The Principality of the Saltee Islands is a micronation founded in 1943 by Prince Michael Neale, an Irish farmer and businessman.
It consists of the islands of Greater Saltee and Little Saltee, which are located in St George’s Channel, three kilometres off the coast from the town of Kilmore Quay, Wexford, Ireland. The islands are respectively 0.89 km2 and 0.37 km2 in extent.
Prince Neale (Prince being his legal name) purchased the islands in 1943, with the intention of establishing them as a bird sanctuary. After building a landing strip for his private aircraft, Neale began a campaign of intensive reaforrestation, planting over 34,000 trees and shrubs on the main island between 1945 and 1950. In realisation of his boyhood dream of ruling over the islands as a monarch Neale also began styling himself (somewhat tongue-in-cheekily) Michael I, Prince of the Saltee Islands.
To give his principality a more corporeal form, Neale erected three stone monuments on the main island – a ‘welcome stone’, a large throne, which was dedicated to his mother, and an obelisk dedicated to himself in his role as Prince of the Saltees. In 1956 Neal was ceremonially crowned while seated upon the Saltees throne. Its inscription reads:
This chair is erected in memory of my Mother to whom I made a vow when I was 10 years old that one day I would own the Saltee Islands and become the First Prince of the Saltees.
Henceforth my heirs and successors can only proclaim themselves Prince of these Islands by sitting in this chair fully garbed in the Robes and Crown of the Islands and take the Oath of Succession.
Michael the First
For the most part, this was the limit of Neale’s overtly “princely” activities on the islands, and once his tree-plantings were complete he was content to leave them largely to the birds – dozens of species of which live there, breed there, or flock there on their annual migratory routes to and from Europe. In time, the Saltees became known as one of the world’s major bird sanctuaries, and they are today a mecca for ornithologists. Some 220 bird species have been recorded on the islands since the 1960s.
Prince Neale died in 1998, and was succeeded by his son Michael Neale, who is styled Prince Michael II. The Saltees remain the private property of the Neale family, who periodically occupy one of the islands’ two residences, however visitors remain free to enjoy year-round unhindered daytime access to Great Saltee, in accordance with Prince Neale’s wishes.