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Sark
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Location
    (1565- )
    Part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey
    Size: 2.1 square miles
    Population (2017): 492
    Granted as a fief to Hellier de Carteret by Queen Elizabeth I (1565)
    Ruled by a hereditary Seigneur
    Parliament known as the Chief Pleas
    Before it was occupied by Hellier de Carteret, it was a base for pirates.
    The current line of Seigneurs gained control of the island when the previous Seigneur used Sark as collateral for a loan and was unable to keep up the interest payments (1844).
    Part of the island is joined to the rest of Sark by a 300-foot long isthmus with a 330-foot drop on each side; before protective railings were erected in 1900, children would cross the isthmus on their hands and knees to avoid being blown over the side.
    Andre Gardes, an unemployed French nuclear physicist armed with a semi-automatic rifle, attempted to take over the island, but was disarmed and arrested by volunteer constables when he tried to change the gun’s magazine (1990).
    Until political reforms were adopted in 2008 to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, it was the last feudal state in Europe.
    Until 2008, the Seigneur was the only person on Sark allowed to own an unspayed dog.
    The Seigneur pays the English crown an annual rent equivalent to about $2. (Presumably, Elizabeth I never considered indexing the rent to the inflation rate.)
    It has no income or inheritance taxes.
    Its main industry is tourism.
    It inspired the setting of Mervyn Peake’s ‘Gormenghast’ books.
    Because it lacks cars and street lights, it became the first European location designated a Dark Sky Community (2011) – a location sufficiently lacking in light pollution to allow naked-eye astronomy.

Credit: C. Fishel


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