Grand Duke Nicholas of Flandrensis
Nicholas of Flandrensis (aka Niels de Saint Gilliens and Niels Vermeersch) is the founder and the head of state of the Grand Duchy of Flandrensis. He is one of the co-founders of the Antarctic Micronational Union and was elected as its first Secretary-General on 15 January 2010. Well-known for his disapproval toward micronational conflicts and the foundation of the "Union Against Micronational War" he was awarded with three micronational peace-awards. He was known as Niels I of Flandrensis until August of 2020, when he took the regnal name Nicholas.
After transforming his micronation, Flandrensis, from a temporary hobby into a serious project, he has been interviewed by (and mentioned in) several international newspapers about Flandrensis and micronations in general.
In Westarctica, he holds the peerage title Prince of Siple.
Creating a new nation
Nicholas first became interested in micronations after learning about Sealand and the Republic of Molossia. In those days, he was studying both history and religion, with a great interest in the medieval county of Flanders. On 4 September 2008 he officialy founded the Grand Duchy of Flandrensis, primarily inspired on the Pagus Flandrensis (the ancient Latin name of Flanders) and Flemish history. Flandrensis started as a virtual micronation, but Niels carefully searched for unclaimed territory. On 22 November 2008 the then Grand Duke Niels transformed Flandrensis into an Antarctic micronation. The Antarctic Treaty prevented any new claims on Antarctica by countries, but to circumvent this restriction, Niels utilized the same tactic as Travis McHenry and claimed the land as an individual, then immediately founded the Grand Duchy of Flandrensis upon it.
Contributions to micronationalism
Nicholas is considered an expert of Antarctic micronationalism and an innovator in Belgian micronationalism. As one of the three founding fathers of the first Antarctic micronational organization; GAMA (Grupo Del Acuerdo Micronational Antartico) and being its first Secretary-General, he helped transform GAMA into the Antarctic Micronational Union. During his tenure as Secretary-General, the concept of Antarctic micronationalism and the AMU has been heavily criticized, but he defended the concept and his belief in Antarctic micronationalism.
Micronationalism was not generally well-known in Belgium, except some Dutch-speaking micronations from the Micras Sector. Most Belgians consider Flandrensis a secessionist organization and they want nothing to do with the break-away country.
In December 2010 Nicholas made an attempt to establish informal relations between all Dutch-speaking micronations by publishing an open letter, but there was no response from the Micras Sector. Although, he successfully developed Flandrensis into the biggest territorial micronation in Belgium. Meanwhile, he helped with the foundation of three other Dutch-speaking micronations: the Principality of Arkel, Kingdom of Albion (disbanded in 2012) and the Principality of Campinia. Between 2010 and 2016 they cooperated together inside the Flandrensisian Commonwealth with Nicholas as the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.
After the participation of Flandrensis in PoliNation 2012 (2nd International Conference on Micronations on 14 July 2012 in London), the Belgian newspapers Het Belang van Limburg and Gazet van Antwerpen published an interview about Flandrensis as part of a report on European micronations. During the next few years, Nicholas, who was still going by Niels at the time, was also interviewed by several Belgian and French newspapers, radio shows, and television programs. He remains highly involved in the international community of micronations and is a frequent guest at meetings and international conferences of micronations.
Nicholas is great opponent of micronational wars and could be described as a micronational pacifist.
Despite this, in 2009 he was the primary instigator of the Siple War between Flandrensis and the Grand Duchy of Westarctica. After hostilities were over, he expressed regret in his decision to support fellow micronation Finismund in the conflict, and blamed his impetus behavior as a lack of micronational experience. The dispute ended on 24 September 2010 with the signature of the West-Antarctic Treaty between the AMU and Westarctica, a result of negotiations between Niels and Grand Duke Travis.
Learning from his mistakes, Nicholas changed the Flandrensisian policy toward micronational conflicts, resulting in the permanent neutrality of the country. Considering that all wars are a failure of diplomacy, he founded the Union Against Micronational War on 10 July 2009. For his attitude toward micronational conflicts he was awarded with five micronational peace-awards.
In 2014 the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche called him the “Woodrow Wilson of micronationalism”.
Niels Vermeersch is highly active in local and regional politics in the city of Zonnebeke in his native country of Belgium. In 2018, he stepped away from leadership of Flandrensis while running for local office. After finishing the campaign, he resumed his duties as Grand Duke once again. A key part of his campaign was promotion of local currencies.
Prince of Siple
In 2012, as part of the effort to maintain peace throughout Western Antarctica, Grand Duke Travis granted Niels the title Prince of Siple. This gives him authority over Siple Island and makes him a royal prince in the Peerage of Westarctica.
At the same time, Niels returned the gesture by granting Travis the title Baron of Flandrensis. In this way, both leaders are jointly members of each other's nations.
Honors and awards
Grand Duke Nicholas has received many awards from micronations across the globe. A few of these are:
- Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Snowflake, 2016
- Legion of Peace, 2011
- The Austenasian Order, 2010
- Order of the Dragon (defunct), 2012