|“||If we have any Sark listeners, which I'm willing to bet we don't, but if we do, please do e-mail in and tell us how democracy is going over there.||”|
— John Oliver, on Sark's transition of government.
Sark is the official island of the Bugle. With its size of only two square miles and population of only 600, this brave little island held out until early 2008 as the last country in Europe to retain the feudal system. It is divided in two parts, Greater Sark and Little Sark, connected by a roughly 9-foot wide and roughly 25-foot long land bridge known as La Coupée.
History and Government Edit
During the 1300s, Sark was the base of operations for a vicious pirate (although he was French and his name was Eustace). Then a group of monks set up a monastery on the island and used it as a secluded place of worship and meditation during the Dark Ages. After the Enlightening, the island was used as a pirate base again - either that or the monks got bored with Latin chanting and decided piracy was more fun. Either way, Queen Elizabeth decided to give Helier de Carteret, seigneur of Jersey, a charter giving him permission to make Sark a royal colony and inhabit it with his family and 39 others from Jersey, as long as he promised to keep those damn pirates off of it. After that, England pretty much forgot about it, considering the Seigneur only had to pay ₤1-₤5 per year to retain the right to own the colony.
Sark, as a colony of the Empire, was free to create its own system of government. The colonists gathered together and drew up a system of government that was partially based on the British system and partially based on the Batshit Insane system: Since de Carteret was the Seigneur of Jersey before colonizing Sark, the leader of Sark would be known as the Seigneur. He would live in a relatively large stone house and rule as the island's local monarch. The Seigneur has the ancient, solemn and sacred Seignurial Rights, special privileges for only the Seigneur. These include the right to own pigeons and unspayed female dogs and the right to any debris washed up between high and low tide.
The Queen demanded that at least 40 armed men be on Sark at all times, so Seigneur de Carteret gathered up the 39 other families he brought and made each of the fathers a feudal landowner known as a Tenant. Sark was divided into 40 parcels of land; one for the Seigneur and governmental buildings, and 39 for each of the families. Tenants pass land down through heritage, and any families wishing to take up residence on Sark must pay a certain tribute to the Tenant whose land they take up house on.
Sark's twisted version of Parliament is the Chief Pleas. It was made up of the 40 Tenants, 12 elected representatives of the general population, and 5 executive officers. This ended up having most families on the island being directly linked to Parliament, so in 2006 it was changed to the less crowded (but equally ludicrous) system of the Seigneur, the Seneschal (leader of Chief Pleas), 12 elected Tenants, and 12 elected non-Tenants.
Other officials include the Prevot, the local judge; the Treasurer, caretaker of Sark's finances; and the island's two only police, the Constable (senior officer) and Vingtenier (junior officer).
Sark's safety was threatened when in 1790, the seigneur recieved a letter from the Duke of Wellington containing one of his famous battle invitations, the likes of which only Napoleon had seen. It read as follows:
- Sark, your island is really small,
- Doesn't even have a proper wall,
- I'm getting my cavalry assembled to conquer you all:
- So pretty soon it's gonna fall.
Fortunately for the Sarkians, Wellington was too busy watching the French surrender.
Until 2008, Sark maintained its traditional, family-values feudalist society. Every Monday, a serf would be stoned to death to maintain the cohesiveness of the community. The seigneur was entitled to keep a pet and allowed to keep all debris washed up on the shore and all half-eaten pizza crusts found in the trash.
Sark also had a developed judicial system dependant on its "Trial by Air", in which defendants would be thrown off of a 100 meter (218.72266 cubit) cliff onto the rocks below. If their skull was not bashed to bits, they would be declared innocent, unless, on the way down, they had shouted "Allright, I did it!"
Recent History Edit
World War IIEdit
During WWII, Sark was occupied by the Nazis, as were all of the Channel Islands. The UK realized that Sark was still technically a colony and figured they ought to do something about its occupation. In 1942, ten SOE soldiers got rounded up to go shoot the Nazis and get the island back. Though the unit was labeled 'Special Operations', it probably was the short bus 'special' as opposed to the SWAT team 'special'. The SOE's landed late in the evening, and with precision military training, went to the nearest bar and got piss drunk. A barmaid told them the Nazis were stationed in the nearby Dixcart Hotel, and around midnight the soldiers decided they ought to do what they were originally sent to do.
The group made their way over to the hotel (hotel used in the loosest sense of the word), and found a small, unguarded hut about 10 meters in front of it. They entered the hut and found five sleeping Nazis. Taking them outside, the SOEs bound the Germans' hands and dropped their trousers to their knees. This was supposedly so that the British could keep the prisoners in one place without leaving a guard, but it was probably because the SOEs were so drunk they thought this was the funniest practical joke ever.
In any case, nine of the Brits had just entered the hotel courtyard when one of the prisoners started making as much noise as possible to alert the other Nazis to the SOEs' presence. The lone guard left with the prisoners immediately began to carefully analyze all of his available options, knowing he had mere seconds to act. Utilizing all his years of military training and instruction, he pulled out his revolver and shot the German in the head. Without a silencer. Ten meters from a hotel full of armed Nazis.
Within seconds, the SOEs had enemy fire raining on them from every room of the Dixcart. No one was hit, however; they were lucky the Nazis had just been jolted awake or else they would have been toast within three seconds. The group quickly judged the situation, formed a plan, and with all the strength, sharpness of mind, and skills the Army had embedded into them, took cover behind the hut, grabbed the remaining four prisoners, and got the hell out of there as fast as possible.
By the time they had reached the beach, three of the remaining prisoners had gotten loose. When the SOEs got back to England, their one prisoner knew virtually nothing; he and the other prisoners were put in the guard hut because they were expendable grunts. England decided ₤1 a year wasn't worth the trouble and waited until the war was over to get Sark back.
In 1990, a Frenchman named Andre Gardas went and, as John put it, "got up one morning and decided, 'I'll invade a nation'." Gardas bought a semiautomatic weapon and several clips, packed a suitcase, rented a boat, and sailed to Sark. Arriving late in the evening, he put up several signs in the small park outside the Chief Pleas Building announcing that he was at war with the nation and would forcibly take Sark at noon the next day if the Seigneur and Chief Pleas didn't surrender. He then proceeded to take up his suitcase, gun and all, and rent a room at (surprise, surprise) the Dixcart Hotel. The next morning he retrieved his gun, put his clips into a small backpack, and made his way to the Chief Pleas Building.
As it turned out, no one had actually noticed the posters, least of all the Seigneur. However, as luck would have it, there were six Chief Pleas (three Tenants, two Citizen Representatives, and the Seneschal) inside the building debating a minor matter of a small construction project. Apparently believing the CPs were planning action against him, he opened fire on the group, breaking two windows and injuring one Tenant in the upper arm.
For the next 15-20 minutes, Gardas sporadically fired into the building, preventing the CPs from escaping. When he emptied his clip, he walked over to a nearby park bench so he could get a new clip out of his backpack and reload. At this point the Constable, who had been watching the scene since just after Gardas opened fire, approached the Frenchman and arrested him. The world's second shortest war was over.
Two days later the French government had Gardas deported back to France, where he was arrested again on charges of leaving the country without a valid passport. He did, however, serve less time than he would have if he was a prisoner of war.
In 2007, the European Commission on Human Rights began to pressure Sark about its feudalism (as Andy put it, "good to see they're using their time and resources well"). Later that year, a vote was held on the island on whether they should convert to democracy or not. Only 418 of the 600 residents voted, which John marveled at, saying "they've waited nearly 500 years for this and 40% of them can't be bothered to get out of bed!"
In early 2008, the world rang with total silence for one brief moment as feudalism ceased to exist and Sark fell as the last European feudal state, converting to democracy. The Seigneur became but a symbolic position, the Chief Pleas was reformed, and the Bugle wept. As Don McLean wrote of the incident in his song 'Sarkian Pie', "I can't remember if I cried/ when I read about his widowed bride.../but something touched me deep inside/the day... European classic feudalism died."
We tip our hats to you, Sark.
Fuck you Chris