of Redonda". kingdomofredonda.com. [Website of Michael Howorth]
  10. ^ de Fortis 1991, pp. 19–41 [Argues the case for Cedric Boston].
  11. ^ Wynne-Tyson, Jon (November 1981). Issue 91. "M.P. Shiel: Right Royal Fantasist". Antiquarian Book Monthly Review. 8 (11): 417.
  12. ^ BBC Radio 4 (27 May 2007). "Redonda: The Island with Too Many Kings".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ "Pub 'embassy' dodges smoking ban". BBC. 27 June 2007. Retrieved 21 December 2007.

Further reading edit

External links edit