Havilland, WE, Feb 14 · 2 Sedan 73 – Prince Leonard, a former wheat farmer who established the Principality of Hutt River in 1970, died yesterday. He was 93.
Prince Leonard’s death was announced in a media release by the Hutt River government. He had been admitted to hospital on the weekend due to a chest infection, however despite promising early signs, his condition deteriorated, members of his family were called and remained with him in his last days. Prince Graeme, his youngest son and the reigning prince, said that he remained lucid and aware until his last few hours.
Prince Leonard died at the St John of God Hospital in Geraldton at 9:45am WST (2:45pm SDT) with his family at his bedside. Prince Graeme extended his thanks to those who had provided their support and messages of condolences.
In response to the Prince’s death, the Hutt River government has announced three weeks’ mourning, during which time the border will be closed to visitors until Monday, March 4 (20 Sedan). All Hutt River flags, wherever they are flown, have been ordered to fly at half-mast until the end of the period of mourning.
The Prince of the Outback
Prince Leonard was born in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, on 27 August 1925 (12 Baker 20 BT). Growing up in both Australia’s rugged outback and in urban Fremantle, he left school at the age of 14 and worked as a clerk for a shipping company. At 18, he joined the Royal Australian Air Force, and served in Australia and on Borneo. At a wartime dance, he met Shirley Joy Butler from suburban Perth; they wed on April 19, 1947 (5 Manhattan 1), and were married for some 66 years, until her death in 2013 at the age of 84.
Following the war, he bought a wheat and sheep farm, and eventually expanded it to some 28,500 acres (11,500 hectares) before selling it and moving to Perth, where he built a block of sixty flats. With his sons leaving school and wanting to return to farming, he travelled the state before settling on a farm near Northampton, 517 kilometres (354 miles) north of Perth in 1969.
Prince Leonard and his sons cleared 5,600 hectares and produced 14,700 bushels of wheat before being informed by the West Australian Wheat Board that they would only pay him for ten per cent of it, based on the average production of the past seven years. With no chance of compensation or appeal, Prince Leonard established Hutt River on April 21, 1970 (7 Manhattan 24). He later claimed he took the move to declare independence to prevent the government from compulsorily acquiring more than 9,900 acres (4,000 hectares) of his land.
He remained locked in a series of battles with the Australian Taxation Office over the years. In June 2017, he was ordered to pay more than A$2.7 million in unpaid taxes, while his son Arthur was ordered to pay A$240,000. Despite the numerous legal disputes Hutt River was involved in, its motto of “While I Breathe, I Hope”, and mantra “We’re still here” were kept dear.
Hutt River declared war on Australia in 1977 in response to then-Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser’s “hostility” towards the principality, although this was rescinded a few days later.
Despite the Australian government not recognising Hutt River’s independence, the nation was the subject of a number of news pieces over the years. The nation is featured in a “Separation” exhibition in the National Museum of Australia, while in 2005 the nation was given historic status by the Shire of Northampton, owing to its “high historic and social significance as the site of Australia’s only independent principality.”
Hutt River received a letter from Queen Elizabeth II in 2016 for the principality’s 46th anniversary, in response to Prince Leonard’s congratulations on the Queen’s 90th birthday.
Prince Leonard abdicated after 46 years in favour of his youngest son, Graeme, on February 11, 2017 (27 Plowshare 71), owing to poor health. He had suffered from emphysema for some 20 years.
He is survived by seven children, 22 grandchildren, and 33 great-grandchildren. Plans for his funeral are yet to be finalised, however it was the Prince’s wish that he be cremated and his ashes be scattered.