Redonda Kings & Royalties
Although Redonda is a dependency of Antigua and Barbuda, it is seldom mentioned and it seems not much is known about it here in our twin island state. Redonda is one huge rock with a few grassy patches here and there. It is an isolated, precipitous and forbidding island circled by sheer cliffs which fall almost perpendicularly for nearly a thousand feet into the sea beneath the summit on the western side.
Today, a few archaeological remains are evident on the small plateau where the workmen open water cistern. The footings of the Manager,s house may also be seen. The only remains of the cableway is a bucket and the large wheel around which the top of the cable turned to descend below. There are remnants of the stone pier left, but no sign of the steam engine that once powered the cable. Access to the plateau is only available up a narrow ravine over which the cableway passed. It is filled with loose scree and if climbing with a companion ahead of you it is highly dangerous for fear of falling rocks.
Redonda Royal Characters
Redonda is known worldwide for its curious catalogue of whimsical "Royal Characters" created by famous British literary figures. There have been many "Kings" of Redonda, there is a "High King" and many pretenders. It all started in Jun 1865 Matthew Dowdy Shiel (s.a.), an Irish merchant in Montserrat dedicated to shipping, was on the island or Redonda, which that at that time did not belong to any country. In celebration of the birth of his son, and with certain influence of the abundance of the alcohol, Matthew Shiel proclaimed the island for himself as a kingdom, and himself as King Matthew I.
Seven years later Britain took possession of the island ignoring the claim of Shiel. Following the British annexation, several dubious events occurred. Matthew abdicated on 21 of Jul 1880 in favor of his son, Philippe Shiel (Matthew Phipps Shiel) (b. 1865 - d. 1947), who was proclaimed king Philip (or Felipe) I, he died in 1947. leaving "the succession" - by testament to his literary adviser, the poet John Gawsworth as Juan I (whose real name was Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong)(b. 1912 - d. 1970).
Redondan literary Appointments
In 1936, a blood letting took place, making the Irish poet, John Gawsworth, King Juan I. In the 1940's and 50's several literary figures were given Redondan appointments, these include. Ellery Queen, Arthur Ransome, L. Durrell, Dylan Thomas, V. Gollanz, A. Knopf, Dorothy Sayers, Stephen Potter, J.B. Priestley and Rebecca West. Gawsworth tried to sell the island to the Swedish royal family but was prevented by Britain.
After the death of Juan I in 1970, the crown was demanded by John Wynne-Tyson (Juan II). However in 1984 the "nobility" recognized Cedric Boston (Cedric I) as king. In 1989 Juan II, designated a successor, history professor William Leonard Gates (Leo V) in favor of whom he abdicated on the 26 Oct 1989.
At the moment there are nine pretenders to "the throne" of Redonda, among them Bob Williamson (Robert I) a successor of Jon Wynne-Tyson, who assumes he inherited the "kingdom" on the death of Juan II. Robert I supposedly "acceded" to the throne in 1997. That there are now as many as nine pretenders to the Redondan throne is a testament to the confusion of Gawsworth's last years.
Power seems to be a wretched failing of the human race even to the extent of holding an influential meaningless title. This seems to be true for Redonda as much controversy has arisen over this fanciful title that really means nothing at all! Whoever now rightly holds the title of "King" we are sure he has a philosophy of "Live and Let Live", and prefers to go quietly about his business, just as he hopes that the fragile island of Redonda can be left to go quietly about the business of providing a safe environment for the birds and other wildlife that eke out a living on it's craggy shores.