The big three, also known as the modern founding fathers of micronationalism refer to Kevin Baugh of Molossia (b. 1962), Paddy Roy Bates of Sealand (1921–2012) and Leonard Casley of Hutt River (1925–2019) as the three most prominent micronationalists of the 20th and 21st centuries. The micronationalists, alongside their respective micronations, are among the most publicised and influential of the micronational community.
The title is not to be confused with the "founding father of micronationalism", which is given to Emperor Norton.
The big three
In 1967, Bates, a then-British subject and pirate radio broadcaster, occupied HM Fort Roughs - also known as Roughs Tower; a fort built during World War II. Bates intended to broadcast his pirate radio station – called Radio Essex – from the platform, though it never did. Bates declared the independence of Roughs Tower and deemed it the Principality of Sealand. A year later, a British workmen entered what Bates claimed to be his territorial waters to service a navigational buoy near the platform. His son, Michael Bates, fired warning shots. But as the court ruled that the platform was outside British territorial limits, being beyond the then three-nautical-mile (6 km) limit of the country's waters, the case could not proceed. Bates died at the age of ninety-one on 9 October 2012; he had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for several years. He was succeeded by his son Michael as regent of Sealand.
In 1977, a teenage Baugh, alongside friend James Spielman, established The Grand Republic of Vuldstein. It would later become the Republic of Molossia in 1999, and Baugh was declared president-for-life. Conversely to Bates and Casley, Baugh is described as a "light secessionist", which means while Molossia does officially claim sovereignty, it openly acknowledges its status as a micronation and includes satirical and jocular elements. Baugh founded MicroCon in 2015, a bi-annual convention for micronationalists, and has been in attendance of all three instalments. He had previously attended PoliNation 2012.
In 1970, Casley declared the Principality of Hutt River an independent province in response to a dispute with the government of Western Australia over what the Casley family considered draconian wheat production quotas. In June 2017, Casley was ordered by the Supreme Court of Western Australia to pay $2.7 million unpaid tax. Casley abdicated in January 2017 due to his health, in favour of his eldest son Graeme, and died on 13 February 2019 at the age of ninety-three. His principality outlived him by eighteen months and was dissolved on 3 August 2020.
The three micronations and micronationalists have often been mentioned in journalistic articles on lists of micronations. All three were mentioned in Lonely Planet's 2006 Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations. Bates and Casley both have entries on Wikipedia.