30th August 1998
The King of Patagonia invades Minquiers
Most disputes over Minquiers, the reef between Jersey and the European mainland, have been with French fishermen and, earlier, French soldiers, who claimed the territory for France. Eventually, the matter was settled in the international courts, which declared that they were definitively the territory of Jersey.
King of Patagonia
French novelist Jean Raspail claimed Minquiers in the name of the king of Patagonia, who by then had been dead for a century, in retaliation for the British occupation of the Channel Islands. As reported by The Times on its front page of 1 September 1998, “the only building on the largest island in the archipelago is a wooden shack containing a lavatory. Nailed to it was a plaque declaring the island to be the southernmost part of the British Isles. This has now been replaced by one describing it as a new royal Patagonian ‘colony’ and the northernmost region of Patagonia.”
The Union Flag was removed from the flagpole and replaced by the Patagonian standard – horizontal stripes of blue, white and green – before the declaration of occupation was issued.
‘A serious person’
The Independent of 1 September 1998 published, “Mr Raspail is, in almost all respects, a serious person. He is a chevalier of the Legion d’honneur, the highest French civilian honour. He has a four-inch entry in the French edition of Who’s Who… By claiming the Minquiers rocks… Mr Raspail and his followers wish to make two points… to challenge the ‘unacceptable and prolonged’ British occupation of the Falkland Islands (properly part of Patagonia, they claim). And they wish to keep alive the French claim to the sovereignty, and rich fisheries, of the Minquiers archipelago”.
The two-day occupation was brought to a peaceful close when PC Graeme Fitchett landed on the reef and returned the Union Flag to the flagpole. Author Raspail agreed to return the original Union Flag, but, said the BBC, “only if he can return it on neutral ground – a Paris bar”.
A similar invasion was carried out in October 2019, with The Telegraph reporting on the 26th that “a tiny British island was ‘invaded’ in the name of a French ‘king’ with the group raising the Patagonian flag and painting a toilet block in their national colours” before retreating to France. The States of Jersey said that it had been made aware of the action and understood it to be “the latest in a series of practical jokes by the well-known author Jean Raspail”.
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Other events that occured in August
Parliament debates Jersey’s treatment of prisoners of war
- A Conservative MP in London was concerned that Jersey might have been treating German PoWs too leniently during the First World War.
- Read more…