The kingdom of Vinterfell
In the cold northern reaches of England, there is a town that many have travelled through on the east coast mainline but never visited. But as the leaves fall in the autumn of 2016, it is here that the seat of the vinous north has been established: Welcome to Vinterfell.
Having moved to Darlington recently, I have discovered that I am only Master of Wine in the 202 mile kingdom stretching from York to Edinburgh, and thus am staking my claim as as ruler of the vinous north. I have a Burger King crown to prove it.
It’s not unprecedented for individuals to start up their own kingdoms: in 1967, Sealand, an oil rig six miles off the British coast, declared its independence and its owner crowned his wife Queen of Sealand. However, when Britain extended its boundaries from three miles to 12 miles off the coast, Sealand became part of Britain but its owners still claim its independence as a nation. It has its own stamps, passports, coins and sells Sealand memorabilia on line. Perhaps Vinterfell could be a tidy little earner…
The idea for Vinterfell took root on a rare evening of cultural enlightenment in Darlington. Nick Middleton the author of An Atlas of Countries that Don’t Exist: a Compendium of Fifty Unrecognised and Largely Unnoticed States turned up at the local branch of the Royal Geographic Society to talk about his new book and to share stories of countries that don’t exist.
These include territories like Greenland, northern Cyprus, Tibet and Taiwan as well as indigenous populations trying to regain sovereignty. There’s Barotseland, a ‘mobile kingdom’ of 3.5 million people who migrate annually as the Zambezi river floods. Promised self-rule in 1964 when they became part of the new Zambia in 1964, Zambia reneged on its deal and they remain a nation lacking recognition.
But my favourites are the somewhat eccentic ‘countries’: Hutt River covers an area of 75 square kilometres in Western Australia. This micro-nation was founded to avoid strict quotas on wheat production by a guy called Leonard, who later became Prince Leonard I of Hutt and crowned his wife HRH Princess Sheila. Hutt River’s residents – all 23 of them at the last count – don’t have to pay Australian tax, as they’re considered non-residents. The principality has its own constitution, currency and postal service too.
Then there’s the kingdom of Elgaland-Vargaland: a place we’ve all been to without realising. Created by two Swedes in 1992, it is made up of all the no-man’s land and no-man’s sea between territorial borders, digital territory and claims “Every time you travel somewhere, and every time you enter another form, such as the dream state, you visit Elgaland-Vargaland.” It has its own national anthem and 1114 signed-up citizens but declares it is “the most populous realm on Earth.”
First of all, Vinterfell needs a constitution drafted and if anyone would like to come to the official Coronation ceremony, it will be held in its capital, Darlington.
The currency here is wine, and language lessons (eg: ‘why-aye’ emphatic yes) will be provided for those who cannot understand the dialect of the indigenous population. While there are as yet no stamps nor passports being sold as memorabilia, visitors may purchase a limited edition badge, making them honorary citizens of Vinterfell (priced 2.99 excl. p&p).