In 1865 Matthew Dowdy Shiell, an Irish-Montserrat merchant, had a long-awaited son after eight daughters. Being a sexist, he wanted a kingdom for his son (the daughters could go marry) and as no one had yet claimed Redonda, he did. In 1880, when Shiell’s son, M.P. was 15, they took a day trip over to the rock with the Bishop of Antigua and other friends and Shiell had the bishop crown his son King Filipe I of Redonda. They all had a good time and consumed much alcohol.
M.P. Shiel (he dropped the second “L” on his name) moved to England and became a brilliant writer of Gothic romance and science fiction. Although never hugely popular among the general public, he was held in the highest esteem by literary figures of his day, including H.G. Wells. He maintained his title and held court in London, creating several literary duchies to the realm. In his later years, M.P. Shiel spent some time barraging the British government to get recognition of his title as King of Redonda. First they ignored him and then, to keep him quiet, gave him a pension for his contributions to literature.
Shiel died in 1947, but not before passing his crown to fellow writer John Galsworth (King Juan I). Juan I ended up taking to the drink, bestowed titles in exchange for beer, and tried unsuccessfully to sell the kingdom on several occasions. Before he died in 1970, he passed the title on to John Wyn-Tyson (King Juan II). In 1979, a group of Shiel enthusiasts, including King Juan II, paid a visit to the island and planted an ecological flag on top.
King Juan II, tiring of his royal role, abdicated on April 1st 1998, and Robert Williamson, a writer and artist who lives in Antigua, announced it had been passed to him (he claimed he had to be on the short list as he was only 5 ft 2 inches). King Robert (Bob the Bald) kept a flamboyantly colorful royal yacht (used in the Pirates of the Caribbean). He mounted an expedition to Redonda with 16 loyal subjects, and appointed many nobles to the realm. Since no country recognizes the king, anyone can claim it, and Bob was the best and most entertaining pretender.
However, the king, according to the Antigua and Barbuda Museum, and as directed in a letter written by Jon Wyn-Tyson, is Javier Marius, the Spanish novelist. Javier may, at a literary level, be more deserving, but Bob is around and fun and makes the whole thing more local.
King Michael the Grey was crowned on December 11, 2009 and he flew out from his super yacht to his new kingdom aboard his helicopter to raise his standard on the island--feat in itself as apparently there’s barely a place to stand upright on the steep-sloped island unless you’re a goat. Long live the King!