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Redonda is a very small, unpopulated Caribbean island or islet which is politically a part of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda, in the Leeward Islands, West Indies. This small island lies 56.2 km (34.9 miles) SW of Antigua, in the waters directly between the islands of Nevis and Montserrat. Redonda is closer to Montserrat than to any other island, at 22.5 km (14 miles) northwest of that island, and 32 km (20 miles) southeast of Nevis.
Redonda is a remnant of the cone of an extinct volcano, which protrudes very steeply from the sea, mostly as sheer cliffs. The land area measures somewhere between 1.6 km² (400 acres) and 2.6 km² (640 acres). The highest point is 296 m (971 feet).
Christopher Columbus discovered Redonda in 1493 on his second journey. He claimed it for the Spanish crown, but did not land there. He named the island Santa María la Redonda, 'redonda' being Spanish for "round", reflecting the island's apparent shape, or profile, when viewed from the side. In the 1860s, the island became a British possession.
According to a (possibly imaginary) version of events first recounted many years later by M.P. Shiel, a minor author of fantasy and science fiction, in the year of his birth, 1865, his father Matthew Dowdy Shiell, from Montserrat, decided to celebrate his first male child by arranging (supposedly legitimately) for the boy to be crowned King of Redonda at the age of 15, in a ceremony purportedly carried out on the small island by a bishop. Shiel himself was the first person to refer to Redonda as the "Kingdom of Redonda". For a period of time the "Royal" lineage of Redonda had a literary theme, with the title being passed on to writers and the like, such as John Gawsworth. However, the title of "King" of Redonda is currently disputed by at least four different people, some of whom do not have a special literary connection to the legend.
During the decades following the 1860s, the rich guano (phosphine oxide) deposits of Redonda were mined for fertiliser, with an annual yield of up to 7,000 tons. Only during this time was the island inhabited by workers; (the population was 120 in 1901).
During the First World War, the mining operations ceased, and the workers left the island, which has remained uninhabited since then. It became a dependency of Antigua and Barbuda in 1967.
In 2007, the Wellington Arms pub in Southampton, England, attempted to declare themselves an embassy of the "nation" of Redonda, in order to gain diplomatic immunity from a nation-wide ban on smoking in enclosed workplaces, including pubs.
- Pub landlord fights smoke ban by declaring his boozer an embassy, Luke Salkeld, Daily Mail, URL accessed 26 June 2007.