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Summary Article: Redonda
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Uninhabited island in the eastern Caribbean, lying 56 km/35 mi southwest of Antigua; area 1.3 sq km/0.5 sq mi. It is one of the three islands which make up the state of Antigua and Barbuda and is important for its phosphate deposits from bird guano.

Despite its inaccessibility – the only anchorage is poor and almost unprotected against the prevailing wind and swell – mining operations began in the 1860s, using labourers from Montserrat. Redonda is now the home of several bird species which have disappeared from neighbouring islands.

In 1493 Redonda was sighted by the explorer Christopher Columbus, but he did not go ashore. Matthew Dowdy Shiel, an Irish sea-trader, claimed the island as his kingdom in 1865 and he remained as king in 1872 when it was annexed by Britain and became part of the colony of Antigua.

In 1880 Matthew Shiel abdicated the throne in favour of his son, Matthew Phipps Shiel, who settled in Britain and became a novelist. His successor was his friend and literary executor, John Gawsworth, who became Juan, third King of Redonda, and created a literary aristocracy for the island by conferring titles on his friends, including the novelists J B Priestley and Lawrence Durrell. The throne then passed to Arthur John Roberts who abdicated in 1989 in favour of his friend William Leonard Gates, who took the title Leo, fifth King of Redonda. Jon Wynne-Tyson, John Gawsworth's literary executor, is another claimant to the throne.

Although Redonda is now uninhabited, there was once a post office there, and it is still possible to find stamps issued from the island.

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